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How to Stop Your Child’s Baby Talk and Yelling
Does your child talk using a baby voice, even though he’s old enough to know not to? Or does your child yell, scream, or cry when trying to request an item?
Some kids get used to communicating in these ways, and it can be tough trying to break the habit. You might have tried saying, “Speak like a big girl” or “Ask nicely” but haven’t had much success.
I’m currently working on this with my toddler. She’s learning more and more words each week, which is great. But now it’s time for her to learn that speaking appropriately will get her what she wants (at least some of the time).
My daughter tends to cry and yell to request items, especially when she’s tired… and especially now, as I’m in the process of weaning her off nursing.
In a lot of cases, she doesn’t have the words to say what she wants. However, when she does, I’ve been working on teaching her to speak in a quieter tone.
I learned the techniques that I’m using while studying to become a child therapist. And I’ve taught parents to use them when their kid either yells to get what they want or talks in a “baby” voice (when it’s not age-appropriate).
So I want to share with you the special step-by-step trick you can use to stop baby talk and yelling.
First, Why Do Kids Yell or Do Baby Talk?
Although there might be several different reasons your child yells or speaks in a baby voice, we’re going to focus on one.
A big reason why your child might continue to yell, scream, cry, or use a baby voice in order to get a response or to get want he wants is this: because it’s effective for him.
In other words, if these methods were an effective way of getting your child what he wanted before, then he will likely do it again.
Sometimes what your child wants is to get out of something, and sometimes what your child wants is to get something, whether that be a tangible item or just a reaction/attention.
Babies learn that crying is an effective way of getting what they want. But as your child ages and begins to learn how to talk, you want to shape up this behavior.
So in order to do that, you need to make whatever the behavior is (crying, yelling, talking in a baby voice) ineffective.
Getting Started on Stopping Baby Talk and Yelling
In order to stop baby talk and yelling, you want to keep one major tactic in mind. This method will make the inappropriate behavior ineffective for your child. Here it is:
Give lots of attention and what your child wants (within reason) when your child is speaking in a normal tone, AND give no/limited attention when your child speaks inappropriately.
Keep in mind that you are not going to ignore your child altogether, as that could be dangerous. And keep in mind that you are going to resume paying attention to your child immediately once he begins talking in a normal tone again or stops the inappropriate speech.
You want to create a stark contrast in your reaction between when your child is speaking appropriately versus when he’s speaking inappropriately.
Now, there’s a special, more advanced trick to getting your child from A to Z faster. It’s a little technical, but with some practice, it’ll start coming naturally to you. Here it is:
How to Stop Baby Talk and Yelling: The Step-by-Step Trick
If your child is persistent and will yell or engage in baby talk for a while, then you can use this additional trick to stop the inappropriate speech and teach proper communication.
When your child tries to request something or talk inappropriately:
- Look away for 2-3 seconds. See this post on ignoring for additional tips.
- Give 1 or 2 prompts (depending on what your child can handle). These prompts create a break between the inappropriate behavior and your child getting what he wants. Instead, your child will connect listening/appropriate behavior with getting what he wants.
- The first prompt should be something simple that you could assist with if needed (“Sit down,” “Come here”).
- The second prompt should be for verbal communication. You can say something like “What do you want?” or model how to speak appropriately while you label the item (Ex. “Cracker” or “I want a cracker.”) The prompting should match your child’s level of development.
- If your child then speaks appropriately, move on to step 4. If your child doesn’t, go back to step 1. Note: If your child is very young, then you might move on to step 4 after you’ve labeled the item for your child, as long as he’s calm.
- Deliver the item or the attention your child wants.
Note: You can tell your child to speak nicely, but if you’re reading this post, then perhaps that hasn’t worked so well for you in the past. So this system might be more helpful for you.
And keep in mind that if your child is tired or irritable, then it might not be the best time to push him. So in that case, you might do more labeling instead of prompting.
Now you may be wondering, “What if my child isn’t allowed to have when he wants?”… In that case, you can tell your child “No.”
If your child is having meltdowns when you tell him no, then that’s a whole other lesson. But luckily, you can find the answer to that, plus a bunch of other strategies for managing meltdowns in my e-Book, The Ultimate Guide to Dealing with Temper Tantrums.
Now this all doesn’t sound too bad, right? Except there’s one more thing that you’ll need to do (Sorry, not done yet)…
You’ll need to inform your spouse/partner and other caregivers about this approach because consistency is key.
AND… You’ll want to use this technique for at least 2-3 weeks consistently before you expect any magic to happen. Although, that’s not to say that your child won’t respond sooner.
But don’t throw in the towel until you’ve given it lots of time and effort. Remember… You got this!
Is your child having full-blown tantrums when trying to get what he wants? Then you may want to check out my FREE course on dealing with temper tantrums, which you can sign up for here:
Disclaimer: Although I was a therapist, I am not your therapist or your child’s therapist. Reading this post does not enter you into a client-therapist relationship with me. The content in this post is meant to be used as a general guideline and has not been individually tailored to the needs of you and your child. If you are in need of therapeutic services, please seek the support of a mental health counselor or behavior specialist.
References: My information comes from years of training on Applied Behavior Analysis, Parent Behavior Management Training, and other evidence-based techniques. I also like to refer to Russell Barkley and Alan Kazdin.