Can I ask: Why the third person? - Mothering Forums

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:38 AM - Thread Starter
 
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"Ow, that hurts mommy!"

Why not...

"Ow, that hurts me!"

I've noticed approximately 100% of parents of toddlers address themselves in the third person in front of their children, especially in disciplinary/teaching situations (hence the posting in this forum). I've not had a toddler (my stepkid was 2 when we met, but I wasn't really involved in discipline back then beyond, well, "ow, that hurts!" and I'd leave it at that) so maybe I'm missing something...so, I suppose my question here is: Is there a developmental reason we shouldn't use first-person pronouns with our small children? Is it just a linguistic pattern people slip into because that's what people do? Or is there a switch in my uterus that will flip, should I gestate another human being, and tell my brain to forget "I" and "me" 18 months hence?

Thanks.

(Today is apparently "ProtoLawyer asks questions that don't apply to her situation" day. And yes, I realize that was in third person. I think I need to go to bed.)

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:43 AM
 
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It's because toddlers don't "get" the concept of pronouns. Saying "ouch, that hurts Mommy" lets a little kid understand that mommy was hurt. Saying "ouch, you hurt me" makes a kid think that his name is "you" and Mommy's name is "me" and then gets thoroughly confused about who the heck Mommy is talking about!

Do me understand you?

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:49 AM
 
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I can't help you with the reason as we don't do it, but I think it's just another aspect of "baby talk". Both make me cringe, honestly.
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:50 AM
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See, I never did the third person thing when Rain was little, and she understood just fine, so I'm not sure I buy that explanation... she also used pronouns correctly as a one-year-old, and she never did that "Me want to..." thing that little kids in comic strips always do (she used "I"). For years I thought that was something comic strip artists made up, although recently I heard about a real toddler talking like that, so maybe some kids do...

I think it's more along the lines of motherese taken to the nth degree...

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:51 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Ruthla View Post
It's because toddlers don't "get" the concept of pronouns. Saying "ouch, that hurts Mommy" lets a little kid understand that mommy was hurt. Saying "ouch, you hurt me" makes a kid think that his name is "you" and Mommy's name is "me" and then gets thoroughly confused about who the heck Mommy is talking about!

Do me understand you?
This is hysterical...and true. I don't do it all the time, but do it sometimes with the 2-1/2 yr old. I don't do it at all with the 5 yo anymore; I probably stopped when he was using pronouns correctly, taking his cue.

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:52 AM
 
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I've never used third person. It doesn't come natural to me I hear a lot of people do it though and I think maybe some people think kids need things simplified when they really don't. My kids understood what I meant and never thought my name was "me"

I don't think there is anything wrong with it or anything but I just never did that. Well I shouldn't say never...maybe I might say "wanta come to mama" if I was consoling them but not in regular conversation. I think the word mama is soothing though so in that context I might

I would never say "don't hit mama' I would say "don't hit me".

But I hear a lot of people converse with their child entirely that way.
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:53 AM
 
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Dar, I'd have to say your daughter was an exception; more toddlers don't use pronouns correctly for a while, than not...

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Old 02-18-2009, 02:57 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Dar View Post
See, I never did the third person thing when Rain was little, and she understood just fine, so I'm not sure I buy that explanation... she also used pronouns correctly as a one-year-old, and she never did that "Me want to..." thing that little kids in comic strips always do (she used "I"). For years I thought that was something comic strip artists made up, although recently I heard about a real toddler talking like that, so maybe some kids do...

I think it's more along the lines of motherese taken to the nth degree...

Dar
My kids never did the "me want to" thing either. Not one out of 4 of them. Maybe that's why

My kids also got pronouns early but they were all very super early talkers so it may have been just their early language abilities.
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:58 AM
 
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Or maybe my kids are just dippy.

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:00 AM
 
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Dar, I'd have to say your daughter was an exception; more toddlers don't use pronouns correctly for a while, than not...
I agree with this however maybe that's because people don't model how to use them so the kids don't pick up on them as quickly because of that. We all know kids understand language before they can speak it so maybe they "get" pronouns well before they learn to use them properly.

I'm just theorizing all over the place here now

I wonder if anyone has researched this. It's fascinating.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:03 AM
 
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I actually can remember times I would use the pronoun instead of me (especially since D is just 2-1/2), and they would then get upset and say "no, me!" or "not me!" or "no you!", using the totally wrong thing and beign disgruntled about it.

I'm totally not into baby talk or cutesy stuff, but this was one thing I did/do do with them until they seem to grasp the concept well...as I said above, I don't do it every time, but I do it.

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:03 AM
 
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Because the referent "Mommy" never changes.

"You" and "me" change. I'm "me" when I talk about me, but I'm "you" when you talk about "me". In times when you want to be absolutely clear about who's hurt, I don't see anything wrong with "mommy".

FWIW, mixing up pronouns is variable - some kids do it, some kids don't. Even kids who learn ASL as their first language have been known to do it (which is truly cosmic to me, since the sign for you is a point away from yourself and the sign for me is a point toward yourself).

Ds really benefitted from the 3rd person. Dd used more pronouns (probably because she was child #2 and heard them more), but was more likey to confuse them. But it was more things like repeating whole phrases "hold you!" = "hold me", which I'm sure she gleaned from "do you want me to hold you?"

By all means, use what's natural to you. For ds, that was the 3rd person for me. For others that's not. But there's also no superiority to be attached to not using a different register of speech with young children. I'd be willing to bet money that those who say the never used baby talk still changed their language to suit their children.

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:22 AM
 
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I can't help you with the reason as we don't do it, but I think it's just another aspect of "baby talk". Both make me cringe, honestly.
I don't think it's necessarily baby talk but it makes me cringe, too. I also die a little inside when I hear a parent say, "we don't hit" after their kid has pounded on another kid. Ummm, part of your "we" just did.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:42 AM
 
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Oops. I really didn't mean to sound superior in my post. I don't think there's anything wrong with it at all when others do it; it's just feels awkward coming out of my mouth. One of those random things that bugs me. There are many.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:53 AM
 
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I've never used third person. It doesn't come natural to me I hear a lot of people do it though and I think maybe some people think kids need things simplified when they really don't. My kids understood what I meant and never thought my name was "me"

I don't think there is anything wrong with it or anything but I just never did that. Well I shouldn't say never...maybe I might say "wanta come to mama" if I was consoling them but not in regular conversation. I think the word mama is soothing though so in that context I might

I would never say "don't hit mama' I would say "don't hit me".

But I hear a lot of people converse with their child entirely that way.
I've never used third person either. For the study: My parents never spoke to their passel in any form of baby talk. (Yup, that is what I call it.) Neither did we speak to dc using any form of baby-talk, nor do our friends. It doesn't cross our minds to speak in another language! Babies and small children don't need to "get pronouns". They learn by hearing and mimicing. Think about it! Do parents who sign to their kids use baby talk? It must be a thing that is passed down in families, or are the parents who don't use pronouns mimicing the kids?!!

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:57 AM
 
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Oooopsie! I guess I am partly incorrect about ALS stuff.

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Old 02-18-2009, 04:19 AM
 
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I agree with this however maybe that's because people don't model how to use them so the kids don't pick up on them as quickly because of that. We all know kids understand language before they can speak it so maybe they "get" pronouns well before they learn to use them properly.

I'm just theorizing all over the place here now

I wonder if anyone has researched this. It's fascinating.
Yes, there is a lot of research on this. Some of it is reported in pop science books like "What's Going on in There?" and "The Language Instinct".

My child did not use pronouns at first although I always used pronouns correctly. She called herself "you", e.g. "You want a cookie, please!" In order to help her understand, I would repeat, "You want a cookie? A* wants a cookie? Okay, I'll get you a cookie. Mommy will get it." I personally think that this helped her get pronouns more quickly, not more slowly.

