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Bilingual toddler- speech delay/frustration issues

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 
I should start by saying that I think a lot of the problem has to do with me being pregnant and pretty sick, and not being able to give her as much attention as she is use to...

My DD is almost 18m and has recently started hitting me and DH quite often. It seems to be out of frustration, like when she wants something she can't have or when she is frustrated and can't communicate what she wants. She also repeatedly hits herself in the head pretty hard. She has a decent vocabulary, and tells us when she needs to go potty (we EC) or if she sees a dog, but other than that it's still all pretty random babble. From talking to other parents I'm getting the drift that she should be able to express herself better by this age, or at least be able to tell us if she wants something/doesn't like something/is hungry/tired without getting really frustrated and hitting.

DH is Thai and sometimes speaks Thai to her, and she spends half her day with his grandparents who only speak Thai. I'm starting to hear her say more and more Thai words and most of the babbling she does is very Thai sounding. I have heard that bilingual children can have delayed speech and that it's totally normal, but what am I suppose to do to help her with her frustration until she catches up?

I hate saying no to her, and I hate telling her over and over again that hitting is not nice. And like I mentioned before I'm pretty drained right now so I'm not able to jump up and redirect her, and her hitting is actually hurting me

I have no experience with raising a bilingual child so if anyone has book rec's for me or personal experiences I'd love to hear them!
post #2 of 10
I didn't think I would have anything to say to your post since it was about being bilingual and it is something I'm interested in but don't have any experience with.

But, I don't think the issue is your toddler being bilingual, I think it is your toddler being an 18 month old toddler. I've got one too! He is going through pretty much exactly what you described, hitting and testing limits. DS is mostly non verbal with 4 words and 5 or so signs. And I'm 5 months pregnant. He also hits himself in the head out of frustration. I can tell you that DS is on the lower end of normal for verbal communication although he obviously understands what we say. I'm not worried about it -he is off the charts on physical development - but it is frustrating for both of us.

So here is what we do to - hitting us or himself on the head out of frustration = me saying "no hitting, hitting hurts" and following with guesses about what he needs. Offering nursing, a drink, snack, or redirection until I find something that works. Sometimes I will find that he is hitting himself and watching very carefully for what I will do and I skip saying anything about hitting and go right to the redirection. Helping mommy clean is his favorite and works about 75% of the time.

I think that what you are hearing from other parents, that 18 month olds should be able to communicate/express herself better is not true. I know 3 year olds with similar issues and I think it is pretty common.

Anyway, I hope it helps to hear this is normal. And please forgive my spelling as my spell check doesn't seem to be working!
post #3 of 10
I don't think it's got anything to do with being bilingual. Have you considered trying sign language? If your litle one isn't terribly verbal yet, then it wouldn't make a difference what language you're speaking, if she's unable to verbalize clearly, she's going to get frustrated over not being able to communicate.

We use ASL with our toddler and it's a dream. She is not very verbal at all yet (a handful of words) but can sign really well.

Also, for the hitting thing, focus on the cause, avoiding the end result, and using distraction.

So the cause would be frustration over communication (it sounds like). Using sign language here can help a lot.

The end result is that hitting hurts and saying something like, "We NEVER hurt Mama (or whoever)! Hitting hurts Mama. We never hit!" can help. This can work well as long as you're not spanking. I think it's difficult for little ones to understand hitting is never acceptable, if sometimes parents spank. If that makes sense.

As for her hitting herself, use the same type response, including the end result: "We don't bang our head, even if we're frustrated. Banging hurts the baby and Mama needs the baby to be safe. Be gentle with yourself," etc.

Distraction would be simply holding her arm or hand firmly or blocking her and not allowing her to hit, when you're able. Then finding something that she can do to release that frustration. "We never hit, even if we're frustrated. We can stomp though. Here's the stomping rug. Let's stomp!" or whatever. Giving her an alternative to express her frustration is key here, as I think it's important to allow them to express themselves, but in an acceptable and non-aggressive manner.
post #4 of 10
We use ASL as a "bridge" language... I speak English while signing, DH speaks French while signing. If you don't know Thai (I don't know much French) then having that common bridge language can really help.

I know it's tough (I was in the same place a few months ago) but it does sound like your little is being a normal 18mo who is adjusting to a pregnant mama (pregnant= tired, stressed, distracted). Hang in there!

