We as parents get up each morning with the intention of raising our kids to be productive citizens of the world. We all desire to sit back and honestly think that our kids are empathetic and tolerant of all people and walks of life. The problem is HOW DO WE GET THERE? What is the secret to how to raise globally minded kids?
What You Value the Most
Kids are natural imitators. If you ever watch a 2-year-old who is learning to form sentences, you know they go through a “parrot” stage. They repeat everything you say automatically. They imitate your catch phrases and your mannerisms. Whether you realized it or not, they spent the last 2 years watching you. Your good and bad habits are held up in a proverbial mirror known as a toddler.
“Children have never been good at listening to their parents, but they have never failed to imitate them.”
― John Medina,
Any parent knows time is scarce and valuable. There are only so many hours in the day. So what do you prioritize in order to raise globally minded kids?
My top three priorities:
Books. Travel. Learning Languages.
Why those three you might be wondering… I am so glad you asked!
For me, watching my child transition from being a non-reader to one who can read independently is one of the biggest milestones and miracles of life. Experts in the field have shown us that reading aloud is a scientifically proven method to increase student success in reading.
We read with our kids to help them become lifelong readers, but we do it for another reason as well. Well known book character Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird said ‘You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
To teach your children about different people in history who were everyday heroes will inspire them to change the world. Reading outside of your comfort zone where people share a different opinion than yours can be transforming as well.
“Words are our most inexhaustible source of magic.”
–John Mark Green
You can use words for powerful changes almost instantaneously. How does this happen? The answer I have come up with is emotion. When you appeal to a person emotionally with your words, they can be transformed. Our words have the power to inspire, encourage, as well as motivate our children through books when we use the power of emotion.
Think about a baby crying for example. We as parents know the different cries for hungry, wet, tired, etc. You can hear in your child’s tone or pitch which emotion they are feeling. They do not use any words, however you can understand what they are trying to communicate through their emotion. My newborn daughter makes it abundantly clear when she is ready to eat and I am taking too long!:)
Expert tip for babies: teach them sign language right from birth!
I care very deeply about books that showcase the experiences of my children. I search for books that promote strong, smart, and biracial girls who are accomplishing their goals. However, I also bring home books that highlight history, culture, and experiences from all over the world.
If you are looking for place to start with diverse and multicultural books, here is a great list:
- The Invisible Boy by Trudy Ludwig
- Maddi’s Fridge by Lois Brandt
- One Love by Cedella Marley and Bob Marley
- Last Stop on Market Street by Matt de la Peña
- The Mitten Tree by Candace Christiansen
- Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts
- Beatrice’s Goat by Page McBrier
- Four Feet, Two Sandals by Karen Lynn Williams
- One Hen: How One Small Loan Made a Big Difference by Katie Smith Milway
- Boxes for Katje by Candace Fleming
I feel strongly that books are critical to raising children, but I feel just as strongly about traveling. Embracing cultures, diversity, and empathy for others are just the beginning of the benefits of children traveling. A recent article I read that says everything I believe about traveling with children. A great read when you have a chance: Why Travel is Never Wasted on Young Kids.
“Those who don’t travel the world only read one page.” You would never read only a few pages of your favorite book and stop. You would read as much and as fast as humanly possible. After reading the good parts over and over, you would talk about your favorite part to anyone who would listen. You might even spark a conversation with someone who loved the same book as you.
The same concept is true for traveling. The amazing experiences and stories would be at the tip of your tongue in all conversations. Again, it all goes back to education. I believe traveling is crucial for children to increase reading vocabulary as well as their comprehension. There will be a great depth in their academic work due to the unique perspective from having a real-life connection to the topic or subject.
We have come a long way in education to understand that languages are a CRUCIAL gateway to the future in social skills, academic skills, and advantages in the job market. I believe being multilingual is a big part of raising globally minded kids.
Noam Chomsky puts it this way: We are not born with the capacity to speak a specific language. We are born with the capacity to speak any language.
In teaching your child to become a reader, multilingualism helps them to understand the concept that two words can mean the same thing, or that one word can have more than one meaning depending on the context it has used. There is nothing wrong with a parents’ decision to rely solely on passive learning that is environmental. However, parents have the ability to have control over this part of learning with learning languages.
Rewiring the Brain
As Prof. Xiao-lei Wang states in Learning to Read and Write in the Multilingual Family, “research has provided ample evidence to establish the close link between a child’s oral language skills and the child’s later reading and writing competence. Children with higher levels of oral proficiency and more elaborated vocabulary can read more easily than their less proficient peers.” Learning more than one language can literally rewire the brain.
“At birth, your baby can distinguish between the sounds of every language that has ever been invented. Professor Patricia Kuhl, co-director of the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences at the University of Washington, discovered this phenomenon. She calls kids at this age “citizens of the world.”– John Medina, Brain Rules for Baby
Below is a short video of my 18-month-old daughter learning Latvian with our nanny.
A very popular joke I have heard many times in the international communities abroad at both international schools and at social events:
“What do you call a person who speaks 3 languages? Trilingual.
What do you call a person who speaks 2 languages? Bilingual
What do you call a person who speaks only one language? American.”
I am determined to have my kids not be the butt of that joke!:)
Your turn. What are your top three priorities for your kids? How are you raising globally minded kids? Join our conversation in the comments below.
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