It was cute and funny at first that both of us were being called Mommy, and I still don't really mind. My wife and I laugh and try to correct him, pointing to pictures, ourselves and repeating the correct words.

My 21m toddler is just starting to talk, so it's probably normal to be confused a bit, but this confusion is really starting to solidify; I got home from work last night and my boy's face lite up and he repeatedly exclaimed "MOMMY!" several times pointing to me and gibbering to my wife, seemingly explaining to her that I was home. The word Mommy is now more for me than my wife.

Has anyone heard of something like this? Maybe we set him on the wrong track by laughing at the confusion in the beginning; he probably liked the reaction.

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    Anecdotally, I have found this to be very common: "mommy" is just the toddler word for "parent". Similarly, my parents and in-laws were all "grandma" regardless of gender :) Over time, with plenty of repetition, this will gradually correct itself.
    – Acire
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 14:50
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    My son also called me mommy, but he is slowly transitioning to Daddy. I suspect to him Mommy just means "helper person" and he is learning to address his helper people by name as individuals.
    – emory
    Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 15:59
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    We taught our kids baby signs. The one for "rabbit" look like a "V-for-victory" sign moving up and down, like a rabbit jumping. "Horse" was holding up a single finger of each hand on each side of their head (like a horse's ears). "Cow" was four fingers hanging down, like a cow's udder. There were lots more. Our kids got SO EXCITED when they'd see something they could tell us about - they could COMMUNICATE! And they could do this when they were under 18 months old - way before they could talk. :-) Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 17:21
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    Don't worry about it, just say something like, "Yes I'm home, but I'm Daddy not mommy, but I love you just the same!", and in time he'll get it. As said before, right now his vocabulary is limited and words for specific things are used for general concepts, he'll get more refined as he gets older. Every thing that moved was "truck" to my boy for a long time, then everything with wheels was a truck, and anything in the air was "airp'ane", and everything in the water was 'boat"... explain the difference, don't obsess about it and in time he'll pick it up. Nuance comes with understanding. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 18:12
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    Not the Momma! :) Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 4:55

10 Answers 10


My son (similar age) calls both me and his mum "Daddy". He also has a habit of calling all animals Cows or Sheep. Like Erica says in the comment, it's pretty standard. They've learnt a single word which at the moment means "Parent/Adult/Someone that's not Me". As they learn more words they can elaborate on the distinction. Just reinforce the difference patiently ("No, I'm your daddy! That's your mommy", while smiling) and he'll get there eventually!

The best example I've ever seen was my nephew, who had learnt that his Grandparents' Dog's name was Pippa. He then called every dog Pippa. When he was told that a particular dog was not Pippa ("That's not Pippa, that's Rufus!", for instance), he would then call the other dog "Not-Pippa".

  • My 3yo nephew learnt he doesn't have to throw water to "people" walking by his house, but he can play that with us - so now his mother is "not person, she's mom", nor any member of the family. My brother used to consistently mix "grandpa" and "grandma" while young, too. Commented Jan 15, 2016 at 17:50

This is no big deal, and you shouldn't sweat it. My daughter is almost 2 1/2 and calls her aunt "Uncle Meghan," and everyone thinks it's hilarious.

Both of my kids have gone through the same as yours, and I cemented the fact that my name was not "Mommy" by jokingly saying, "I-AIN'T-CHE-MAMA!" -- which evokes laughter and slowly brings the point home as they get older.

Now they mostly only do it by accident (probably because my wife is a stay-at-home mom and spends a lot more time with them), and they tend to correct themselves mid-word by saying "Ma-Daddy."

Similarly, my wife often refers to me by my first name around them when she is talking to me directly or calling for me, so my now-4-year-old picked up a habit of trying to call me "Jamey" when he was 3 or so. I put this to bed pretty quickly by always responding with, "I am NOT your Jamey." He would laugh and say, "You're my DADDY!" He still does it sometimes now that he is 4, but there always seems to be a joking undertone when he does it, but it always evokes the same response from me -- "I am NOT your Jamey."