For hitting and hurting behavior we wound up creating a "queit chair". Sort of a gentle time out where someone can sit for a while. Dh and I sit in the chair too and explain to DD how sometimes people need a little quiet time when they get upset or frustrated. It's not totally GD, but we've found that the chair removes dd from the hitting/hurting situation and gives everyone a breather. And sometimes that little break is all I need to re-group myself to better handle the challenges of toddler and babe. Anyway...good luck and congrats on the new babe!
post #5 of 10
We also use sign language with both my girls. It has done wonders in reducing frustration. It was recommended to me by a friend who is a speech therapist for children. I use the Baby Signs book and video that she suggested to me. But you can use any combination of ASL and made up signs that you want! It really helps develop the language center in their brain.
post #6 of 10
I second (third? fourth?) the sign language suggestion. They're very simple to learn and teach.

We started with "eat", "all done", "nurse".

Now DS has probably 30 signs that he uses regularly.

He's learning three languages, btw. We decided to teach signs to prevent frustration from possibly being a bit delayed. It's a huge help, although DS is quite verbal.
post #7 of 10
Hi. We are also a multi-lingual family. I speak Romanian to my DD, DH speaks Hindi and we use English when talking to each other. By 18 months DD was barely using like 5 words or something and I was terribly worried, but not she is 23 months and she is doing much better, although by far not as advanced as other children with only one language. She prefers English but uses words from each language, mixing them up, combining two words into one and so on. I don't worry at all anymore because I see some slow progress and I am actually amazed by her capacity to understand almost everything in every language, although she won't speak as much.
I cannot say that I ever noticed any linguistic frustration on her part, just tantrums and bad toddler temper. I think you should not worry as much. As for helping her, we just use the one-person-one-language approach, meaning that I never speak to her in any other language than Romanian and also DH exclusively speaks Hindi to her. I don't know what else we can do. I am also trying to keep the pace with her Hindi, so that I don't feel left out. I still hardly speak any Hindi at all.
post #8 of 10
Quote:
Originally Posted by wombatclay View Post

For hitting and hurting behavior we wound up creating a "queit chair". Sort of a gentle time out where someone can sit for a while. Dh and I sit in the chair too and explain to DD how sometimes people need a little quiet time when they get upset or frustrated. It's not totally GD, but we've found that the chair removes dd from the hitting/hurting situation and gives everyone a breather. And sometimes that little break is all I need to re-group myself to better handle the challenges of toddler and babe. Anyway...good luck and congrats on the new babe!
We use Time Out in a similar way -- though it's for me and DH, not our 19 month old yet. So if for instance, I'm getting frustrated or angry, I'll say, "Mama needs a Time Out to calm down" and I'll go sit somewhere where she can see me, until I'm calm. DH does the same thing. So for us, we don't do rewards or punishment (we do encouragement and redirection), but we do want our toddler to learn by example that when we get frustrated or angry, we take a moment to calm down.

And so for us, Time Out is about learning to calm and taking a moment to breathe and refocus. It's not about punishing. Nor does it take the place of expressing frustration -- it's just something that can be used in conjunction with acceptable expression (like stomping rug, etc.), if that makes sense.

I think it's very possible to use GD and the Time Out (or Quiet Chair or whatever you want to call it) in a manner that is teaching your child, and providing discipline and structure, without resorting to punishment necessarily.

To the OP, we have had great success with the Signing Time DVDs, and with this website: http://commtechlab.msu.edu/sites/aslweb/browser.htm

The ST DVDs are just wonderful (the regular, not the Baby ones) and we all love them. We were very anti-TV initially, but these are truly educational and fun, and we watch them with her, so we're all interacting and it's not replacing human interaction.

But between that and the website, I'm convinced it's saved us all a lot of frustration.

Good luck, Mama!
post #9 of 10
We are a bilingual Spanish/English family. DD is about average for her language development, but a little behind many of her peers. I agree with the sign language suggestion. It doesn't seem like your dd's frustration is due to language issues, but normal toddler development.
post #10 of 10
We use sign language as a bridge between the languages and also around that time DD was very frustrated trying to communicate it. Later, right after the second birthday She having very tough tantrums related to speech and her desires. Weeks later She was said more and more word in English. At home we just speech Spanish as a norm and we have to get a lot of mental discipline trying to not answer in English. We know this is the right time when many children lose the parents languages and just communicate in English.
Now She 2 1/2 yo and everyday is discovery of new word and sentences.
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