You are finally out of diapers. The bottle and the sippy cups have been replaced with more grown up, non-spill proof lids. Your child uses the bathroom independently and is constantly telling you, “I can do it myself!” As bittersweet as it is for your child to be growing up so quickly, most parents also breathe a sigh of relief. One of the most important jobs of a parent is to foster independent development and to empower your child to grow into a self-sufficient big kid. And most kids, seem to rather enjoy this transition from being a baby to being all grown up. Then, one day out of the blue your child is talking like a complete baby again. It can be worrisome and slightly irritating and you may find yourself saying, “Stop talking like a baby!”
Baby talk regression is one of the most common slip falls of childhood. Children that seem to relish in their independence will suddenly start acting or talking like a baby again. They might start asking for their ‘milky,’ instead of milk. Use a slight stutter to voice their concerns or even pout and throw tantrums that are relative to toddlerhood. Often, this transgression occurs when something big is going on in their life. For many parents the regression to baby talk occurs before they start school, before they go to a new school, during a divorce, near the birth of a younger sibling, or any other time your child feels threatened.
Experts say that the regression back to toddler ways is simply a sign that they are fearful or anxious about growing up. Even though your child may be thriving as a ‘big kids,’ the changes that come with growing up are often difficult. Plus, toddlers feel the closest bonds to their parents during the toddler years. And often, this is a time when children have very little rules and regulations to follow and are quite empowered by the love and praise from parents. Who wouldn’t want to go back to those carefree days, right?
What parents need to realize is that the baby talk most likely means that your child is struggling with an issue of their own. Depending on your child’s age or the issues going on in your family – the reason for the anxiety may be obvious or not. Look at the baby talk as a sign that your child may be in need of a little more attention and sensitivity from you. In other words, try not to correct your child right away or make them feel ashamed for reverting to baby talk.
The American Academy of Paediatrics also offers the following advice for dealing with a child that is baby talking:
- Don’t force your child to ‘act his or her age.’ If they want to act like a baby, drink from a bottle, take a pacifier or talk like a baby, play along for a while. Make sure that you recognize this behaviour as a signal that your child is in need of some extra love and attention. Experts believe that chastising the child will only prolong and frustrate this regression phase.
- Make sure to use a lot of praise. If you can prove to your child that they don’t need to ‘act like a baby’ to get the same love and attention they got when they were little – they will have less reasons to regress. If the reasons for the transgression are because of a new life event, try to talk on an appropriate level to your child about what is going on and ease them of any fears that they may have.
- Empower your child’s sense of importance. If a move is causing the anxiety, enlist their help to pack up the house. If a new baby is the issue, then show them the perks to being a big kid, and allow them to help you as much as possible (and as much as they want.) If you aren’t exactly sure what is causing the transgression, then try to gently remind them the perks of being a ‘big kid.’
- Remind them with a very clear cut statement, just how much you love their independence and how proud of them you are for doing all of the big kid things that they are able to do. In other words, take the time to celebrate the many wonderful things that your child can do now that they are a big kid.
- Encourage your child to talk to you about their feelings. Ask them direct questions and listen to their answers. Depending on your child’s age they may not be able to articulate exactly what they are feeling. By talking to your child one on one, you provide a release valve for your child.
- Try not to change too many things at once in your life. If something is going on with your toddler, make sure to keep all other things in their life on schedule and task.
It is no doubt annoying and frustrating for parents to see their child regress into certain behaviours. One of the most important things to remember as a parent is that your child’s actions speak volumes for how they are feeling inside. If you can get to the root of the anxiety that is causing your child to regress, you will pass through this phase more quickly. If you are extremely concerned, or your child is regressing in many other areas as well, the American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to seek the help from a physician and schedule a check up to make sure there are not underlying health issues involved!