Ask the grumpies: kids learning stuff

Sandy L asks:

I still sometimes feel guilt that I haven’t forced my kids to learn an instrument or even the 2nd language I speak with my mommy. They know some but are not fluent. What are your feelings on that? Do you force your kids to do things they hate?

The Official Grumpy Rumblings Parenting Philosophy ™ is that people are going to want you to feel guilty whether you do or don’t have your kids do activity X (or indeed, any activities at all), so do what you feel is best, which may be whatever is easiest for you.

Do we force our kids to do things they hate?  Sometimes!  I suspect DC1 would never ever ever bathe or take a shower if we didn’t make hir.  Certainly not as frequently as every other day.  And there’s things we’ve made them do the initial not fun parts and they end up liking them more later after they’ve gotten better, like cooking for DC1 or the tough parts of Train Your Monster to Read for DC2.

What about the rest of you, Grumpy Nation?  What are your thoughts?

20 Responses to “Ask the grumpies: kids learning stuff”

  1. purple and rose Says:

    At some point most adults ‘get’ to do many things they don’t want to do. Learning as children that these things occur is better than having to figure it out after a person has made a mess out of their falsely entitled world. So sometimes we do need to insist our children learn lessons/realities…..but it is important to choose the battlefield with care and kindness, to not push into a disability the same way one can push into a strength. IT can also help to remind everyone that we all continue to learn and that learning is a process, that learning involves not already knowing as well as trying and needing to try again. We learn to walk through falling/sitting down abruptly, then standing up and trying again. Life lesson.

  2. monsterzero Says:

    Normally I would say if an adult never has to do it, why force your kid to learn it?

    But learning a second language is a special case, because it is so much easier for children to pick languages up. I’d say if you speak a second language, immerse your kids now!

    • Leah Says:

      This! I’m not fluent, but my daughter knows quite a bit of every day Spanish. I just pepper it in to our lives. She’s three, and we’ll start more structured learning together in another year or two along with travel to countries where Spanish is the predominant language.

      I also want her to learn Mandarin, but I don’t even know where to start, so that might take longer.

  3. Leah Says:

    I think it’s worth making kids try something for a set period of time — not insisting on mastery or anything but giving it a try. After all, we do have a better long term view than our kids. It is important to let them pursue their interests but also good not to lose sight of helping them become well-rounded.

    After all, don’t you make your kids help with chores, or clean their room, or do other tasks? Why are skills any different?

    Our daughter is three. We made her start gymnastics because she was exceedingly risk averse and seemed behind on large-motor tasks. She was skeptical and hesitant at first and now loves it! She moved into the next class up this year (preschool/K) after a year of toddler class. She’ll do at least two years in that class before we re-evaluate. If she wants to stop at some point now, we’d say okay, as she has met the minimal goals we set.

    We will make her learn enough music that she can read music and plink something out on piano. We are making her learn to swim (life skill).

    I don’t think you need to feel guilt. Have you tried the language thing and your kids hate it? Think about why they hate it and if there’s something other way you could approach that would make learning more enjoyable for all of you.

  4. bogart Says:

    So — yeah. I’m of the school that you have to do stuff, and sure, some of that stuff is stuff I (as your parent) might pick because I think it’s one of the kinds of things you should learn to do or at least try for awhile. On the other hand, you (kid) don’t have to do everything forever (or even for the duration of your childhood / time in my household), so we can revisit these things from time to time, for any of a number of reasons of which your preferences are only one.

    My kid’s pretty easy on many fronts and willing to try/do a bunch of different things (though with some preference for organized sports) so I think I have it pretty easy in this regard. Particularly as he gets older he’ll be allowed to claim, “I need more time to [focus on lacrosse] so I want to [drop learning Spanish],” or whatever, but to some extent the way he uses his time has to come from a subset of activities that (a) are activities (i.e. not lying around the house all day) and (b) things I approve of.

  5. Debbie M Says:

    I love all these answers, in the post and the comments!

    I don’t have kids, so I won’t comment (except to say that trying things out that we think will be no fun but good for us is a good idea for people of all ages).

    I just wanted to let you know that I’ve called my reps to ask that they pass a resolution of disapproval of the FCC’s repeal of Title II protections or, if that’s not possible [Trump would veto it], to help write regulation that they like better. Then I said what I had heard about each of their opinions and countered that the “regulation” only takes away mafia-like powers to charge protection money, that market forces do not work properly in an oligopoly (most of Europe has faster internet than we do), that the internet will get slower for all but the richest consumers, and that the repeal actually puts “undue burdens” on every single other industry that relies on the internet. So, I said I wonder why they would say those things. And then I read what I have found about how many contributions they have accepted from big internet and said that would be my best guess. Then I ended saying there is still time to do what the vast majority of Americans, including the vast majority of Republicans, want.