There is evidence that some children do benefit from a parent clarifying what she needs by not using pronouns- though long-term obviously the parent needs to reinforce the common way of saying it, for example: "That hurt me! That hurt mommy."

Some children use words as soon as they learn them. Others wait until they understand the whole system and others, until they can pronounce them.

I personally think that most parents are responding to what their children need, and that is why you get the variation.

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Old 02-18-2009, 05:55 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ProtoLawyer View Post
"Ow, that hurts mommy!"

Why not...

"Ow, that hurts me!"

I've noticed approximately 100% of parents of toddlers address themselves in the third person in front of their children, especially in disciplinary/teaching situations (hence the posting in this forum). I've not had a toddler (my stepkid was 2 when we met, but I wasn't really involved in discipline back then beyond, well, "ow, that hurts!" and I'd leave it at that) so maybe I'm missing something...so, I suppose my question here is: Is there a developmental reason we shouldn't use first-person pronouns with our small children? Is it just a linguistic pattern people slip into because that's what people do? Or is there a switch in my uterus that will flip, should I gestate another human being, and tell my brain to forget "I" and "me" 18 months hence?

Thanks.

(Today is apparently "ProtoLawyer asks questions that don't apply to her situation" day. And yes, I realize that was in third person. I think I need to go to bed.)
Eh...I am going with OP's last choice...I nver really thought about it, but I definitely do it with DD, but never did it before, or with somebody else's child...I certainly had no developmental goal in mind, other than, perhaps, the desire to hear my baby call me "mommy" that first sweet time, then it just became habit...for better or worse!

Apparently doing it rong and ruining it for everyone, but I don't give a crap anymorebanana.gif

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Old 02-18-2009, 07:21 AM
 
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We dont use it either. In fact, I think Alfie Kohn addresses this in his book 'Uncondtional Parenting' - and says not to do it. Funny enough - my son does understand pronouns - weve never had an issue with them. Hes not 'super clever' (no offence to him) - I think its because I simply talk 'real' to him.

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Old 02-18-2009, 12:13 PM
 
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Lynn, I'm glad you chimed in! Nice to have the expert's input!

I was looking for the "typical" developmental milestones (since we're not even on the chart ) and it looks like pronoun acquisition doesn't really solidify until 36 months.

Since we're doing this in slow motion, I'm getting to see the stages for a longer amount of time and what I'm seeing/experiencing is a sort of hybrid of third and first person, and even the first person (for her, and me on my tired days! ) is sometimes confused. I think I use the third person to reference myself mostly for clarity and emphasis. I DO NOT think of it as baby talk (and, I do think that saying so sounds pretty pejorative ), as we are particularly vigilant against using baby talk because of her issues. As a matter of fact, I hear her speech therapists use the same syntax: "Grace, please bring that to Miss Janet."

Wendy ~ mom to VeeGee (6/05), who has PRS, Apraxia, SPD, VPI, a G-Tube, 14q duplication, and is a delightful little pistol! I'm an English professor and a writer.
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Old 02-18-2009, 12:19 PM
 
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Doesn't really bother me. My sister was very confused about you vs. me at 3 or so still. She'd be in the bathroom um, you know sort of thinking things over. And she'd say "you call me when I'm done" and I'd try to say "you call ME when you're done" and she just didn't get it.

It was awfully cute. Because she'd agree with me and then say it wrong again.

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Old 02-18-2009, 12:22 PM
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It's because toddlers don't "get" the concept of pronouns. Saying "ouch, that hurts Mommy" lets a little kid understand that mommy was hurt. Saying "ouch, you hurt me" makes a kid think that his name is "you" and Mommy's name is "me" and then gets thoroughly confused about who the heck Mommy is talking about!

