Why does my toddler talk in the third person?
This is not an uncommon situation. Your toddler is now able to have a talk or conversation with you, but the little one refers to himself in the third person. Why is this? To begin, a toddler loves to talk about themselves. Other reasons explain third-person conversations from your toddler.
It Begins With You
Yes, I said it. It could be due to the way you speak to your toddler. If you are one of the millions of parents that refer to yourself as mommy or daddy when speaking, this is a reason the child begins to do so. Simple situations such as, “Mommy and Stevie will read a book when you are done eating” tells the child he is Stevie. He may start to refer to himself as such instead of using the proper pronouns.
Their Language Skills
As a toddler, language skills have not been mastered. The first example of a child learning who you are is through you. Referring to yourself as mommy or daddy does teach the toddler what you want him to call you. At the same time, referring to your toddler by his name is also telling him that is how he refers to himself. The basic pronouns do not make sense at that age. A toddler will not understand that there is a difference between calling him by his given name or using pronouns. Your toddler is continuing to imitate you.
Toddler’s First Teacher
As your toddler begins to learn more words and understand sentences, it is time to start referring to yourself as I or me. Instead of saying, “Mommy is going to make dinner,” you should begin saying, “I am going to make dinner.” Your toddler will begin to pick up the differences in the style and wording that the parents use. See, it is not just an old myth; you are the child’s first teacher.
Socialization is an important part of your toddler’s life. This is the time they learn to share, to care, and hear how other toddlers speak. This is not to say that your child has a problem when he speaks in the third person. What it does mean is that the more people, toddlers included, that they hear in conversations, the quicker they will pick up the language skills. Remember that your toddler does enjoy modeling himself after you and other people. This is natural.
It can also be said that using third person speech when talking with your child objectifies them. This is a sign your toddler sees themselves as a separate being. While this may not work in older children that you are teaching to be more responsible, it does teach your toddler that their parent is one being separate from them. Just as they are separate beings from the parent, this solidifies that Mommy and Daddy are two people, and little Stevie is himself.
Normal Course In Life
When the toddler begins to separate names and people, understand Stevie is I or me, it is the beginning of a narrative language. He or she will begin to tell a story about his life or another person. It is okay to begin to correct the toddler and reiterate the pronouns used in speech. For a toddler hearing Stevie and Daddy, they may feel prematurely separated. The opposite of you and me, or you and I, continues to ensure the child that the parent is still a part of them.
In many adults, referring to themselves in the third person helps them deal with difficult situations. An underlying panic can cause speech to stray in a third-person manner, to, in a sense, separate themselves from a stressful situation. It has been stated that toddlers will begin the same behavior. For adults and children alike, the third-person speech seems to enable the toddler to deal with the stress in a better way.
A Better Solution
When first beginning to teach speech, the third person is fine. It shows self-confidence and security. It aided when feeling stressed. Parents and caregivers should strive to speak in a normal manner. Forcing a toddler to use I or me, instead of Stevie, may emotionally make them feel too separated from the parent. This can cause the growing up aspect to happen too suddenly, which could cause difficulty as the toddler ages. It is just a matter of time before the little one is out the door on his own; most parents are never ready for that to happen. Letting the toddler speak in the third person also gives them the confidence they need. I suppose, in a way, the toddler can judge the parents’ reaction to what they say.
There are ways to assist a toddler get past the third person speech slowly, without rushing the growing up. One way would be to begin pointing when you are speaking to the toddler. For example, when telling your toddler that you are going to take a shower, point to yourself, and say, “I am going to take a shower.” An example of the toddler would be pointing to the child and saying, “You can play with the toys now.”
Another fantastic way to help your child begin to understand proper pronoun usage is reading to them. Many children’s books are available that do not use third-person stories. Reading is something I always considered a treat with my children. Not only did we share time, but I also was able to show and read the proper language usage.
After four years of age, calmly correcting them and using normal language skills yourself, speak to your pediatrician. The pediatrician may suggest a visit to a speech therapist or tell you there is nothing to be concerned about. Hopefully, your toddler is not too shy and will speak with the pediatrician. This will allow the doctor to get an understanding of the speech used and determine if there is a reason to be concerned.