3 Weird Toddler Speaking Behaviors

Weird Behavior #1: Parroting

Toddlers looove to mimic what they hear. It’s like having your own personal parrot. At 20 months, my son tends to repeat no more than two syllables at a time. He’s fond of any word he hears expressed loudly or with emotion, as well as the last word of any sentence I say, e.g.


Me: I’ve never seen this building.

J: Buil-ding?

Me: Yeah. I guess it must be new.

J: New?

Me: Yes. “New.” It means they just built it.

J: Built it?

Me: Hey, watch out, asshole!

J: Ass-hole?


Weird Behavior #2: Repetition To Produce an Effect

When it comes to communicating, I’m pretty sure the toddler motto is “Persistence pays off.” There are a couple of problems with this. First, the words your kid has chosen to repeat may not signify anything to you, or may signify something other than what he intends. For example, I’m well aware that “lellow hat” can refer to Curious George’s friend, but it also seems to refer to any book with George in it (i.e., “I want the book with George and the man with the yellow hat”), any other book with any other character wearing a hat (i.e., “I want the book with the Cat in the Hat and the hat is red-and-white-striped and not yellow but I don’t care”), or any hat in general (i.e., “Don’t take that red baseball cap off my head because I need it even though no one needs a Walmart baseball cap and I will throw it on the ground five minutes after you buy it”). I’ve also recently figured out that “hey dog” can be used to summon our actual dog, but is more often used to indicate that he wants me to read a picture book called Fun Dog, Sun Dog.

The other problem with persistent repetition is that sometimes you can’t figure out what your child wants because he doesn’t know what he wants himself. Yesterday we had a very Stewie-and-Lois exchange that sounded like this:


J: Mommy?

Me: Yes?

J: Mommy?

Me: Yes, baby.

J: Mommy?

Me: Uh-huh.

J: Mommy?

Me: (laughing) What do you want, Jackal?

J: Mommy? (runs away)


Weird Behavior #3: Summoning a Demon

Sometimes when J. is playing by himself and babbling happily, he’ll lapse into babbling while forcing air back through his larynx. The effect is that of an evil incantation. I have no idea if this is normal; perhaps he’s experimenting with his own voice. I’m OK with it until objects start falling off shelves and breaking without apparent cause.

I admit, though, that I’m a little jealous that his communication with this demon or mystical force is so stylistic and subtle. Why the special treatment? Why not “Demon? Demon? Demon? Demon? LELLOW HAT!”


Is this book in the nightly reading rotation? I hadn't noticed.
Is this book in the nightly reading rotation? I hadn’t noticed.


Photo credit: narnia.wikia.com

5 thoughts on “3 Weird Toddler Speaking Behaviors

  1. And for the past few minutes, and ongoing, I’m hearing “Mommy can I watch my shows on your tv? Pweeese?” “No” “Pweese? Pweese can I watch my shows?” “No” And repeat endlessly.

  2. LOL…hilarious. My daughter learned the f-word from her Godfather the same day she bumped her face at the sitter, and the day BEFORE I took her home to my parents for a month. So there I am…in the airport…with my one year old baby with a black eye, screaming the f-word. *sigh*

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