Dear multilingual families,
I am writing to ask you what you think about the challenges we are experiencing with our 2,5 year old toddler. We live in Norway but come from Poland and Ireland, and therefore speak English and Polish at home to our child. He hears Norwegian only in play school which he has been attending full time for nearly a year. He is a lovely, very active boy who seldom sits still, enjoys running around, dancing, eating, playing and he is quite open to and trusting of other people. He loves cuddling too, but on his terms, when he wants to. It is clear that he has characteristic traits of a high need toddler: stubborn, passionate, energetic, intense, etc. (more here: http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-features-high-need-baby).
The staff in the nursery that he attends often give us the following feedback during pick-up time: he has been.... today (see the list of adjectives below):
Needless to say, it is not the comment we look forward to hearing and we don’t like the negative sound of it: the way the staff say it makes it clear that this is not a desirable behaviour. We are sorry that this is usually the comment that receives most attention and we are often left speechless and disappointed that our child is viewed in such a negative light.
Today one staff member wanted to talk to me in private and she said that they are worried about our son for two reasons: lack of ability to calm down and little degree of interaction with other kids. Therefore, they are wondering whether they could invite a professional to film our son and help them understand how they can better approach him and help him achieve the skills he is apparently lacking. They need our consent to film him. I was shocked to hear about this idea, I said that I have to think about it and I left dumbfounded and slightly angry.
Our concern is that our son’s background and personality are not taken into consideration. His linguistic background is not met with understanding, we feel. He is trilingual and at 2,5 years old he hasn’t mastered the language of play school – he has just started to speak his mother and father tongues recently. To me it is quite likely that he doesn’t interact with other kids because of a language barrier. Similarly, his behaviour (the opposite of what they call “calm”) may be triggered by not understanding what is going on as well as being criticized often (if that is the case). We also believe that kids develop at different paces and not every child starts to interact with other children at the same time. Also his temperament (unless it is violent) should be met with compassion, enthusiasm and acceptance rather than criticism. The energy he has is one day going to be turned into amazing things, we believe. It should not be stifled.
We have been talking about it all day and we are going to ask the nursery staff if we could discuss this issue further in a longer meeting before we give any consent to do anything. We are also considering asking them if we could come and watch our son an hour or two a day for a couple of days to see how he acts and form our opinion of his behaviour, and also see the way the staff handle him.
I would appreciate any feedback on this and your opinions. Instinctively we feel like defending our son against the force of standardized behaviour (calm) and lack of acceptance of his pace of development (interaction with other kids).
Thanks a lot for reading this and please reply if you have any relevant advice to offer.
Ula and David