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My 14 month old has a pretty good vocabulary for his age. However, it is a source of frustration for my wife that "mommy" (or some variation thereof) is not part of his vocabulary.

He says "daddy" quite often, which only adds salt to the wound, so to speak.

I have pointed out that while yes, he does have a decent vocabulary, but none of the words he knows include the "m" sound.

We've both been saying "mommy" quite frequently, but he just doesn't seem to want to say it.

He does make a "m" sound, but only when he's frustrated (it's more of a whining complaint beginning with "mmm", which does not make her feel any better).

Is it possible to encourage him to say "mommy", or does it simply have to wait until he is ready to learn it on his own?

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11 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

In language development, the ma sound is much harder than the da sound. Generally speaking, babies will make the sounds in this order wa, ba, da followed down the line with ma. Until they have worked through making the ma sound, saying mommy is highly unlikely. I would guess the the m sound amid frustration might be your baby's way of saying mommy because the baby wants mommy. My daughter says Daddy amid smiles often, but only says Mama amid tears or under duress. At first this made me sad and frustrated, then I realized that she was saying mama when she actually needed/wanted me.

Repetition is generally believed to be the best route to learning a word. Consider also there are some studies that support the idea that higher lilting tones are easier for babies to imitate, which is what they are initially doing when they are saying words. There are many theories about how language is developed, and there does not seem to be any 100% guarantee that repetition will work. Good luck!

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No.

I think most would agree that kids generally learn the words they hear. But in my experience, hoping for one specific word is futile.

One of the first words we started deliberately training*) with our son was farmor (grandma in Danish) because we knew that his grandma would be extremely proud and pleased to hear this word. We actually started before his first birthday, but he didn't really start talking until nearly two years old (possibly because of being raised bilingual). Even after continued farmor training, and building a vocabulary of maybe fifty words, farmor wasn't among them.

He didn't actually start saying the word until 25 months old, so you can say it took nearly 15 months of training -- or you could say that the training was completely lost on him. Either way, this is just one statistical data point planted firmly in the "no" camp of your question.


*) By "training" I mean that we very often talked to him about grandma and used the word intensively. He certainly knew what the word meant; she visited often, and we have pictures.

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Yes.

Sorry to take the opposing view @Torben - but our three definitely copied the noises we made. In our case this meant they all said Mummy waaaaay earlier than Daddy (as I was working away a lot so saying my name was a bit irrelevant to them)

If I remember correctly, the first proper words (used correctly) from our eldest were Mummy and No

It did make an amazing impact on me the day I arrived home to my son coming to the door and shouting "Daddy home!" but I think he was getting close to his second birthday at that point.

Interestingly, if you say other words a lot, you can get in a lot of trouble with parents (eg babysitting for kids and getting them to learn fun words like "Tequila" to impress Mummy and Daddy when they return...ahem...not that I ever did that:-)

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Rory, I hoped and expected that someone would post an opposing view! –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Nov 10 '11 at 11:26
    
:-) It's certainly not a 'do this and they will say it' by any means, but there was strong positive influence over what they learned first, in our case anyway. –  Rory Alsop Nov 10 '11 at 11:51
    
It 100% depends on the kid. Mine is terrible at mimicking and rarely does it (which is nice for the concerned mom reading stuff from speech language pathologists on how mimicking is key to speech therapy and generally helping your kid learn language, let me tell you). She said her first word long before she ever mimicked one. Same with her first two word phrase. –  justkt Aug 20 '13 at 14:02
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The word mommy typically comes after the word Daddy. I am a mom of 4 and have been teaching infants and toddlers for over 25 years. My first 2 children would always say Daddy (never mommy) and to be honest there was a little "hurt" that my name seemed to never be said. However, we did use sign language with our children, so even though they didn't say Mommy, they did sign it. Maybe this would help your wife. The sign for Mommy is an open five hand with thumb placed on the chin. If you use the sign while you are saying Mommy your little one should start seeing the connection. Then if he wants to say mom, but can't, he can still "say" her name. Best wishes!

