Parents Don’t Talk to Your Baby Too Much

Learning to talk on the phone

Many of Rocky’s friends attend speech therapy. Either they are delayed or they just can’t articulate the way they should. If your child is in this boat, know you are in good company. My child is at the opposite end of the spectrum. I’ve only encountered a couple of children his age that are at least somewhat like him so far but I know there have to be more children who are extremely verbal. Exhaustingly so at times. I’m beginning to think that my methods were overkill now that I hear myself debating with a barely 5 year-old and his arguments are sometimes really reasonable. How did it come to this?

At a time when I was going strictly by the books, all the experts were telling me that I should talk to my baby constantly. Even if they can’t answer back, the pros advised, they do absorb the language this way. Let me just say that it felt so unnatural and ridiculous to be talking to an infant all day, it pretty much felt like I was talking to myself. Or like a bag lady with a doll. I persevered because that is what I was advised and I felt very sympathetic towards this child who was taken from the womb at 28 weeks through no fault of his own. Doctors told me he would be at risk for developmental problems that we wouldn’t know about until he was older. I felt like I had to do everything I could to make it up to him. There I was like a fool, narrating whatever we did, day after day. “I’m going to get myself a drink from the refrigerator now. Hear the noise it makes? I think I’ll choose this juice today. Hey, look out the window. There is the UPS driver. He is delivering packages….”

Rocky’s first birthday finally arrived and still not much was happening on the speech front. He was small for his age (16 lbs) but his motor skills were there. Not all kids speak this early but I was aware of several babies we’d met who had a number of words under their belts already. Come on, Rocky, you can do it. He learned to walk on his actual due date (whew) and he could point to things when I gave him the word but still not much going on speech wise at 18 months. Just a few basic words. His development therapist said he was doing as expected for a preemie. That was a good sign but what about all this talking I’ve been doing, I thought, is it sinking in at all?

By 2 years he knew all the letters from the letter blocks he studied and could maneuver them into simple words like “me” and “up”. After that, the words came like a flood. Almost in sentences. Hubby and I were so excited at this development. It turned out to be too much of a good thing.

You see, since we didn’t spend much time on baby talk, Rocky didn’t either. I got a few precious months of “twinkle, twinkle little tar” and then he figured out the correct sounds and tried his best to mimic an adult’s speech. As an only child with no young cousins nearby, adult speech is mostly what he heard.

Fast forward to now that Rocky is 5. I spend my days having these conversations about how things work, why things are and hearing him explain things he learned from the Discovery channel to me. It is not enough to say “the water from the sink goes down these pipes into the sewer”. He wants to know where it goes from there, what happens at the water treatment plant, etc.  Also bigger concepts like death and human behavior. I can often be found at the library or on the internet finding answers. His father thinks the same way so sometimes I defer to him. But I don’t want to fall too far behind! I know my mother-in-law claims that she had similar experiences with my husband as a child so some of it is probably genetic but mostly I think she intuitively talked to him a lot as well, he was an only child at the time. He has not been an outgoing chatterbox since I’ve known him, though. Mom says I was precocious but I know I was never as logical and, well, being number 3 out of 4 kids, there just isn’t much of a record. Some of it had to relate to the advice I got about talking (and reading) to baby from day one.

Most kids his age, when I ask them a question, they give me a simple one or two word reply or shy away entirely. Watch out if you are a casual acquaintance who happens to ask my child a question to be polite. You just may get the four minute answer. For example, several people asked him what he was going to be for Halloween. “Well,” he starts. Okay, I know this is going to take a while so I’ll just be over there reading my magazine. “I was going to be a pirate like I was last year but my school is having a costume parade and we can’t bring weapons. How can I be a pirate without my sword? So for that I am going to wear the astronaut flight suit that mom got me for my space party when I turned 5. I told her I appreciate that she got me that suit but I decided not to wear it for the party because….Do you know what NASA stands for?… After that…” Please feel free to say excuse me and walk away if you need to leave.

***The Gen X Moms are no longer writing as a group (too many scheduling conflicts) but you can continue reading about my adventures with Rocky on my new blog at: