Why 'Baby Talk' With Your Kids (And Spouse) Weirds Me Out
I have a visceral reaction to baby talk.
Recently, I was helping out at a school party in one of my kids’ classrooms. As my son and I were stringing Cheerios and Fruit Loops onto yarn for necklaces, I heard the mom next to me address her child in a high-pitched voice: “Do you wanna make this cute widdle necklace? Ohhh Kayyyy! Get the stringy and…ohhh nooo. Let’s not eat the Chee-wee-ohs until we Awl Done!”
Good God. I felt a blood vessel burst in my temple. Trying desperately to hurry my son and his buddy along in their stringing, I couldn’t help but entertain visions of cramming the entire box of Fruit Loops into her mouth just to MAKE. IT. STOP.
Although most of the time, I want my boys to stay little forever, I draw the line at baby talk. Even when they were babies and toddlers, my husband and I did not “dumb down” our language to communicate with them. I’ve always believed that explaining things to them in simple terms allows mutual respect to grow and flow.
Furthermore, as they get older, it avoids setting expectations that they can get away with behaviors because they are “just so cute and little.” I think that it’s just as important to model appropriate language as admitting that we adults make mistakes and have feelings.
Believe me, my kids are well versed in “Mom is frustrated and needs some space for a bit.” Or my telling them, “I’m sorry, I should not have yelled. I made a mistake and next time I will take deep breaths instead of yelling.”
We’re all human, after all.
Personal Preference or Actually Detrimental?
There are conflicting research studies out there on the effect of using baby talk on the development of children. On one hand, some studies show that using baby talk with infants can aid them in language development. However, it seems that it’s more about the pitch and timbre of the parents’ voice than butchering and “babying” the words. I remember reading that using a sing-song voice could help babies to form their vocabulary, so I would sing, “I’m changing your diaper now!” or “Here we go to the kitchen!”
Other studies suggest that baby talk can hinder language development in children over the age of 1. This study reinforces the point that avoiding baby talk and speaking clearly to children is more beneficial.
Many grade school-aged children can regress into using baby talk. It can be for a variety of reasons, namely in an attempt to seek attention if they are feeling lonely, overlooked, etc. When this happens, I tell the children I work with that I’d love to speak with them once they use their [insert age here] voice. And, “Thank you. It’s so much easier to understand what you’re saying when you use your every day voice.” After that, we can try to process the feelings that are going on underneath the baby voice.
I recently discovered a great parenting resource in this website: https://bouncebackparenting.com/. They also happen to have a great article on handling baby talk in older children without shaming or ridicule. You can read it HERE.
No Mommy Here
My visceral reaction to baby talk could be partly genetic. My mom hated baby talk probably even more than I do. For instance, she never let us call her “Mommy” because she said that it sounded too whiny and babyish. I get it. Although I never asked my kids not to call me Mommy, they naturally used Mama as their first words, and now they’ve both graduated to Mom. Sometimes my youngest even likes to spell it out: “Hi, M-O-M.”
Yes, I’m Judging You
I’ve actually witnessed a couple of friends over the years that use baby talk with their husbands. When I heard them in action, I fought the urge to both vomit and question their sanity. Keep it in the bedroom, please. Admittedly, I don’t even use pet names with my husband that often. Sure, I’ll use the occasional “honey” or “babe” and he does call me Princess…BECAUSE I AM. (Haha). Actually, maybe I should make a case for “Queen” now that I’m more on the maturing side of life. Anyway, I do call my kids by pet names, but I refuse to use a baby talk voice.
Except for with our dog. He needs it. His tail never wags faster than when I get home and love on him: “Oh, my sweet little Frankie…who’s a good boy? Is it you? Yes, you are! You’re the best boy in the world!”
That’s the only exception and I stand by it. Because he is 90 years old and he deserves it.
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