Just try to reinforce the fact that you are not their Mommy, even if it's in a joking manner, but this too shall pass. It's not like they're going to be still calling you "Mommy" when they're 8 years old. I would advise to enjoy the cute peculiarities while they last. You will look back on this years down the road and be able to tease him about it and everyone will get a good laugh.


Some answers are suggesting to correct thus: "Dada not Mama!". For an infant it is much better to correct more simply, without the negative: "Dada!"

The negative is an advanced mental construct that the infant has not yet acquired (as illustrated by the "Not-Pippa" example given by one writer here).

In the same way that "Don't think of the blue banana" backfires, it is well known that the best way to teach is through positive reinforcement.

"Do this!" trumps "Don't do that!"

A reasonable explanation is that "Don't do that!" contains the phrase/suggestion "Do that!", and as the British illusionist Derren Brown has demonstrated on television, the brain acts on these subliminal suggestions.


Your post makes me laugh as I reminds me time when my son was younger. He was around 2 years old (I don't remember exactly). He had period when he called me and my wife "mama" and after while he switch and call both of us "dada", and after while whole circle starts from beginning and he called us "mama".

So don't worry, just each time when you call "mummy" tell him you are "daddy not mummy" and "mummy is there".


Yes, this happened to us with our eldest son. He was slow learning to talk and didn't see the use of it, as his parents were clairvoyant anyway. Not. We were however, very good at discerning his needs and wishes. Which did not exactly help with his learning.

'Mama' was actually one of his first words, soon followed by 'Papa'. And my wife was quite miffed when he would call her 'Papa' as well for months.


I have a son going through this phase... started addressing me as something halfway between "Mom" and "Mamá" (his mother is a native Spanish speaker, I've studied a certain amount of Spanish) at 14 months or earlier, still calls me that often at 20 months. Sometimes I remind him, "I'm your daddy. Yo soy tu papá. Mommy is over there. Mamá está allá."

I guess it's common for toddlers to use a word they know to refer broadly to various things, and they will get over it as they learn more words. He also makes a distinct growling noise when he sees pictures of bears, dogs, or dinosaurs, or plays with such stuffed animals, and made the same noise when we entered a room of dinosaur-bones at a museum.

His older siblings didn't use that exact word to refer to me that I can remember, but they did use other words broadly... "umm" for all food, "jugo" for all drinkable liquids. His oldest brother called watermelon (sandía) "aguamelon" until well past three years.


My daughter did something like this for a while -- sometimes she would say "Daddy" sometimes "Mummy" but she would use either word for either parent.

We tried correcting her for a while, until it dawned on us that "Mummy" meant "I want comfort from a parent (either parent)" and "Daddy" meant "I'm having fun and I want a parent to play with me (either parent)".

She got the two of us figured out eventually. It might have been harder for her to figure out because we took turns being the stay-at-home parent.


To us, we are unique important individuals, but to our children we're just the creatures that supply their needs. My kids are 5 and 7 and they'll still absentmindedly call my wife and I by the wrong name sometimes if they aren't paying attention.

Of course, they get very upset if we accidentally call one of them by the other's name.

In summary, don't worry too much about this.


My daughter is 6 and sometimes she calls me mom too, then she takes just a second to realize and calls me dad :-)

Nothing to worry about, I guess. I think Mom and Dad are part of the same entity in children's head ;-)


This is normal and I highly recommend ignoring it as much as you are able. My son who is now 27 months started this around the same age. The more I tried to correct him, the more hilarious he thought it was. He now correctly calls me "daddy" most of the time, but will call me "mommy daddy" whenever he is trying to razz me.

This is also an age range where emotional development and emotional awareness make some big leaps forward. Finding something that causes distressed laughter can provide a toddler with no end of enjoyment.

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