There will always be people who say things that will discourage us. Some will do it on purpose, others will do it without realizing it. Some will say what they say out of envy, others out of fear, and others for any of a number of reasons.
So what can a multilingual parent do? How about this: Don’t listen to what they say! Ignore their comments all together.
Even though you might feel hurt or want to yell angrily very loud for a long time, it is often best to just smile, nod and then completely ignore what you heard. No need to argue. No need to disagree. Just let the other person get their discouraging comments off their chest and then help them move onto another topic. Afterward, go home and tell your understanding spouse how you feel, or call a good friend.
Of course, there are times when ignoring is not possible, and sometimes saying something can help a situation rather than escalate it. If you choose to reply rather than ignore, then make sure that you are in a calm and collected state of mind! In situations like this, we need to be able to respond out of a desire for mutual understanding, not out of anger and retaliation – something that is hard when we feel wounded or attacked.
Here are some reasons why someone would choose to discourage rather than encourage us:
- Envy: Someone who feels disappointed in themselves or their own efforts may react by putting down our efforts.
- Fear: If someone feels threatened (for any of a number of reasons) by us speaking another language, they may be reacting out of a fear of what we seem to represent.
- Concern: Many people still believe in old research and myths which said that raising children bilingually was not a good thing. If they believe this, then they may be discouraging us out of genuine concern for our children’s well-being.
- Flippant: There are times when people just say things flippantly without necessarily realizing what they are saying. They forget the words they say as soon as they come out of their mouths – we, on the other hand, receive the full impact.
- Contrary: These people enjoy playing the devil’s advocate. They want to go against what we are doing, regardless of what it may be.
Once we can identify where the other person is coming from, it is much easier to see things from their perspective and to be able to choose whether to ignore or respond with clarity. This doesn’t mean that we should condone what they say but it gives us an opportunity to find ways to talk with them honestly, directly and constructively.
- The envious person may need to hear that we too have difficult days.
- The fearful person may respond positively if we show them kindness and understanding.
- The concerned person will see things differently if we present some more recent research.
- If the flippant person makes such statements over and over again, then let them know at some point that their comments are hurtful.
- What about the contrary person? Forget trying to argue things out with this one, it is most likely a waste of time.
We are going through the alphabet one letter at a time, multilingual-style! Join in the fun and add your own ideas, suggestions and tips in the comments below that begin with today’s letter! Check out all of the ABC’s of Multilingual Parenting posts so far!