5 Ways to Respond When a Child Reverts Back to Baby Talk

Discipline Strategies to Address this Common Behavior Problem

Sometimes, kids use baby talk as a way to get attention.
Cultura RM / Samantha Mitchell / Cultura / Getty Images

It’s not uncommon for kids to revert to baby talk long after they’ve outgrown it. In fact, many preschoolers revert back to baby talk as part of their normal development. Older grade school kids can also regress back to using a baby voice at times.

Although listening to baby talk can be annoying, it's likely to just be a phase. With a few simple interventions, you can curb the bad habit before it gets out of control.

Usually, it resolves relatively quickly with appropriate intervention.

1. Rule Out Underlying Problems

Baby talk shouldn't be a huge cause for concern. Sometimes it stems from a stressful situation, such as having a new baby in the home. At other times, children revert to baby talk because they miss being a young child and they want to be coddled again.

There are times however, when baby talk might signal a more serious problem. Make sure to rule out speech delays or other developmental problems. Talk to your child’s pediatrician to ensure that your child is developmentally on track.

If your child’s baby talk is combined with other regressive behaviors, such as bedwetting, seek professional help. Sometimes, traumatic events, or mental health issues can trigger a child to regress.

2. Don’t Make a Big Deal of It

Making a big deal out of baby talk might encourage it continue. Don’t bring up the subject when your child’s not using baby talk and don’t allow your child to overhear you complaining about it to others.

Instead, remain calm. Intervene in a direct and straightforward manner. Even though it can be irritating, don’t let your child know it drives you crazy. Otherwise, he may continue doing it just to get more attention.

3. Ignore It

Try ignoring your child when he talks to you in a baby voice. If he asks you to do something for him, pretend like you can't hear him.

Then, as soon as he uses his normal voice, pay attention and respond to him.

Sometimes baby talk becomes a bad habit and kids aren’t even aware when they’re doing it. A reminder such as, “Use your big kid voice,” can be helpful. You can also let your child know, “I don’t understand baby talk. Use your big kid voice to tell me what you want.”

4. Praise Good Behavior

One of the best behavior modification techniques is to provide positive attention for good behavior. Catch your child using his normal voice and provide praise. Say something such as, “I like it when you use your big kid voice to ask me for something.”

Attention and praise will provide your child with positive reinforcement for using his normal voice. This can encourage him to keep it up when he realizes that it is the best way to get your attention.

5. Teach Your Child New Skills

Baby talk can signal that your child needs help learning new skills. For example, if your child is using baby talk in an attempt to socialize with other children, he may benefit from learning new social skills.

Teach your child about feelings so he can cope with his feelings in socially acceptable ways.

Sometimes children use baby talk to try and convince parents they can’t complete a difficult task. For example, a 6-year-old might stand next to the food at a family gathering and say, “Me want food,” because he’s nervous about trying to serve himself.

In this case, teach your child a better way to handle the situation. Say, "What would be a way a big kid might ask for help?" Then, walk him through strategies or what he might say to get his needs met in a more appropriate manner. 

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