Q: My four-year-old has started to speak in baby talk all the time. I ask her to talk in a big-girl voice, but she reverts back. Why is she doing this and how can I help her stop?
A: Children sometimes regress to an earlier stage of development — one expression of this is baby talk. The most common trigger is the birth of a sibling. The older child uses baby talk in the hope of getting some attention focused back on her. Other causes can be a move, a loss of someone important, or any other change in the child’s life.
Regression to baby talk is usually harmless and might last only a few days or a few weeks. Try not to let it bother you, and even indulge your daughter a bit. She may just need more one-on-one attention from you, or there might be more expected of her than she is capable of and this is her way of letting you know.
Avoid reprimanding your daughter because this may lead her to believe that her feelings are unacceptable. It may also just prolong the baby talk. Focus your efforts on talking about her feelings and reminding her of all the big-girl things she is capable of doing. If the baby talk is happening along with other signs of regression, such as temper tantrums, toileting accidents, thumb-sucking or trouble sleeping, then whatever is causing your daughter stress is beyond her capacity to cope. Consider speaking to a qualified children’s mental health professional to explore it together.