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Channeling My Tiger Mama

My book club recently discussed the book Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother. People have all kinds of feelings about that book, but I’ll just put it out there and say I liked it… with a grain of salt. And I definitely won’t attempt to tackle all the pros and cons and nuances of that material in this post.

But one thing I’ve been reflecting on is the concept of pushing our children to do things they don’t enjoy. I know a lot of folks bristle at that concept, and I understand that. But I think one thing I’m realizing is that I’m already doing that. 

I’ve been so encouraged by Ella’s bilingual process as of late. However, something interesting has been happening in the past few weeks.

Billy will be speaking to her in Spanish and in response, I’ll hear her answer, “I can’t hear you, Papa!” She starts quiet, but as her frustration grows, her claim that she “can’t hear” get exponentially louder. She recently used this same line when a friend was speaking to her in Spanish.

She can’t understand. And she doesn’t even know how to communicate that barrier, so she just keeps shouting “I can’t hear you!”

One day as I witnessed this exchange happening between Ella and Billy, I saw his tendency to start speaking to her in English. In a way that I hoped was encouraging, but was more likely irritating, I started chiming in with “Keep doing it. Keep talking to her in Spanish!”

Now everyone’s talking and everyone’s frustrated. But for some reason, I don’t mind it. I know she’s capable. I fully trust that she will master becoming bilingual – maybe not at the level I hope, but I know she will become competent.

But that result requires an effort and commitment from us that has to constantly be renewed. Because it’s a challenge. But I won’t back down just because it’s difficult. (Of course, that’s easy for me to say since I am actively involved in no way.)

That tiger mom conversation was fresh on my mind as we were navigating this exchange, though, and I thought once again that I will keep pushing. I know one day she will be grateful, even if her 3-year old self is standing in the kitchen, hollering, “I CAN’T HEAR YOU!”

How do you lovingly push your kids with their best interests at heart?

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4 comments

  1. Denise L Hershberger8:47 PM

    I hope Billy can keep speaking to her in Spanish even when she gets frustrated! I'm sure she understands more than she thinks and like you said it will be great when she's bilingual! I'm sure you wish you could have grown up bilingual as I wish I could have!

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  2. Absolutely I agree with you! I wish I had grown up bilingual. It would've come in super handy. ;)

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  3. Emily9:08 AM

    Yes, yes. This is so important. As the daughter of a mother who gave up her Spanish and skipped to just English, it was incredibly difficult for me to learn Spanish in school instead of home. I wish my grandparents had pushed my mother to keep speaking Spanish even when she didn't want to. And I wish she had spoken Spanish to us. Ni modo, I learned Spanish eventually, but it took a lot more time and effort. One day your child will thank you :)

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  4. Thank you, Emily. I hear stories like yours semi-regularly, and they continue to encourage me that this is important and that pushing through the challenges will pay off. Thank you!!!

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