To all new bilingual mommies out there: relax

I know you want to do the very best for your baby, but there is no one right way, and there is no right and wrong in parenting. There are many cultures on this planet and children throughout the centuries have survived them all: different customs and languages.

True, it’s wrong to let a child starve or sleep outside in the cold without shelter, but I don’t see that as the specific problem. The problem is that parents are so concerned about doing the “right” thing and not confusing the baby that they risk creating an artificial cocoon around the baby that may interfere with his development. And, it’s driving them nuts with unnecessary worry. Babies can learn to adapt if presented with choices and different situations.

For example, as adults, it is important that we know how to adjust to the personalities of our supervisors, team leaders, coworkers, and top managers. Will they all be on the same page, all the time? Will they all have the same personality? Will they all be ethical like robots preprogrammed to only act in a certain way? Nope. They will each be an individual with all the idiosyncrasies that implies in the normal workplace, school, or community gathering.

Now, how does that concern a several months old baby or a toddler and cultural and linguistic differences? Some books insist that the baby sleep in the same place every night, their bed, and on their back. Daddy thinks that the baby loves sleeping on his arm all night, mommy is sure that the baby is safer in a crib like the books advise. So what’s up? The baby has learned at the young age of a few months that granny who smells of jasmine puts him on his tummy on her lap and he feels safe and falls asleep. His daddy lays him on his arm in an awkward slant, but his heartbeat and shaving cologne are wonderful, and he sleeps just fine there. Mommy puts him on his back, but he is right beside her and can hear her heartbeat. But, the baby is sleeping in all those positions. In other words, the little fellow has already learned to adapt to different situations… just like he will have to adapt when he eventually leaves the house and enters the wild workforce with different personalities and expectations.

There is no wrong way to be a parent, if the baby is fed, feels safe, and has adequate shelter. Different cultures sleep in different beds: the floor, hammocks, slings on mommy’s back, expensive yuppy cribs, daddy’s chest, granny’s lap, and mommy’s arms. And different cultures speak one, two, or three languages routinely in the household. Mommy might speak a couple, the grandparents a couple and the daddy a third or fourth. Differences in the baby’s environment create resilience and mental flexibility.

There is a long-standing debate on when to introduce a child to a second language. Previously, many academics and specialists thought that speaking more than one language confused the child unnecessarily. Many of these studies seem to have originated in the notoriously monolingual culture of the United States. Now, research is “finding” what multilingual cultures have known for centuries, thatNot only is bilingualism not bad for you, it may be really good. When youre switching languages all the time it strengthens your mental muscle and your executive function becomes enhanced (Nauert, R. 2013). Leikin (2012) found that “…there were definite distinctions between monolingual and bilingual children, to the advantage of the latter, in terms of creativity in problem solving, and the differences became marked and statistically significant with an increase in the children’s age…” (p 442).

What is wrong is that people in our mono-linguistic culture can make a living writing books that proclaim there is a better way to do everything and it is stressing out the parents. Dr. Spock drove a generation insane with his theories on child rearing. Thank goodness the children survived him.

Even if the parents are not on the same page, it is an opportunity for the child to measure the pros and cons of the situation and think outside the box and find the advantageous spot for himself. Let the little fellow experience different situations and learn to roll with the flow. Let her learn that life has ups and downs and unexpected occurrences that she will have to think about and accommodate into her repertoire of reactions. “Successful management of two languages on a daily basis requires an effective cognitive mechanism to manage attention to two active languages and constant recruitment of this mechanism by bilinguals leads to better behavioral performance on executive function tasks that measure cognitive control for both verbal and nonverbal stimuli” (Luik, G., Bialystok, E., Craik, F., & Grady, C. L., 2011, p. 16812).

The child knows that you will always be there for him and that is what is most important.

References

Leikin, M. (2012). The effect of bilingualism on creativity: Developmental and education perspectives. International Journal of Bilingualism 17(4), 431-447. doi: 10.1177/1367006912438300

Luik, G., Bialystok, E., Craik, F., and Grady, C. L. (2011).Lifelong bilingualism maintains white matter integrity in older adults.Journal of Neuroscience 31(46),1680816813. doi:10.1523/JNEUROSCI.4563-11.2011

Nauert, R. (2013). Bilingual speakers develop mental flexibility. Psych Central. Retrieved from http://psychcentral.com/news/2013/09/11/bilingual-speakers-develop-mental-flexibility/59404.html

twittergoogle_plusredditpinteresttumblrmail

Author: foggydreamer

Foggy indulges her life-long passion for languages while working and having fun. Runescape has provided an immersive world for exploring personal and professional activities.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *