By: Mia L. Hazlett
I will start off with a statement I hear my BFF say all the time, “Babies are people. They are small, a little bit helpless, but they are people.” She offers her wisdom to those who do the whole baby talk thing with their babies, and unfortunately, even their toddlers. Now I’m not talking the cutesy singing talk, but the literal, “ga-ga goo goo,” no words in the English Dictionary talk. I watched this mother the other day when I was at the store and turned away when I noticed I was grinding my teeth. She was about an inch away from her maybe 6/7 month-old’s face saying something unintelligent like, “waka waka waka, muka, muka, muka.” Then she proceeded to copy every sound the baby made.
Now don’t get me wrong, I do the cutesy stuff with babies. I had a raspberry spitting contest with my baby niece the other day. I could have done more intellectual things with her, but I don’t see her that often and I just wanted to hold and play with her. But anyone that has seen me interact with a baby, knows that I respond to them as if they are speaking to me and we are having a conversation. As they babble on and on, I respond with, “Really,” “Oh my goodness,” “Get out of here,” “You don’t say.” The one thing I notice each time I respond, they become more intense with their little sounds. I treat them like I would any other PERSON I am having a conversation with. I keep eye contact, nod my head, and respond when appropriate. This teaches the baby how to have a conversation. Because believe it or not, they will one day grow up and have to have conversations with people.
Realize you are doing your child no good with baby talk. They should be repeating what you say, not the other way around. Believe me, they will try their best to repeat everything you say. So ask yourself, what good is “waka waka waka, muka, muka, muka?” They are already saying that. Their vocabulary and words are going to form around how you speak to them. And it is not only the words that come out of your mouth, but unless your child has been diagnosed with a hearing problem where they have to read your lips or vision problem where being more than two inches from their nose is a strain on their eyes, BACK UP! How would you feel if your co-worker or friend was standing almost nose-to-nose with you? Nobody enjoys their personal space being violated or holding a conversation cross-eyed.
There are also the parents that choose to continue third person talk when their child is well beyond knowing who they are. I heard this mother at a restaurant the other night, “Mommy is getting very upset with J-J right now.” The boy was about three years-old and acting a fool. I heard her make many threats throughout the night to get up and leave, but unfortunately for me and everyone else in the restaurant, it didn’t happen. My point is, if I were not sitting so close at that moment and hearing her call him J-J throughout the evening, I would have been looking for J-J and his mother. Why couldn’t she just say, “I’m very upset with you?” For those of you who don’t know, third person talk is for babies. It’s how they learn their name and their mother’s, their father’s, sibling’s….etc. But it is a very passive voice for those who don’t want to claim the situation. “Mommy is getting angry with J-J,” is a nice way of saying, “You are making me very upset.” I believe in the more direct approach. Because I had to take that approach that same night. My daughter was crawling under the table looking for her crayon. That was met with, “You got two seconds for your butt to hit this seat next to me.” It was not met with, “Kaylee needs to come and sit next to Mommy in two seconds.” I got to counting to one and she was by my side.
Really this is just advice. Do what you want to do. I don’t hold a degree in childhood psychology, but I do have ten years experience being a mother. Babies are cute and cuddly and have fat pinchable cheeks that melt the hardest of hearts. But they are also people just like us. It is our job to nurture and educate them from the earliest of ages. So cut the “waka waka waka, muka, muka, muka,” and use your grown-up words.