Parenting: The not-so cute baby talk

December 3, 2010

But now, on occasion, she is backsliding to "baby talk." She likes to pretend she's a baby, says she can't feed herself and wants to be carried around like an infant. While it seemed cute at first, now her act is growing old.

Child development experts say it's not unusual for preschoolers to lapse into baby talk at times. Often, as I expect in Emma's case, it is an effort to get attention. Her baby talk often happens when I just get home from work and she and her brother, Luke, are competing for my focus. Pediatricians say babyish language can also be a sign that your child is feeling insecure. Perhaps there is a new addition to the family, or the child is experiencing a change in routine (the beginning of school, a new activity, etc.).

According to experts, the best thing a parent can do is ignore the baby talk. Reacting with annoyance, ridicule or amusement will reinforce the behavior. Talk to your child as you would an adult, and don't dumb down your language. Be calm, but direct, and tell your children you can't understand them when they talk in baby talk and praise them immediately when they speak normally.

When Emma says she needs me to feed her, I tell her she is not a baby and, if she doesn't feed herself, she won't eat. Last night this battle occurred over a bowl of applesauce. I walked away and Luke jumped in saying, "I'll feed you!" This resulted in a big, sticky mess. But part of me was happy to see my children getting along. Perhaps this "baby talk" is in reaction to me telling Emma that she is growing up too fast. Although it may be annoying at times, sometimes her baby talk brings me fond memories of her earlier years. After all, no matter how old they get, Emma and Luke WILL always be my babies.

Happy parenting! Cecily

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