Childhood Diseases

Posted by: Shelby | 2010/10/12


Different Languages

Hi Professor,

My 3 year old son has different languages spoken to him. I speak English and my husband speaks Afrikaans. The maid speaks Swazi to him.

The teachers at school say that he is very naughty, together with the other boys in his class, who only have Afrikaans spoken to them. They say that my son is naughty because he has so many languages spoken to him, what do you think about that?

He does not listen to me or his female teachers, but he listens to his father who does most of the disciplining, which includes being spanked with a wooden spoon on his buttocks, when he has done wrong.

My son is also on Epilim and Keppra for Epilepsy, but I hope he will be taken off this next month, as his last EEG was clear.

Thank you for your input.

Expert's Reply



Children of this age have an amazing ability to pick up languages and your son will only benefit by being able to speak several languages.He has epilepsy and is on treatment for this. His behaviour may have something to do with his epilepsy or he is just copying some of the naughty boys at the school.His father should not be hitting a 3 year old boy who also has epilepsy with a wooden spoon as this will only aggravate his aggressive behaviour.

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user comments


Posted by: Purple | 2010/10/13

Some people use the word naught to describe things that even though they are annoying are developmentally appropriate.

I doubt very much that being bi or tri lingual has any effect on behviour, though I have heard that some children start talking a few months later if they are exposed to more than one language. I used to befully bilingual in English and Zulu and started speaking both before a year old and did very well at English at school level and was not a naughty child (I was quite nerdy actually). Sadly although I still speak a little Zulu I would no longer call myself bilingual, through lack of use I" ve lost my skills there. Some of my child''s cousins are bilingual in English and German and didn''t experience any delays in talking either of these languages either, they''re all between 6 and 10 now and fully bilingual in both and not naughty children either.

Ask how the school discipline - are they consistent, do they give time outs, do they use distraction before getting angry?

You and your husband both need to present a united front towards discipline and agree on a few simple rules and enforce them consistently.

Reply to Purple
Posted by: Sally | 2010/10/13

I was told it is fine if different people speak different languages to children as long as they don''t mix their languages. I can''t see that this could be the reason for his naughtiness. What do they class as naughty?

Reply to Sally

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