When my son was in preschool, we were riding in the car and he started to tell his daddy a story. “Mommy and me… “ he began. My husband interrupted him gently, “You mean ‘Mommy and I,’” he explained. My son didn’t miss a beat. “No,” he said. “I say ‘Mommy and me’ because I like the alliteration.’”
I am not making this up.
You have to understand, my husband is a university English professor. His grammar is impeccable. Though I’m a professional writer, he corrects my grammar regularly. (I may never understand when to use “that” and when to use “which” right.) So my son grew up in a rather rarified grammatical atmosphere.
But you don’t have to be an English Ph.D. to speak well or to teach your baby to speak well. It’s really just a matter of paying attention. For instance, you probably don’t speak the same way to your girlfriends as you do in a formal office meeting. In the meeting you pay attention to the words you choose, how you present your ideas, etc. Well, when you’re with your baby you need to be aware of your words and language, too.
Your house is your baby’s classroom, and you are his primary teacher. The way you speak to your child is the way he’s going to learn how to speak, at least initially. As for correcting mistakes, my approach is to let it pass without making your child self-conscious, but make sure he hears the same kinds of words or sentences spoken correctly.
When thinking of my son’s introduction to grammar, one favorite story comes to mind. On the first day of preschool, my son’s teacher approached me at the end of the day. “I have to tell you what happened today, because it’s never happened to me before,” she began, making me very, very nervous about what she was going to say next. “We were finger-painting today, and after we were done, I went around writing all the kids’ names on their paintings, so they’d know which one was theirs and could bring it home. But when I got to your son, he stopped me and said, ‘Please put an apostrophe ‘S’ after my name, because the painting isn’t me, but it belongs to me.'”
Now I’m just waiting for the day that he'll start correcting me when I use “that” or “which” wrong!
Beth Weinhouse is an award-winning journalist who specializes in writing about parenting issues and women's health. She's been an editor at Ladies' Home Journal and Parenting magazines, and her work has appeared in dozens of consumer magazines and websites.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.