Bilingual bebés on board: The rebellion stage is inevitable, but here's how to deal with it
Although my kids haven't gone through it yet, I know the time will come when they will rebel against speaking Spanish--and I'm so not looking forward to it. Part of me wants to believe this will never happen to my kids, but who am I kidding? I know this is a reality for many parents raising bilingual kids, so I want to make sure I'm prepared when they refuse to speak Spanish to me.
Maybe you're already going through this stage with your kids and you're not sure what you're supposed to do. So I figured I'd share some of the tips I've gathered from the experts in the last few years I've been writing about raising bilingual children.
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Some of these are a bit more drastic than the others, but you'll know which ones to use depending on your parenting style:
- Kindly remind your children to speak in Spanish. You can do this by explaining why it's important for you that they do so. Try to never make it about them and what they're doing wrong. Just remember to be gentle in your encouragement to get them back to using Spanish, so they don't feel like it's a chore. And always, always praise their abilities in Spanish.
- Another good tactic is to repeat everything they say but in Spanish, just like you would with a small child who's learning how to speak. So, for example, if your child says "We played hide-and-seek today?" you might say: "¿Jugaste a las escondidas hoy?" And you can even add a question--such as ¿y con quién jugaste?--to continue with the conversation. Although this can get a bit tedious and it doesn't always work, it's definitely worth the try, especially if you have little kids.
- This last tip is kind of drastic, but I know parents who swear by it: pretend you don't understand what they're saying. This may or may not work with your children--especially if they're old enough to know you're lying. A variation of this one is that I used to tell my daughter that she HAD to speak to her baby brother in Spanish because that's the only language he understood.
Above all, don't try to force the issue or it'll become a battleground and you will probably lose. And remember that the rebellion stage is totally normal and your kids will likely do this not only with languages, but also with food, the clothes they were, the music they like, etc. ¡Buena suerte!