    People are going to the courts, our only working safety net for this stuff. Maybe that will work. I had to leave messages with 2 of my 3 guys, implying they’re still getting a lot of comments, so that’s a good thing.

    (I was trying to think of an industry that doesn’t rely on the internet, and all I could think of was the fossil fuel industry. Ugh.)

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    Ze doesn’t have to do things like hugging people, that’s a terrible thing to have to learn, but we do make JB do things ze doesn’t feel like doing in or doesn’t like a great deal like eating all zir vegetables or practicing other languages. It’s important that ze learn how to manage doing things ze doesn’t feel like doing if it’s a useful skill or important for zir health.

    Ze is willing to try a lot but ze will often opt out of slightly more difficult things quickly so I press zir to keep trying a little longer. We want zir to build a habit of persistence, more than just the learned skills of doing the thing.

  7. Omdg Says:

    I gotta say, it’s really quite difficult — much more than you’d expect — to get your kids to “pick up” a second language if the parents don’t speak it to each other in the home as the primary language. Either you have limitless time and energy (and if this is you, good for you *giant eye roll*), or its just not going to happen. My husband’s first language is Italian which I speak poorly, and we speak English to each other at home, and quite frankly with our schedules the last thing either of us wants to do when we get home is not be able to communicate effectively with one another. It’s just not going to happen. This has been an experience we have shared with many many other families in a similar position. So, despite almost frantic seeming exhortations by people who think we should be doing Italian immersion in the home, lest we miss out on this wonderful opportunity, I invite you to shut the fuck up unlesd you’re also willing to work 80 hours as a resident, launch a career in academic medicine, somehow also feed yourself, AND become fluent enough in Italian so that you can impart that gift on our daughter. You are also welcome to harangue my husband *for* me, but not *at* me. Thanks for listening.

    • Leah Says:

      This definitely makes sense. My cousins are fluent in Spanish, but their parents (mom a native speaker) committed to speaking Spanish at home when they were in English speaking countries and vice verse in Spanish speaking. Even then, the older two are much better than the youngest; the youngest has spent much more time living in the US than the other two.

    • First Gen American Says:

      Omdg summarizes it well. My spouse only speaks English, so it was much easier for the kids to pick up that language. To make matters worse, my mother would talk broken English to them most of the time despite my assertions not to, so the kids are always asking me what she is saying because it’s not polish and it’s not English either. She lives with us now, but when they were really young, they didn’t hear the language everyday. I had board books in the other language and we used to play bedtime vocabulary games, but it’s just not enough. A summer in the old country with language immersion would do wonders but I do work full time so that’s never going to happen. The one place I’ve seen it work is when there is a nanny that only speaks that language to the kids when they are small as they get to hear it for 8+ hours a day. This is the biggest thing I do feel guilt over but my son is doing great in French class so maybe he’ll still pick up a language, just not mine.

      I think I summarize my parenting style as: as long as they are doing some extra enrichment activities, I don’t really care if it’s a sport or club or other non gaming hobby as long as it’s something. We may not do An instrument, but the kids are helping build their own treehouse so I am feeling less guilt over that as being handy is a really great life skill.

      Being a good role model has got to be half the battle I would think.

      Thanks for posting this question. Lots of interesting replies.

    • Natasha Says:

      Yes! Thank you for saying this. I completely agree that, in theory, it is wonderful to have bilingual (or tri-lingual) kids, where each parents speaks his/her native language to the kids. I know families who do that – and I am very happy for them. It requires an insane amount of dedication and stubbornness, especially if you are disconnected from you native-language community. I did it for about 2.5 years and then gave up. I just didn’t have the will power to keep pushing this boulder up the hill…. My husband does not speak or understand any Russian, so I was always switching back and forth between languages and it was driving me mad, I hated the Russian baby-books we had (and loved the ones in English), and once things get beyond the basics (lets count our fingers! show mommy your nose!) I have to think long and hard how to say things in Russian. Also, my stutter is 10 times worse when I speak Russian. Oh well. I have no plans to go back to my country of origin, and I am not particularly interested in being part of the local Russian-language community – so there is 0 chance of kids being immersed in Russian language in the near future. My kids are curious about Russian and are willing to learn a few words – but I highly doubt things will progress much beyond that. I am okay with it. I expose them to some some good old Soviet movies and cartoons, they have tried some foods that I grew up with, and they know that Russia is the largest country in the world :) Good enough!

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

  9. Googled questions you didn’t know you had | Grumpy Rumblings (of the formerly untenured) Says:

    […] To some extent.  It’s valuable to learn math and hygiene, for example.  However, there are more- and […]


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