3 Common Mistakes Parents Make with Speech-Delayed Toddlers

Instead of making demands, like “say ball,” do this instead

When your toddler is learning to talk, it’s an exciting albeit potentially stressful time. Experts estimate that one in five toddlers is speech delayed, which means around 20 percent of parents could use the advice in this viral TikTok video from Michael Tatro, a pediatric speech-language pathologist and mom.

In her video, Tatro explains three common mistakes parents tend to make when their toddlers are speech-delayed—and what you should do instead.


Parents, you’re doing a good job. #speechdelay and #speechdisorder is not your fault. There is no right or wrong. Some strategies work better than others and vary kid to kid. #speechtherapy#toddler#language#development#slpoftiktok#earlyintervention

♬ original sound – Speechie

The first mistake is asking them to say a lot of words. You know how this one goes: “Say ‘ball.’” “Say ‘spoon.’” “Say ‘nap.’”

“This can backfire because you’re setting up a demand and toddlers are really fighting for autonomy,” Tatro explains. “Instead, use the ‘Rule of Threes.’”

That means saying the word you want to model three times for your toddler, but naturally. For example: “Ball? You want the ball? OK, here’s the ball.”

The second mistake she points out is “not acknowledging their attempt or trying to correct them.”

Tatro explains, “If your toddler is using a limited number of words, don’t worry about the articulation right now. We want to be as encouraging as possible so that they have the confidence to try.”

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