Why Young Children Regress to Baby Talk

Bringing home a new baby? If you already are the parent of a toddler ora  preschooler, you can expect her feathers to be a little ruffled by her new, little sibling.

One of the most traumatic events in young children’s lives can be the arrival of a new baby brother or sister. Suddenly their world is turned upside down, with the newborn sibling demanding and getting lots of attention.

For big brother or sister, one way of coping is by regressing a little, both in behavior and in speech. So if you find your ‘big kid’ suddenly speaking to you like a baby, you may need to read between the lines. This baby talk may be your child’s way of saying ‘baby me’ explains speech therapist Janice Greenberg. “Children aren’t too sophisticated in asking what they really need, and when they need attention they often represent this in their behavior. A child’s reversion to baby talk can often be seen as a plea for more attention, as they remember what it was like when they were younger and they try to regain that experience. “

So how do you deal with your child’s baby talk? Well, while older children may appear quite cute when expressing themselves this way, Greenberg feels that parents should resist the temptation to repeat the words and tone that the child uses, “rather they should recognize this as a need for attention and respond to it somewhat, but also to try to encourage more age appropriate behavior through praise and attention when the child acts their age.”

The good news is that this too will pass says Greenberg. “Parents should simply consider this a phase and realize that it is quite a normal form of behavior and that children should return to their more mature ways as soon as they see that there are other ways to get attention.”

One way to give your toddler appropriate attention when a new baby arrives on the scene is to let them help care for their sibling. Under supervision they could assist with tasks like bathing and diaper changing, by passing mom or dad the powder, cream or soap. And when the newborn is napping, try to find a few minutes to play with or read a story to your toddler. Those precious moments of one-on-one time can make a big difference to a toddler who’s feeling a little displaced by a new baby brother or sister.


Adapted from The Parent Report Radio Show. Any advice or information contained herein should never be a substitute for professional and/or medical advice, diagnosis and treatment. For more information please review Terms of Service.

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