Do me understand you?
I agree. it could cause confusion.

mommy gets hurt: ow that hurt me.
baby gets hurt: ow that hurt.... ??? who did it hurt if mommy is me?

however, I use both interchangeably.
some times I use mommy and sometimes I say me.
sometimes I say baby's name, and sometimes I say you.

my kids are started to understand I, Me, and You now, but I think it's more clear cut when we use names.. especially during things like tantrums where they can't think very clearly and the last thing they need is to try to figure out who is who and what you are talking about. so I think most of the time I use "me" "I" "you" statements... but in times where emotions are running high or I'm trying to make something clear that wasn't clear initially I will use 3rd person to clarify. Also I use "mommy" statements when they are little because I want them to learn the word mommy (and same for Daddy).

sometimes we call DS2 baby and sometimes we call him by his name. DD does the same - sometimes uses his name, sometimes calls him a baby. because he is both.
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Old 02-18-2009, 12:33 PM
 
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I agree that it's useful for clarity and for emphasis.

I started doing it with DS when he was born without even really noticing what I was doing (so I do think it must be passed down in families-- I'm sure my mother spoke to me that way!). As he got more verbal I started using it 50 per cent of the time, roughly.

Now that he has fully mastered his pronouns I hardly use it any more.

Also, I don't think it's "baby talk", I think it's helpful for small children to help them clarify pronouns.

But if it doesn't come naturally to you, or if you feel weird saying it, then by all means don't!
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Old 02-18-2009, 01:21 PM
 
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It would only bother me if the child was clearly old enough to understand pronouns. With a toddler, it seems developmentally appropriate.

Mother is the word for God on the hearts and lips of all little children--William Makepeace Thackeray
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Old 02-18-2009, 02:53 PM
 
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Originally Posted by gsd1amommy View Post
I don't think it's necessarily baby talk but it makes me cringe, too. I also die a little inside when I hear a parent say, "we don't hit" after their kid has pounded on another kid. Ummm, part of your "we" just did.
:

Priceless. Can I use this?? I know people that talk like this and it drives me to distraction!!

The other one that makes my skin crawl is when an ADULT says to DD "HER wants up?" or "HER is tired"

Umm. WHAT?

The me/mommy thing doesn't bug me because it's still correct speech, it's just third person. And I think it does help w/clarity. And I'd bet even ppl that think they never refer to themselves in third person have done so every now and then. I always swore I'd never do it, and I don't all the time, but there are times it just makes more sense to them.

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:05 PM
 
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My son is almost 5 and we still do a lot of speaking in third person with him. He has difficulty processing verbal language due to his ASD. First and second person pronouns are a particular problem for him. Until recently, he was constantly reversing these pronouns. We work on this issue a lot at home and it one of his goals on his IEP. He has made some great progress with pronouns this year, but his use and understanding of first and second person is still very inconsistant. We use the thrid person to clarify who we mean.

One of my son's speech therapists told me that the ability to accurately use first and second person pronouns is a very complex skill. It requires the ability to shift from your own perspective to that of your conversation partner. For many children this is a very difficult task, particularly for kids with ASD, language processing disorders, or auditory processing disorder.

Although we work on pronouns every day, when we are in public we often will just use the third person. Public places can be overstimulating and stressful, so they are not always a good environment for a language lesson. People who hear me use third person speech with my preschooler probably assume that I do not model good language for him.

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:08 PM
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her? i can't understand that one either!!

I think the "we dont" comment is just a simplified way of reminding the child what the family values are, but I agree it can be a confusing approach.
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:18 PM
 
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Yeah, I've also heard "hims wants his toy" or whatever. Again, from an adult.

OMG! Insane!

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Old 02-18-2009, 03:39 PM
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hims wants his toy? I would really like to understand why thems be using words like that (hehehe)
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Old 02-18-2009, 03:40 PM
 
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I say that hurts mommy...

dd calls herself me.

I don't know, its what sounds right coming from my mouth. It feels weird saying "me" to her. Like she would think I was refering to her yk?

She also says Me's. Like she'll bring something and say "this daddys" then something else "this mommys" then something else "this me's"

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expecting our miracle babies around 5.12.10- praying that baby B grows healthy and strong!
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