What My Daughter Learns When I Talk To Her Like An Adult

by Emily Westbrooks

I'm equal opportunity when it comes to speaking to my child like an adult and speaking to her in that sing-song voice that sometimes makes me think my head will explode. I know there are language benefits to that "mom voice," and that it's nearly impossible not to talk like that to my adorable toddler (when she's being adorable, at least). However, and as fun as that voice is, I know there are things I'm definitely teaching my daughter when I talk to her like an adult, too. Important things. Worthwhile things. Things that make it somewhat easier to ditch that sing-song voice ASAP.

Now that my daughter is less of a baby and more of a toddler, I've realized how much more she actually understands than she previously used to. Rather than constantly speak in super simple sentences at an annoyingly high pitch, she has started to understand instructions and sentences when they're spoken at a normal level. Now my partner and I can start to encourage her vocabulary and expect she start to act just a tiny bit like an adult. Now, I'm not one to automatically skip all the sing-song speak (and I'm probably going to be doing some of that until she's at least 7 years old), but it's a relief to be able to hold some normal conversations with my daughter, even if she's not quite ready to talk back to me like an adult.

Here are a few other lessons I'm teaching my daughter when I speak to her like an adult. You know, just in case you need some validation if you're wanting to ditch the "mom voice," too.

How To Speak Like An Adult

At some point in the last six months, I realized that if my daughter was ever going to speak like an adult, she'd probably have to start hearing what that sounded like on a more regular basis. Sometimes,and especially when they're babies, it's hard to imagine why on earth you'd speak to a child like adults, but there comes a point when they can understand more and need to hear that example.

How Serious I Can Be

My daughter obviously hears me speak like an adult to my husband and to mom friends (although I've been known to slip and speak like a loon to others, too), but hearing my serious voice is starting to be useful when I need my daughter to complete a task, or when I'm explaining to her why we're going to do something she's not going to be too psyched about.

How To Have A Conversation With Adults

My daughter certainly isn't at the point where she can speak more than a few words, but I do want her to know how to speak to adults. I also want her to know that she can speak to adults. I don't want her to feel stuck at a child level and unable to speak to those who are older than her, all because I never include her in more adult conversation.

How To Follow Authority Figures

While I'm all for explaining to my child why we're about to do something, I also want her to know that there will be times when she needs to listen and obey me because I am the adult. That adult voice does not come in the sing-song version, especially if I'm trying to keep her safe or away from danger. She may as well know there will be no sing-song as I yell at her to stop moving right this minute so she doesn't run into a busy parking lot or over the side of the playground structure.

How To Expand Her Vocabulary

Speaking to her like I would an adult means using a different vocabulary. Hopefully, that different, expansive vocabulary is something she'll pick up over the years.

I often do much of the same with my high school kids who are English language learners and whose vocabulary is very, very basic. When I use words they don't know on repeat, and explain what they mean regularly, they eventually become part of their own personal vocabularies.

How To Step Up Her Game

Essentially, speaking to my child as an adult encourages her to speak and act like an adult, too. Now, obviously I'm not trying to rob my kid of a childhood. In fact, I would like her to enjoy being a kid for as long as possible.

However, treating and speaking to her like a child forever means I can pretty much expect to get childlike behavior forever.

How Much I Respect Her

When I speak to my child like an adult, she knows I love and respect her (even if that knowledge is subconscious). As she continues to grow, she will see a mother who values her as a human being, and respects her bodily autonomy, her own thoughts and feelings, and her own sense of self.

It might seem like "much" for a toddler, but building that foundation will help my daughter as she grows and goes off into the world on her own. She is always respected and valued. Always,

How To Pronounce Words Properly

As my daughter is learning new words by the day, she's still working out the pronunciation of some of them. Speaking to her like an adult is a good reminder that I can't reinforce her improper pronunciation and expect her to ever say the word properly again. I have to remind myself not to call bananas "nanas" every single time she asks for one, especially if I want her to eventually say the word with that extra syllable.