Speaking for The Baby

This is a blog about children’s language. Specifically, my children’s language. Mostly The Toddler’s language, The Baby’s vocabulary currently consisting of ‘cat’. I have noticed something about The Toddler’s language (hey, it’s only taken forty odd blog posts about The Toddler’s language for me to notice something about it.) What I have noticed is this: the times when The Toddler chooses to speak for The Baby are quite interesting.

Mostly, you see, The Toddler does not speak for The Baby. Much of the time, she leaves The Baby to her own babbling, shouting or fussing devices. She appears to accept that this is what The Baby does, and does not intervene. Sometimes, The Toddler is interested in what The Baby is saying, and will join in with baby talk. Very occasionally, she will try to translate (which is to say, she will make it up). Other times, she pays no attention at all.

However, when The Baby’s noises show an emotion, particularly a negative one, The Toddler will usually get involved. She will report The Baby’s feelings to Mummy: ‘The Baby is sad.’ She will offer reassurance to The Baby: ‘Don’t worry, the Baby!’ She will be on hand to assist The Baby: ‘I’m coming, The Baby!’ She will try to cuddle and kiss The Baby. She will offer dummies, water and toys.

Most notably, when something is being done to The Baby that The Baby does not like (nasal aspiration, when needed, has never been popular), The Toddler will speak for her. She will be outspoken and very insistent: ‘No! Don’t do that! Stop doing that! The Baby doesn’t like that! Don’t do it!’

Likewise, when The Toddler believes The Baby wants or needs something, she will voice the need on The Baby’s behalf: ‘The Baby want more food. Get her more food, please.’

It appears that The Toddler recognises that The Baby does not have the words to tell people how she feels or what she needs (‘cat’, as it turns out, is not the most useful of words). The Toddler uses her words on The Baby’s behalf when she believes The Baby needs help.

What does this behaviour demonstrate? It suggests that The Toddler has some understanding of how important words can be as a means of expression. Certainly, it shows that The Toddler is able to recognise emotions in others, and has learnt some appropriate responses. Perhaps there is also empathy there. Maybe The Toddler is already showing an ability to empathise with her little sister. Probably a little. She has an innate human ability for empathy, and she is starting to learn to develop it. However, at her age, it seems unlikely her understanding of others has developed to the level of true empathy yet, not empathy as adults would understand or display it. One thing I believe The Toddler’s behaviour is absolutely indicative of, is how completely she has accepted The Baby. The Baby is hers, a part of the world The Toddler views as hers. The Toddler looks after what is hers, simply because it is hers. Perhaps, then, she is protecting her sister more than understanding her, at present. Or maybe it is a little of both.

Whatever the motivation, The Toddler instinctively speaks up for one who cannot speak for herself. Adults often develop inhibitions that prevent them from speaking out, even when they feel that they should; for a toddler, nothing stands in the way.

Soon, of course, The Baby will have her own words. She will speak for herself. However, I have no doubt that there will still be times when she will need her sister to speak up for her. Just as there will be times when she is needed to speak up for The Toddler. I hope that, no matter how old they are, my girls will always understand when the other needs them. I hope they will each always have the words to fight for their sister when she can’t do it for herself.

What do you think? Are two year olds capable of showing empathy? How do your children relate to each other? Do they protect each other?

Let's Talk MommyOur Little EscapadesPost Comment LoveMamaduckquacks
Let's Talk MommyOur Little EscapadesPost Comment LoveMamaduckquacks


  1. Steph says:

    My boys are starting to interact more and more and it’s so sweet to see them getting along! I hope you continue seeing this precious sibling bond grow!

  2. Jenny says:

    I had a lot of that with MM was a baby and B was always trying to tell me what she wanted, liked, and was trying to say. Too funny. Thank you so much for linking up to Share With Me. #sharewithme

  3. This is lovely and your post has made me think. Ethan pays attention to his sister when she is upset. Normally making gestures that it is OK. Love the idea that they are learning to look out for one another. Lets hope it continues.

    Thanks for linking up with Small Steps Amazing Achievements :0)

    • Silly Mummy says:

      That’s lovely! So nice that children do seem to have some kind of instinct for offering comfort and help to their siblings. Thanks for hosting!

  4. Michelle says:

    My oldest has Autism and he is five years older than his little brother, so his empathy skills at age 2 were definitely not present. What I can tell you is that when his little brother was born, he was all over him. I have pictures of my oldest cuddling with his little brother when he was an infant. Every time I would lay the baby down on the floor to change his diaper (I didn’t have a changing table), my oldest would come straight over and lay down next to him and help me change him. Every time the baby cried for a bottle, my oldest would sit by him as he sat in his bouncer crying and he would comfort him while I made the bottle. Siblings really are remarkable aren’t they? Thanks for sharing at #happyquacks

    • Silly Mummy says:

      Yes they are! That’s really lovely. So interesting that both children who are still too young to really show empathy and those who struggle with empathy skills, still display these behaviours – there definitely seems to be some kind of instinct to help, protect and support that they have. Thanks for reading!

  5. I can’t really comment on this from experience as I just have the one baby at the moment, 14 months so definitely becoming less of a baby! The way you write and express how The Toddler speaks for The Baby is so sweet and I’m sure they’ll have a lovely relationship growing up. My son’s first word was ‘cat’ too…we’ve progressed to “mama’, ‘dada’, ‘baby’ (but he doesn’t know what one is) and ‘hiding” (when playing peek-boo!). thanks for linking to #HappyQuacks

    • Silly Mummy says:

      Thank you! Glad other babies are all about the cats too! We also now have The Toddler’s name, ‘catch’ when playing with a ball, and ‘dada’. Thanks for popping by!

    • Silly Mummy says:

      She is very sweet with her. Hopefully they will have a close relationship, given their closeness in age. Thank you for popping by!

  6. Natasha says:

    What a beautiful post and what’s obviously the start of a beautiful relationship between your two girls. My brother and I were only a year apart and we always fought but I know he’s got my back. S is 3 1/2 now and he doesn’t have a sibling but he’s very empathetic and protective of me. So if he thinks someone is speaking to me harshly or I’m upset, he has no qualms about saying to that person “Don’t talk to my mummy like that, that’s not very nice!”
    Thanks for linking up to #happyquacks xx

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *