Why Do We Teach Kids To Talk?

Parents get pretty revved up about hearing baby’s first words, and understandably so – it’s a momentous milestone. We spend loads of time encouraging our little ones to talk, showing them how to enunciate clearly and teaching them the proper designations for everything that surrounds them. Proudly we tally the number of words our kids have, paying special attention to those two and three-word phrases, expectantly keeping our eye on the biggest prize of all – complete sentences.

Are we demented? Clueless? Thick?

Man, are we ever going about it all wrong. Instead of encouraging our kids to be fluent we should be doing everything we can to discourage them from speaking.

For as long as possible.

Because new talkers are social liabilities. Ticking f-bombs. Apology magnets.

As if the public anxiety weren’t bad enough, suddenly even in private we have to scrutinize every word we utter and actually think about what we want to say before we say it. No more opinionated comments, controversial conversations or curse words.

Do you know how hard it is to not do that? I’m East Coast born and raised, so asking me to have this kind of verbal forethought is like asking me to have a personality transplant. Reigning in the cursing alone is like promising to be a vegetarian for the rest of my life –it’s wildly unrealistic. Seriously – have you ever driven in Seattle traffic? Between the gridlock and all the passive aggressive politeness it takes every ounce of composure I have to try to keep it PG. Fine, PG-13.

But, the consequence for not cleaning up your act is that your kids parrot everything you say. If you talk smack about Aunt Harriet, then you can bet your kid’s going to rat you out as soon as she walks through the door by proclaiming “Mommy hates when you visit”.

And… if you curse in front of your kid thinking it’s harmless, then don’t be surprised when the next day at pre-school she greets her teacher and classmates with a cheerful “Hi Fuckers!”

Forget about your privacy, too. Gone are the days. You might as well just sign up to do a reality television series because everyone’s gonna know what happens behind your closed doors. Anything that goes into your mouth or outta your ass is fair game. People will know what gives you gas, how much you drink and how you prefer to sleep at night. Seems fair enough when you stop and think about it, considering we share these exact same details about our toddlers with perfect strangers.

Payback comes swiftly.

Combine this new ability to talk and over-share with their ability to think, and suddenly the situation becomes much more calamitous. Because now they can form questions about all of their first time observations. And I promise you, nothing good can come of your toddler interrogating you in public about shit they have never seen before.

For example, your son will ask secretary at his pre-school who bravely wears skinny jeans “Mommy, why is her butt in the front?” And you will have to gracefully apologize because you want her to like you.

When you’re out for a lazy Sunday stroll at the lake, he will inquire loudly enough for anyone within the vicinity to hear “Mommy why does that man only have one leg?” And you will have to make this disabled man sound like a super hero without demeaning him because everyone is waiting to hear your response.

When your androgynous friend comes to dinner, your child will wonder aloud “Mommy how come you keep saying SHE if HE is a boy?” And you will have to uncork another bottle of wine since you don’t know how to navigate your way through that landmine in one piece.

The really terrible thing is that you can often see the embarrassment coming. Yet you can’t do anything to stop it.

You’ll be in a grocery store and your child’s eyes will land on the person you are praying they will not notice. Try as you might to deflect their attention, it won’t work. That damn lollipop won’t be sweet enough to overpower their curiosity. It will be the one time they don’t want a juice box. And yes, your dear child does want to talk – just not on the iPhone which you will desperately be trying to shove in their hands.

Here are some of the other embarrassing comments and questions my kids have publicly blurted out:

  • “Mommy, I found another hair in my food!” – at our friend’s house during dinner
  • “What are all those lines on your face?” – to one of our more senior nanny candidates
  • “Do you have a baby in your tummy?” – to my dad
  • “Your breath is stinky!” – to me in a room full of people after I’d had coffee
  • “She has a big tushy.” – in front of a random woman at the grocery store
  • “Why does he have chocolate all over his skin?” – in front of my black friend at the gym
  • “Your house smells disgusting!” – at a play date
  • “Because my mom will just throw it out” – to my sons Hebrew School teacher when she asked why he wasn’t taking his project home

See what I mean? So, how about we stop encouraging kids to speak already? They will soon enough.

Related post: Swearing at Your Kids

About the writer


Jill Ginsberg has several 3-letter certifications behind her signature but the one she is most known for having is OCD. As a Writer, Holistic Nutrition Coach and the mother of three wild little humans, she relishes order, tends to think in lists, appreciates humor and doesn't mind offending people. You can find her at thejillist.com, a lighthearted lifestyle and wellness blog that helps moms lose their shit and get it together at the same time. You can also follow her on Twitter and Facebook.


SarahP 2 years ago

“Mommy, they have the same books as the last time we were here!” – Me at three to my mother when we were in the E.R. due to one of the “innocently suicidal” moments with which my childhood was filled. My son is now 14 weeks old, and I’ve got it comming to me by the MAC truck load. My mom can’t wait for me to start paying those dues.

Danisha Olson 2 years ago

My 10 Y.O. still says shit that makes me face palm.

Kelsey Bishop Whited 2 years ago

My son is very much speech delayed. No way could he form a sentence. I thought it was pretty funny at the end, the only thing I disagreed with was saying not to teach your child to talk. But it was meant to be funny and I enjoyed it and I’m happy my son can’t blurt out completely horrible things yet :)

Juliana Roca 2 years ago

Oh gosh. I’ve had all 3 of my kids say something about a “brown kid” before or why are they so dark. My daughter even asked my male cousin if he had a baby in his tummy. His wife and my dad (his uncle) found that very hilarious. I was mortified… My grandmother was a ESL elementary teacher and she would always tell me that kids always speak the truth and how they see it.

Kat 2 years ago

Oh man, my kids are notorious for asking the wrong questions at the wrong time….

Youngest – “Papa… Why are you so brown and I’m so white?” My dads white, just has a crazy tan from years of working outside.

Oldest – “Mommy, that girl has a very big baby in her tummy, I could fit in there! Or is she just super fat?” About an overweight girl we had seen at the doctors office (she was sitting right behind us)

Oldest – “You’re teeth are so yellow” to my best friend

Oldest – “I’m ticklish everywhere auntie! Especially my peepee!” to my sister as she was tickling him

Oldest – “Whats wrong with his face?” First time seeing a black person

They say the craziest, most embarrassing shit sometimes, but sometimes its good for a laugh.

Maryanna 2 years ago

My little girl asked me VERY LOUDLY why the person in front of us( an elderly women) was walking so slowly, and if she was a big stupid idiot like slow drivers. I stuck a lollipop in her mouth.

Kristen Petruccelli Andrews 2 years ago

Personally, I love talking with my 2 year old. The things that come out of his mouth brighten my day and make me laugh just about every day. I was able to laugh about it even through my embarrassment the day I took him to a public crowded bathroom with me where he loudly announced, “Mommy, are you pooping?? That’s GROSS!!”

And call me crazy but I actually can’t wait till my 15 month old starts talking and I can hear about what is going through that little brain of hers.

Jamie 2 years ago

I cringe every time my daughter starts a sentence with “my mom said..”

Melinda Hicks 2 years ago

I’ve wondered this, myself, and then I babysit a non-talker who can’t tell me why they’re screaming in pain and I remember – I taught them to talk because I hate playing the ‘guess why baby is crying’ game more than I hate answering ‘why’.

Kristen Werner Schrotberger 2 years ago

I lol’d at the “Hi Fuckers” :) too funny!

Christine 2 years ago

“You don’t talk very well” – my 2.5 year old to the owner of the Thai restaurant we go to all the time. I was both proud of his grammar and mortified at once.

Trudy Hetherington 2 years ago

My son didn’t speak by choice until he was 3. It was bliss!

Nancy Feuerbach 2 years ago

Resource: your parents. And your children are young enough to still want to talk to you. There will be a shut down. And then they come back in their twenties. Sometimes.

Savanah 2 years ago

“Where’d that little brown boy go?” across the crowded DMV.
“And then we crumbled the cupcakes and mixed them with really cheap frosting, and….” -explaining to all his birthday guests how we made cake pops.
“MOM! I said hi to the brown thing!” after saying hello to an elderly black man on a park bench.
“I was beating the hell out of everyone!” coming out of laser tag.
The cashier at a store saying, “You’re really cute!” He says, “Yeah? And you’re really fat!”
“WHY COULDN’T WE HAVE JUST GONE TO MCDONALDS?” during The Big Latch-On, while all the mothers were trying to get babies and toddlers latched.
After telling a Mexican woman “gracias,” she replied in a thick accent, “You are really smart!” He says, “You are really……….spanish. ”

^^^^…..all the same kid. :\

    Nik 2 years ago

    I love the last two!

