At one point or another, it happens to all of us. One minute, you’re enjoying a major Italian upswing, rattling off things like, What do you want for breakfast or Go get your pajamas on, and then watching in absolute wonder as your sweet cherub answers without missing a beat. You can barely believe how well it’s going! You’ve walked around for weeks silently patting yourself on the back for all that you’ve accomplished so far. Maybe even bragged to your friends about it.
Then … it happens. You and your child are playing playdough together, and you casually ask in Italian, Should we open the blue container? And that sweet little cherub looks at you with a scowl and says, I don’t wanna speak Italian. Let’s speak English ...
I’ve been there myself, a few times, in fact, and I know the feeling all too well. It’s disappointing, to say the least. And maybe it stirs up other feelings, as well. Maybe you feel guilty for pushing so hard. Or maybe you’re frustrated with your child for suddenly losing interest. After all, it's a huge investment when it comes to speaking another language with our child – an investment in time, effort, energy, and even money. It’s been a significant part of your relationship with your child and you don’t want to see it disappear. But you don’t want to insist, either. So what do you do? First, don’t panic. Consider some of these tips and see if helps you get back on track.
Just like grilled cheese, don’t be surprised if Italian is in one day and out the next, but then back in again. It’s best not to get too ruffled if they tell you they’re no longer interested. You can certainly back off a bit, but don’t feel the need to eliminate it completely. Try responding by letting them know that, yes, it’s fine to switch to English for this game (or meal, or bathtime), but that Italian is part of what makes your family special, and it will always be a part of your daily lives.
Another way to add some excitement into your Italian practice is with a special outing or trip. You could plan a day at the zoo, but tell your child you’re going to make believe your family is being magically transported to an Italian zoo. In the days or weeks leading up to the outing, you could read books and learn songs about zoo animals to get prepared. Or maybe you and your child can pretend to open up an authentic Italian bakery right in your kitchen. Use Italian as you bake together and wait on imaginary customers.
You can try negotiating with him. All playtime will be in English, but mealtimes are Italian only. You may need to try out a few different scenarios before you land on one that works. It’s best to be flexible, and remember that your goal and your methods of speaking Italian will be constantly evolving as your child grows and develops.
In the end, you know your child best, and you’ll know when it’s time to take a break and when it’s time to relight their fire. Remember not to get too discouraged when your child falls out of love with Italian. With just a little patience and some tweaking here and there, she’ll be back on board in no time.
In the meantime, if all else fails, how about a Valentine’s Day project? Here’s a link to a cute one you can do with your child at home to get the Italian flowing – a box of good deeds your child can give as a gift to a parent or loved one. If you’re stuck on what good deeds to write, some examples can be found down in the comment section of the article.
Buon San Valentino!