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Baby talk

Jen Klein is a New England-based technical writer and mother of three. When she isn't asking her kids to stop bickering, "caramelizing" the dinner or actively ignoring the dust bunnies under the couch, she enjoys knitting, gardening, pho...

Goo goo. Ga ga. Gag.

I don't know where she came up with the idea, but Sunshine seems to think that talking in baby talk is cute. She'll come up to me, and in her most measured, sing-songy voice say, "Ma ma, me wanna juicy."

Goo goo. Ga ga. Gag.I can ask her to speak nicely and normally or tell her I don't understand baby talk, only big girl talk, but she persists. "Juicy?" she'll ask, with a hopeful face. As often as I tell her no, speak normally, she keeps at it, eventually giggling in her efforts to get whatever, and even if those efforts are completely unsuccessful. I have no idea where this habit of hers came from.

Sunshine also brings this voice out when I have had to discipline her. No matter when she uses it, I can't stand it. I just don't like baby talk, and never did. To me it sounds condescending out of the mouth of an adult, and just plain grating out of anyone else.

Clarity, and respect

My husband and I agreed early on that we would not use baby talk when communicating with our children, and generally try to avoid cutsey. You know what I mean. The kind of talk that makes other parents (and non-parents alike) cringe.

How I communicate with my children is important to me. I want to be clear and respectful both towards them and as an example for them. Part of that, for me, is using a very normal voice with regular words. I am careful to speak words clearly.

I've been accused of treating my kids like little adults specifically by my speech patterns, but that's not the goal or the issue at all for me. The point is that the ability to understand and be understood is so key to understanding and fitting into the wider world. And isn't that what I am supposed to be doing, raising them to go out into the wider world?

Not just toddlers

The desire for my kids to speak clearly doesn't end with the end of toddler baby talk. At times the boys have fallen into poor speech habits and I've noticed that they are less understandable. They dislike it, but when the boys slip into habits of slurring various words and phrases, I make the effort to stop them and help them break the habit. As much as they hate it in the moment, they have each admitted to me that it's a good thing I do. They want to be understood just as much as I want to understand them.

One day – hopefully soon – Sunshine will outgrow this baby talk phase. Please, please let it be soon! Until then, I'll keep asking for the regular words and the regular tone.

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