Baby Talk in Older Child? How to Respond When Your Child Talks Like a Baby
It can be super annoying when your five year old, or even six or seven year old child talks like a baby. How can you respond to baby talk in an older child? Here’s why kids sometimes resort to talking like a baby as well as tips and ideas about how to handle it when your big kid goes back to baby talk.
First – Why do older kids regress to using baby talk?
Why does your 6 year old (or even 10 year old) talk like a baby? It could be a number of reasons, and mostly it’s annoying, but not a huge concern.
First off, rule out health issues:
If this is a regression in the sense that it’s not that your child is choosing to talk like a baby, but instead your child was speaking clearly a few months before but their speach is becoming harder to understand, you may wish to check with your doctor to rule out a hearing issue or some other cause.
If the baby talk is accompanied by other regression behavior like bed wetting or other signs of anxiety you also may wish to talk to a professional in case the baby talk is a sign of trauma or mental health issues.
Baby talk for attention:
Kids may use baby talk to get attention they need but are unskilled at asking for. Kids (and adults for that matter) don’t always know how to say, “Hey, I’m feeling kind of lonely lately and I’d sure like some extra time with you.” Instead some kids try using baby talk to be ‘cute and innocent’ and garner the positive attention they associate with it.
While the baby talk itself might be annoying, the ask for attention is real. You don’t have to reinforce the baby talk by responding to it with praise and snuggles, but look for other times when you can add in that extra hug or a few more minutes to talk. You can find many ideas for adding loving moments to your days in Becky Bailey’s I Love You Rituals.
Baby talk during times of change or transition
Sometimes kids start baby talk when they have a life change going on – maybe a new sibling, the start of a school year, or even just a growth phase when they can sense that they’re getting bigger and learning more skills for independence. It can be a way to ‘touch base’ and check, “Am I still loved? Am I still allowed to be little?”
If you feel like this is what’s happening a few ideas to help the transition are:
- Talk about what’s going on. For some children drawing a story about the events can really help (even stick figures are fine).
- Reminisce together, looking at photos, telling stories. This is particularly effective when the change is the introduction of a new baby to the family. Older siblings enjoy hearing about what they were like as a baby and hearing you talk about how they were snuggled and cared for like their new sibling.
- Instead of asking for a “big kid voice” you can say, “We can talk about this when you use your 6 year old voice.” (or 7 year old, 8 year old etc.)
Answering a Reader Question – How to Respond to Baby Talk in Older Child?
My son and his cousin are best friends (he’s 7, she’s 8). When they get together they get into this really annoying baby talk that they talk in. It seems to fuel them being rude to others around them and they kind of get stuck in the baby talk mode once apart too and will try talking in that voice to us as parents. It drives us all nuts.
Is there anything I can do aside from just keep asking them to speak to me in a normal voice?
Here are some answers about baby talk from Bounceback Parents – please add your own in the comments!
- Recognize when they use their normal voice. In our family aside from asking for a normal voice from the kids when they’re talking to us, something that’s been key is to recognize when they ARE using that normal voice, especially when they use it without prompting, “Hey, thanks, your voice is so much easier for me to understand when you talk to me in this nice normal tone.” ~Alissa
- Decide what to make an issue of. Kids using baby talk to play together? Not an issue. Being rude? Issue. Make sure they know the difference. All my kids are either going through or have been through the “playing babies” stage – its a real favorite game around that age. Drives adults crazy but the kids love it. Draw attention to the fact that “real” babies are cute and affectionate, not rude. As far as carrying it on after goes, I’d try, “you’re in a shared room now, so use proper voice. You want to keep playing babies, I’m happy for you to do that in your room.” ~Sarah
- The more it gets a rise out of you the more he’ll do it. Be unaffected and firm in only responding to a respectful voice. State your limit : “I can see you’re having fun with that voice. When you use your normal voice I’m happy to talk with you.” No shaming or threats. Then stick to it. He’s old enough to only need the limit stated once. Any inkling that he is getting under your skin and he has the power; you’re back to square 1. Be unaffected and unconcerned, kind but firm in your limit. ~Shana
- Ignore the annoying behavior and praise the heck out of desired behavior! ~Jessica
Join the Conversation
If you have experience or helpful ideas on what to do to keep yourself from going batty when your child talks in a baby voice, please leave your comments or links to ideas!
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