To Compare or Not Compare, That is the Question

NB2.0 circa 3 days ago

NB2.0 just turned 16-months-old, and the most exciting development right now (besides getting in three canines simultaneously and drooling like a bloodhound) is that she’s learning more words! Sometimes learning a new word is something she practices for about a week and then one morning she’s got it. Other times, she’ll pull a Word Ninja on us and parrot a word out of nowhere and make our jaws drop. Hi-Ya!!

This morning NB2.0 was practicing the word “shoes,” which she pronounces it as “chooo.” I love that she squinches up her nose trying to say “chooo.” She is, by the way, obsessed with shoes and will try to put on a second pair of shoes over the shoes already on her feet. Sorta like how we used to wear two pairs of scrunch socks back in the 90s? And I don’t blame her. One can never have too many shoes… ya hear me, Noob Daddy?

She’s also mastered my version of, “No, No!” We’ll hear this when she throws cat food all over the kitchen and splashes in Noob Kitty’s water bowl. She immediately says, “No!” with an admonishing finger wag. What can I say, I’m impressed with her impression of me.

To Compare or Not Compare, That is the Question

It’s been really fun for all us (especially Noob Baby) trying to teach her new words and eagerly waiting to see if she’ll be able to say something new. However, as I was thinking about NB2.0’s growth, I couldn’t help but compare her progress to her big sis. As much as we try not to compare our children, the first child naturally becomes the barometer for the second. When you’ve had four years in between your children, many developmental milestones become foggy, so you end up comparing them just to make sure everything is as it should be.

So, Noob Daddy and I have noticed that little sis is acquiring new words at a slower pace than her predecessor noob. First off, I’m not worried. But I do reflect on these things. Obviously, each child is unique and develops differently. Yet, I’m conscious of the fact that having more than one child means that my time and attention is inherently divided. There are two children to nurture amongst the daily household responsibilities. The first time around, I had all the time in the world just to focus on Noob Baby. We were like two peas in a pod! We would go out to the park several times a week, sing songs in the car, practice learning letters, and read, read, read! It’s funny how at the time things felt chaotic and confusing as a first time mom, but in retrospect, things were really chillax compared to the juggling act now.

Noob Baby at 15 months. Sisters?

Noob Baby at 15 months. Could they be related?

NB learned her alphabet by one-and-a-half and knew many sight words by age two. She was reading independently by three. Obviously, I have a passion for teaching, reading, and literacy, so I was able to pass those interests on to her rather naturally by exposing her to all those things throughout the day. I know that many parents make a crazy effort to talk talk talk (almost incessently) to their children nonstop because they’ve been told the vocabulary will get absorbed and improve their child’s language acquisition. Maybe you’ve all heard this parent at the park before:

Do you like swinging? Are you going down the slide? Good job, sliding! Look at your nose! Now you’re walking. Look at the clouds! There’s the sky. Hi, sky! Oops you tripped. Wheeeeee! Isn’t this fun? Now you’re breathing. Good job blinking! Isn’t blinking fun?  

Crazy Is as Crazy Does

It’s hard, I know, to find the right balance! On the one hand you want your child to learn all these exciting new words, but on the other hand…. you sound like a crazy person and everyone wants to punch you a little. I always tried to err on the sane calm conversation side with NB and let her discover things on her own. It probably also has to do with the fact that I’m an introvert and find lots of small talk draining.

But back to NB2.0. I feel like this time around, I’ve really been stretched thin. The choice to converse incessantly with my child (whether or not I like it) is gone. I’m constantly bogged down with meal prepping, cleaning up after a meal, picking up toys, running to and from school, daily housework, phone calls and appointments, driving to NB’s extracurricular classes etc. Laundry! How do people with more than four members of a household do laundry?! I’m definitely running some shit ass Chinese laundry over here where mildew and wrinkle is not just a promise…it’s a GUARANTEE.

