3 Year Old Doesn’t Understand Why Chinese Grandma Doesn’t Understand Him


My mother, who speaks Chinese only, finally came to the U.S. to meet the grandkids (3 & 1.5 years) in person. Previous contact was through Facetime only. The 3-year-old boy is verbally pretty advanced and loves being read to - in English. His exposure to Chinese, due to my fault, has been extremely limited though. Now that grandma is here, he has been very resistant to having much to do with her (I think because she is this strange figure who does not speak English) and has been resistant towards speaking Chinese. I think he finds the inability to communicate very frustrating. E.g., when he wants grandma to do something and she was not responding accordingly, he would get loud and yell. He on many occasion would even told grandma to "Go Away." All this disrespect is making me furious. Grandma, who was a no-nonsense, "scary" mum to me when I was a kid, is now self-conscious and seems unwilling to chastise the kids as they deserve. What do I do?


I'd venture to say your son doesn't understand why your mom doesn't comprehend what he's saying and do what he wants her to do. His reactions may be "disrespectful" from a certain point of view, but he certainly isn't intending disrespect. He thinks, probably, that turning up the volume of his voice may get through to her. Please don't be upset with him. He's simply frustrated with your mom for reasons he can't explain. You're going to have to be patient with him and ride this out. If you persist with Chinese lessons, he should begin to "get it" in fairly short order. Teach him simple requests in Chinese so he begins having success talking with grandma.


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