The “Little Things” That May Be Hurting Your Child’s Speech and Language Development

Good day, everyone. Speech-language pathologist/momma here. Today’s post is about identifying people and behaviors that may be having a negative effect on your child’s speech and language development, how to eliminate them, and how to move forward.

Before you read on, know this: If your child has been diagnosed with a speech or language delay or you suspect they may have one and your child has the following types of people in their life, that does NOT mean those people caused your child’s delay. There are things we can do and can avoid, however, that promote healthy speech and language development.

Possible Suspects and Their “Criminal Behavior”

So in an attempt to lighten the mood and hopefully reduce any finger pointing or the blame game, I’m going to indulge my corny state of mind I’m in today and treat the rest of this post as a crime scene.

Criminal Behavior #1: Translating
Suspects: You, siblings, other caregivers, which includes babysitters or anyone else that plays a big part in your child’s life

Do you ever catch yourself giving your child something just because they pointed at it? Or maybe laugh about how their older sibling can “speak for them”? Example: Your child with delayed speech or language grunts or says something in what appears to be a foreign language. Older sibling says, “Oh, they said they want some milk.”

My Confession: I never did this with my oldest, but I did with my youngest. I was a little bit more tired because more than one child does make you a little more tired and a little bit more laid back as well, because … well, it’s my second. This wasn’t too long ago and at the time, I was beginning to become concerned about the fact that she was not beginning to put two words together. The more I made it a point to notice how much she was or was not talking, I diagnosed her as “communication delayed.” After worrying and everyone dismissing my worries, except for my husband, I realized the “crime” I had been committing. I had been talking to my child, reading books to her, playing, and I also had been giving her whatever she pointed at. I talked with my husband (who said he had been doing the same thing) and we agreed to put a stop to it. Guess what happened then? It didn’t happen overnight, but I am happy to say that she is now putting 3 words together, sometimes more, and I am no longer worried.

So Why Is That Considered a Crime?

Pointing will get you the basic things, but overall it is an ineffective communication method. If a child does not practice their ability to talk, it may delay all other expressive language development, such as putting more words together to form sentences and answer questions and comments from others. Speech is a naturally forming development, but it has to be nurtured.

Cleaning Up The Aftermath and Moving Forward 

Put a stop to it. If you’re doing it, just stop. If a sibling is doing it, have them stop. If your mother-in-law is doing it and she sees your child on a frequent basis, voice your worries and concerns. I would think it would go smoothly, unless you have one of these mother-in-laws…

monster in law GIF

Withholding. Be prepared for some frustration. If your child is pointing at an object out of their reach, encourage them to say the word while they look at your mouth. Even if they only produce one sound in the word you want them to say, that is a step in the right direction; reward them with the object. As time goes on, you can start asking more of your child, such as putting a few more sounds of the word in there. No, they are not going to like it at first (mine didn’t) because it is a change in their routine and requires them to do a little more work.

Sign language and pictures. Some children have unique needs that cause speech and language to be delayed. If your child is not to the point that they are able to verbally say a word or communicate that way, teach them some simple signs or give them some pictures that allow them to communicate with you in that way. Communication is NOT just words. For more information on some simple signs and the use of pictures, as well as how to teach your child to use them, please read How to Teach Your Nonverbal Child to Communicate Without Using Words

If your child is not talking yet, there are a lot more suggestions and techniques in Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking

It is crazy the amount of children that are “late talkers” just because they have been getting their wants and needs met through grunting and pointing. This isn’t the cause in every case, but it is in a lot of them.

Criminal Behavior #2: Baby talk
Suspects: You, siblings, other caregivers, which includes and not limited to other parental figures, babysitters, and grandma and grandpa.

I am not talking about using a baby VOICE. Your voice is the part that goes up and down. I’m talking about saying, “You tee da do do?” Translation: “You see the dog dog?” I’m referring to the actual PRONUNCIATION of the words.

My Confession: If I had not entered the career of speech-language pathology, I would have done baby talk with my children, because the possible risks associated with baby talking to my children would simply have not crossed my mind. I had seen people do it to their babies and toddlers on movies and I had witnessed it in real life. I most likely would have not questioned it because I would have thought “that’s just how you talk to babies.”

So Why Is That Considered a Crime?

Kids mimic other kids and adults, especially their siblings and caregivers. They are paying the most attention to the people who are looking at them directly and trying to interact with them. If they are consistently exposed to words that are NOT pronounced the normal way, they are going to think that IS how they are supposed to say it. I’m not saying to expect a 2 or 3 year old to speak in full sentences with perfect pronunciation – that’s not expected in that stage of development. However, as your child develops, their speech develops too. If they say “pi” instead of “pig” and they’re two years old, that’s normal – their speech (how they actually say the sounds) is not to the developmental point to where they can say “piG.” Receptively (what you KNOW), however, that 2 year old knows the word is “piG.” If they keep hearing someone call it a “pi” though, that changes their receptive idea of the word and are likely to leave the last sound off of all words if that is something they are frequently exposed to.

Cleaning Up The Aftermath and Moving Forward 

If your child is young enough to still receive baby talk, they are probably not old enough for the possible effects of baby talk to rear it’s fearsome head. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure though.

Identify the culprits and encourage them to stop. If it’s grandma that only gets to visit once a month, I wouldn’t stress about that. If it’s a sibling or a caregiver, voice your concerns about your child’s development. If possible, admit that you’ve been doing the same thing and you are going to break the “baby talk” habit too. DON’T, however, lose the “silly voice.” The one that goes up and down and sounds excited and silly. Kids love that and it really grabs their attention, which facilitates their overall development.

happy clap GIF by The Boss Baby

Criminal Behavior #3: Not Making Your Child Aware of Their Mispronunciations
Suspects: You and other caregivers

Your child is 4 years old and says, “Can I have a cu?” instead of ” Can I have a cuP?” This is called “final consonant deletion.” According to speech and language developmental milestones, a child should no longer be exhibiting final consonant deletion by three years of age. So you hand your child the cup.

So Why Is That Considered a Crime?

It’s a crime because you didn’t say anything. This is somewhat similar to the situation where a child points and gets what they want. Attention needs to be GENTLY drawn to the way your child said the word or they are going to continue to ask for a “cu” because it still gets their wants and needs met. If they say “cu” that way, they are probably also doing final consonant deletion with the majority of words that do end with a consonant, i.e. do (dog), be (bed), ba (bath), mi (milk), jui (juice), etc.

Cleaning Up The Aftermath and Moving Forward 

Withholding. If you read the “withholding” excerpt above, this one is different because the goal is different. In this case, your child is talking, but is not pronouncing their words correctly. If you haven’t already done so, please check out the speech development chart in order to see what sounds your child should be saying for their age. If your child says, “cu” instead of “cuP,” ask them to 1) Watch your mouth while you say the word 2) Exaggerate the “p” sound at the end of the word 3) Ask your child to try to say it like. Do this a few times until your child says the word correctly or at least TRIES to. Being consistent in what you do and what you expect your child to do will result in your child eventually getting it. Another example is if they are 8 years old and ask for a “wing” instead of a “ring.” Repeat the process above, except you’ll be exaggerating the “r” sound.

Modeling. If your child says a word incorrectly, say the word back to them, but pronounce it the CORRECT way. For example, if they say, “I want a red bloT” instead of “I want a red bloCK,” you would say, “Oh, bloCK. You want a red bloCK” while over-exaggerating the “ck” sound. Even if your child is not old enough to be saying the “k” sound correctly, modeling the correct way increases the probability of speeding up their speech development.

In order to see more (many more) suggestions and techniques you can use at home to help improve your child’s speech, please read Everyday Activities to do at Home to Help Your Child Start Talking and How To Improve Your Child’s Speech at Home Using A Structured Approach


I hope everyone finds something in here that is helpful. If you do not see something that relates to your child, please leave a comment below or email me at and I will do my best to create a post, no names mentioned of course, that will hopefully help your child.

Disclaimer Statement

This article was written by a speech-language pathologist, but is not meant to replace a speech-language evaluation or speech-language therapy. If your child is already receiving speech-language therapy at this time, please continue to work on improving your child’s communication at home. Therapy is so much more effective when we all work together with the same goal in mind!

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