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In language development, bilabial sounds (/m/, /p/, /b/, /w/) are usually the first to be created. /D/ is as an alveolar sound, made with the tongue and the roof of the mouth, and is more difficult to produce than bilabial sounds like /m/. This is why children traditionally say "mama" before "dada" and in some countries the father is referred to as "papa" (it's easier to say). So the fact that your son said "daddy" before any form of "mama" is a bit of a red flag.

Does your son say any words with the /m/ sound? Since he is making the /m/ sound, it means that he is able to produce it, but if he isn't repeating any words with the sound, there's a small chance he may be unable to hear it. You may want to take him to a speech pathologist to see if a problem exists.

Source: http://www.earlyinterventionsupport.com/development/speech/articulation.aspx http://www.cochlear.com/files/assets/Speech_Sounds_Intro.pdf

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Sorry, but -1 from me. You are the only person I've heard claim that "daddy" usually comes after "mommy", and the EI support document specifies that it is only relevant to children 3 years and older. It makes no indication that anything should be a "red flag" for a 14 month old. Quite frankly, not only does your answer not address the question (can you guide a toddler that age to learn specific words), your answer seems factually incorrect given the age described in my question. –  Beofett Nov 13 '11 at 22:58
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As a computational linguistics researcher, I to have to say this position is likely incorrect. As far as anecdotal evidence, my son made the D sound at 6 months and cannot make the m sound even at 15 months. –  demongolem Aug 11 '12 at 12:48
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Just play silly games (with silly faces, of course) making the "M M M M MMmmmm" sound (and have a toy present so it's not the only thing you're both doing). We had the same thing with both of our children and that 'M' sound can be a tough one. I found it is much better to just go for the sound than direct encouragement to say a given word as the latter just leads to frustration. Once he's "accidentally" practised the sound he'll probably stumble across saying "Mommy" before long and you'll all be happy :-)

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My son had an amazing vocabulary at 14 months, including the words Mama and Dada (Dada came first, for the record) and tons of other words. I have no idea how that happened. My daughter, on the other hand, is 18 months old and JUST started saying Mama. She's said Dada for ages and No and Get down and other words/phrases, but Mama literally just entered the list about 2 weeks ago. My niece, who is the same age as my daughter, has a completely different set of words that she currently uses (she was saying "baby" at Christmas, but my daughter only recently added "baby" to her vocabulary). I wholeheartedly agree that maybe showing your son some simple signs like "Mommy" might make the wait for the actual word more tolerable.

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I have been doing EI for 18 years and 99% of the kids I have worked with as well as typically developing kids I know including my own 4 all said dada first. Every speech therapist I work with also usually tells parents that dada comes first and it has nothing to do with mommy or daddy. It's just a sound they make when they first start making the sound. Dada is an easy sound to make.

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At ten to twelve months, no, not really. At 18 months, yes.

According to a study by Pruden, Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff, and Hennon (abstract, full text), ten-month-old babies learn words for objects that they find interesting, not words that speakers direct them to learn. However, by 18 months, they learn words through attention to social cues. (See p. 267 – 268.)

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Carpe momentum

It is important that you should not give much effort to teach the child when he/she is not interested.

Try to recognize moments when the child pays extra attention, and grasp those moments to teach them what you want. I noticed some times with my youngest boy that he sometimes payed extra attention to my mouth when I spoke, and it was quite clear that he tried to recognize how I moved my mouth to make the sounds. In those moments I made sure to speak clearly so it would be easier for him to pick up how I did it. These moments were mostly at bedtime when I was standing over his bed, and I more or less had his full attention face to face.

Small children are more or less in "learning mode" the entire time, but they tend to learn best when they take interest themselves, and not when we want to teach them a special thing.

Another thing I noticed with my son at bedtime, was that after we left him in his bed, we sometimes heard him rehearsing words to himself that he had heard recently.

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We also have a 18 month old daughter and we are in same phase. We usually try to teach her daily use words like water, food, bath, go out, come in etc in our native language and she is picking these vocab easily.

Initially you have to put some extra effort as your baby can messup the meanings of different words but it is natural.

Now we are also trying to teach her different fruit names with the help of real fruit and books.

Regards Sandeep (source via @ menmomhealth )

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