    Michelle T 2 years ago

    Those were AWESOME. And I totally, totally asked a black man why he had a chocolate face when I was little.

    Jill Ginsberg 2 years ago

    Sounds like a kid I’d LOVE to hang out with, what a personality!

Melissa Sue 2 years ago

I have a child that has developmental delays and I found myself laughing. There’s been times where she’s said something and I just want to dig a hole. It’s a funny article and meant to be just that.

Brenda Adler 2 years ago

We don’t, they teach themselves much for the worse I think.

Although in this house speaking is a privilege, not a right, and when people won’t stop being mean it gets taken away

Brenda Self Conner 2 years ago

Tongue in cheek — and having children who turned out to be incessant talkers (surprise surprise), I’ve always said that we spent all that time teaching them to talk only to spend years telling them to be quiet…

Linda Watt Grant 2 years ago

When my first was saying her first words my Dr. Said “when they’re little we can’t wait for them to start, when they’re teens we can’t wait for them to shut up” lol

    Savanah 2 years ago

    I once heard “We spend the first 2 years of their lives teaching them to walk and talk, and the next 16 telling them to sit down and shut up. ” 😉

Katie Thomas 2 years ago

Until they can. Sheesh… Get a sense of humor.

Jodi Coalter 2 years ago

Unless you have a kid who can’t talk or is delayed then it’s not so funny or embarrassing. Bad article

    Shannon LaMonds Michele 2 years ago

    Lighten up, it’s meant as a funny article. Using this logic, you could say this about every single story ever.

    Jodi Coalter 2 years ago

    I knew ignorant and stupid people would comment on this, same type of person who calls my kid mean or stupid because he won’t say hi back or answer your question

    Charlotte Gammel Wojcik 2 years ago

    I’m sorry that there are some children who don’t follow typical development patterns. I really am. But we’re not going to stop joking about the vast majority of kids who do. Please understand that no offense is intended – really, it’s not about you.

    Julie DeFrancesco Fletcher 2 years ago

    My son had a speech delay, and still has speech issues at 6. Taking offense at an article that isn’t intending any ill will isn’t necessary. No one is making fun of anyone. At 2 when my son wasn’t talking, I’d just tell people he has a delay and that was that. If someone doesn’t understand, that’s their problem, not yours.

    Angie Shadduck 2 years ago

    Perhaps this blogger isn’t for you Jodi. And yes- one of my children had a speech delay and still is working on her speech at the age of 9. You are taking this one a bit too personal.

    Wendy Katherine 2 years ago

    Read the Cover Photo Disclaimer before entering site! :)

    Heather Adams 2 years ago

    It’s funny and I get it, but to be perfectly honest I would LOVE for my child with apraxia to be able to say half this stuff. People take their child talking for granted. And you people jumping on this woman for being offended need to BACK OFF! Everyone deals with their child not talking in different ways. Try being supportive for once. I totally get what she is saying, this article would have been WAY funnier if she didn’t add the “So don’t teach your kid to talk, they will talk eventually”. That’s just ignorant. Jodi, I know exactly how you feel.

    Courtney Ginsberg Logan 2 years ago

    I agree, lighten up. One of my kids is speech delayed and I take absolutely no offense to this piece. Yes the author is my sister which would make it even more offensive if I was half as tightly wound as you.

    Allysa Kayley Sancrant 2 years ago

    Jodi my son is a year and half and isn’t talking and I found this quite funny. You need to learn not to care what people think if your son doesn’t say hi or answer a question because people are going to be a**holes no matter what!

    Juliana Roca 2 years ago

    All I have to say is wow to this post. My niece is somewhat speech delayed but every once in a while she will catch us off guard. You can’t always have your guard up miss. Life is too short to be offended in everything.

    TJ 2 years ago

    Scroll to the bottom of this page. look on the right side. Read the text under Attention!

    Sim’sMommy 2 years ago

    Amen! I think this article was very distasteful and quite rude. Parents of children with speech delay, apraxia, dyspraxia, autism, etc would chop off their own arms to hear their child utter any of those “choice” phrases. I really used to love the tongue in cheek style of these articles. This one crosses the line and is extremely offensive.


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