The benefits of talking to your children like grownups

Baby talk has its place, but speaking to your kids in an adult voice will help them learn to communicate better.

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  • Babies love the singsong rhythm of baby talk, also called caregiver speech. It's natural to talk to babies in musical calming tones, and they respond well to it, as a Psychology Today article points out. As children grow up, however, caregiver speech should give way to real talk. If you're looking for a new way to talk to your growing children, use your regular voice. Not convinced? Read on for five benefits.

  • 1. Vocabulary will increase

  • Child development experts recommend talking to your baby as you go about your day, teaching them about their surroundings in a natural way. That's hard to do if you can only use baby talk. Once your children are toddlers, they soak up language and can learn new words every day. Increase the likelihood of this happening by giving them words to hear. When my daughter uses a word like "actually" correctly, it makes me smile.

  • 2. They will learn how to express their needs

  • I firmly believe that because my children were spoken to in a regular voice most of the time, they learned how to talk and express needs. I also used baby sign language when they were small. Of course, toddlers will be toddlers, and kids will be kids, so there have been plenty of tantrums in my house, but empowering children with language empowers them to ask for things they need, like water, food and hugs.

  • 3. Speech might develop more quickly

  • Talking to your children in a normal voice and about everyday things might help their speech develop more quickly. Children develop at their own pace, so don’t expect your 2-year-old to rattle off complete sentences, although she might. Having children who speak makes communicating easier. You will still have to decipher words, and that can be a challenge.

  • 4. You will stay calm as you discipline

  • For me, the biggest benefit of talking to my kids like adults is that I interact with them better when things aren’t going well. I find my children are able to reason better when I speak to them in this way. When my daughter doesn’t want her shoes on, we can discuss which ones she wants to wear and why. Somehow having the tool of language makes parenting easier. Now, it doesn’t work every time, because 3-year-olds are still learning, but generally we both stay calm as we talk and reason together.

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  • 5. No embarrassing home videos of your baby voice

  • This one is mostly in jest, but there's something to be said for not having to hear your own baby voice. It might be a rite of passage for parents to have their voices cooing and ga-gaing in the background of a home video, but I don't know any adult who doesn't cringe when they hear their baby voice. If you talk to your kids like a normal person, there's little chance of a permanent record of you saying things like "Who's a precious wittle lamby kins?"

  • If you love talking to your babies in a baby voice, keep it up. Their sweet little minds will soak it up as they begin to process language and feel comforted by familiar tones. But as your baby begins to crawl, walk and try to talk, consider speaking to him more like a grown up. You can always coo to your pet or your plants.

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Amy M. Peterson, a former high school English teacher, currently lives in Oregon with her husband and four children. She spends her days writing, reading, exercising and trying to get her family to eat more vegetables.

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