Speech Development: Why Do Toddlers Repeat Themselves?
Dr. Michael F. Roizen and Dr. Mehmet Oz explain in their book, You Raising Your Child, their two rules of thumb. Rule of thumb number one: Your child should be able to say at least 1 word by 12 months of age. By 18 months, 20 words should be in your toddler’s vocabulary, as well as putting two words together. By 24 months your child should have a vocabulary of 50 words. Rule of thumb number two: A stranger should be able to understand about 50 percent of what your two-year-old is saying, 75 percent of what a three-year-old is saying, and almost all of what a four-year-old is saying (Keeping in mind that boys generally start talking later than girls, and every kid is different and develops at a different rate.).
So, if your child is pretty close to these “rules of thumbs,” than the repetitive speech is normal – crazy making, but normal. Bonnie Zucker, both a doctor and author, explained on “Parents Ask” that this is normal behavior. She said that repetition is just a part of a toddler’s learning. Most everything they learn or process is done through repetition. Daily tasks, like brushing their teeth, putting clothes on, playing games, and learning songs, are accomplished through repetition.
Here’s a little insight for you if your child is re-telling an event over, and over again. Say, for example, you went to the store earlier that day, purchased a little bouncy ball from a quarter machine for him, he dropped it in the parking lot, and lost it. In order to make sense of and process what happened, he might repeat that scenario several times aloud, saying something like “I’m sad. I lost my ball in the parking lot today.” As a parent, it’s important to remember that our children are works in progress and this is just one way they process things. Help him through it, not just by giving a yes or no answer, but by saying something like “It‘s ok to be sad. You were bouncing your ball that we bought from the quarter machine, and it rolled away too fast for you to catch it. You have some other toys that we can play with right now.” Helping him work it out will help shorten the life of the story being repeated.
Sometimes kids just enjoy the attention and praise that they get from saying something cute. If you’re at the dinner table and your child suddenly yells “Holy smokes Mom, that pepper made my breath hot!” of course you’re going to laugh; and because every child loves to make people laugh, she’s probably going to use it repeatedly to try and make you laugh again. In this case, you could always try to re-direct the statement by telling her to take a drink of her milk, and then stop feeding her – not just hot peppers, but attention too. You’ve validated it several times already, but there’s always a point when it’s ok to explain to her why it isn’t funny anymore.
Our children’s perpetual habit of repeating themselves can try our patience, but they are ours and we love them. We just have to always remember that they’re constantly learning and trying to understand life and the world around them. Just have patience, respect their feelings, validate their thoughts, and help them to become confident in themselves, so that they can eventually be able to figure out life situations without repeating scenarios. Give it a little time and the repetition will eventually fade.