My son’s vocabulary is growing at full speed. Not just the words he’s mastered, but he’s also using those words in sentences he’s put together himself; essentially, original thoughts for a three year old. What an amazing pleasure to hear him use new words and especially watching him work through good articulation and proper pronunciation. When it comes to sentences it’s incredible to watch his young mind work to put words together correctly to ask questions, describe things or answer questions. I don’t think this is anything unique for my wife and I; this pleasure is shared by all parents as they see their kids grow and develop. What strikes me as unique with our son is the volume of comments we regularly receive about how well he speaks. Steph and I have heard this often enough that it’s caused us to pay closer attention to other parents with kids the same age as Paul, and how they relate to their children. We’ve decided we’ve noticed two related things that we’ve done differently than many of our peers. I don’t know that they’re better things; they’re just different.
Long before we had Paul, we didn’t have to look far or hard to find parents using “baby talk.” What I mean by baby talk is adults using a different voice and/or tone when speaking to their child than they do when they talk to older kids or adults. I’m not talking about the content of the conversation. Rather, I’m talking about how the words are communicated. Maybe it’s out of some sort of laziness, but Steph and I have always talked to our son the same way we talk to each other. We’re adults and Paul always hears us talking like adults, even when we’re talking to him about the things that matter to him as a toddler.
When we read to him it’s in our own voices whether we’re reading Dr. Seuss, Grimm’s Fairytales or any other book to him. Even if we’ve done this out of laziness, the consequence is we have a toddler who tries to speak words and sentences like he hears them: like an adult would speak.
The other difference we’ve become aware of is that we’ve never used “baby words” with Paul. By baby words I’m talking about the words that we hear parents make up and use in place of an actual word. It seems to us parents do this for two reasons: the replacement words they’re using with their child just sound cute; and they’re often easier for the child to say. For us, it’s probably for the same reason I mentioned earlier (laziness) that we simply just call things what they are. Paul’s blanket is not a “blankie,” his pacifier was never a “woobie” or “binkie,” and when he needs to go to the bathroom, he doesn’t need to “tinkle” or “wee-wee.” When he struggles with a word we simply repeat the correct word to him, pronounced correctly. It’s been an easy path and now we’re hearing from our friends that it’s had an effect on Paul’s vocabulary and speech.
I’ve never met an adult that didn’t get past the baby words they spoke as a child, so I’m definitely not being critical of other’s and how they parent in this regard. And I'm not saying Paul is smarter than the average child his age. Like any parents, we hope our son excels in things, but we don’t know enough to know anything other than he speaks more clearly, with a stronger vocabulary, and in sentences that are more correct and complete than many of the kids his age. It’s not better and I don’t believe we’re better parents for it, but it’s noticeably different. I’m honestly not sure Steph and I have had anything to do with this, or at best we might have unknowingly encouraged what would have been the case anyway. Thankfully, others have pointed this out to us and we’ve taken notice, driving us to give some thought to why the difference is evident. In the end I believe we’re somewhere in the normal or average lane with regards to this part of how we’re raising Paul. Better? Some may think so. Some may not. For us though, it’s definitely an interesting and exciting difference and it’s given us just one more reason to be the proud parents of our son.
It’s great to be a dad!