Poor NB2.0 is the perfect second child. She knows how to play independently better than her sister ever did … and can for that matter. She’s an observer and a wild one. When the baby gates are open, there’s no dark creepy room that’ll deter her. Big Sis will just sorta linger outside the room and say it’s too dark and nonchalantly come back to hang out with us. Lil sis, on the other hand, will be in the pitch black Bloody Mary bathroom unraveling mounds of toilet paper into the toilet like it’s 1999. The blessing is that she’ll play wreak mad havoc while I get things done or smooth over a 5-year-old tantrum. (Yes. They’re very real.) But the curse is that it’s easy to get distracted and forget to set aside the quality time to converse, play, and respond to NB2.0.

And that’s really a very important factor in the bigger picture. RESPONSE. If a parent is distracted or not focused on responding to a child, will it affect the child’s development… or more specifically, vocabulary development and speech acquisition? Yes.

On Next Week’s Episode of Noob Mommy…

In my next post, I’m going to highlight a chapter from an incredible book called Nurture Shock: New Thinking About Children by Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman that examines the impact of call-and-response in children’s language development. I must have missed the memo on this New York Times Bestseller back when it first came out in 2009, but boy am I glad I heard about it on NPR. I strongly recommend you order a copy here or find one at the library.

I’ve been blown away by the research presented and refuted in this book, which is why I wanted to share it with you all. All the chapters dispel common myths about children and parenting, but I really believe many of you will find the chapter Why Hannah Talks and Alyssa Doesn’t very enlightening and relevant as new parents. Many of you have newborns or little one’s that are probably babbling right now or will be before you know it! Perhaps you’re searching for new ways to get your little noob to talk. You’ll want to hear what you should be doing! For me, reading this chapter alone has really motivated me to refocus my “present” time with NB2.0 and make it high-quality and response-based. Not really because I want her to speak more, but because I think I need to be a less distracted parent and a better responder.

What’s your experience?

I was wondering, do any of you seasoned parents out there have the same experience and/or feelings of being stretched thin? Or not having as much “quality” time for your second as you did the first child? Did your first and second children etc. learn to speak at a similar pace? Have you noticed any major differences between your children’s development based on what you did similarly or differently? I’d love to hear your experiences! Please leave me a comment. Until next time… when I’ll shed some light on children’s vocabulary acquisition a la Noob Mommy Cliff Notes: Nurture Shock.

P.S. I wasn’t paid to review this book, but if you do decide to purchase Nurture Shock from my Amazon affiliate link, I will be grateful as always.


  1. 10
    Erin Barco says:

    I also immediately bought Nurtureshock and I’m in awe of it. The Lies and Race chapters seem so difficult to turn around. But I find myself noticing when I say things like “in a minute” or “after this we’ll go…” And making sure we actually do that, so they don’t think I’m lying to them.

  2. 11

    I had a childhood friend who hardly spoke at all as a little one because she was so entertained by observing her older brother all of the time. Being the typical younger sibling, she naturally followed him around, and he of course, took care of her. I do find birth order to be so interesting…I could spend hours talking about it…

    To think that NB was reading by 3 is a true testament to the FANTASTIC job you are doing as a parent! Those NB sisters are so lucky! :)

  3. 12

    Hi! I was wondering what some of the techniques you used to get Noob to learn the alphabet and sight words. Thank you!

    • 13

      Anon – From early on, we exposed NB to lots of books… cloth books, board books, etc. We read (or just talked about pictures) every night as part of our bedtime routine. Also, we talked about words and letters everywhere when the opportunity seemed appropriate and fun. Driving around and pointing at signs, pointing out a letter at a store, etc. We also sang the ABC song in the car, at bathtime, with friends and family. We also had alphabet type toys around the house. The Leapfrog magnetic alphabet toys that play the phonetic sounds are wonderful and toddlers are naturally drawn to magnets! During bathtime, we would make words with the alphabet foam letters. Basically, find a variety of opportunities to just expose your child to letters and reading. If you don’t mind a mess and/or are crafty, there are a ton of fun sensory activities you can do with shaving cream, fingerpaints, play doh, sand, etc. with making letters. Just let your imagination go wild and don’t make it seem like a drill, but something fun and exciting! As far as sight words, we also incorporated the Preschool Prep DVD and book series (I have it linked in my store or in the sidebar). NB LOVED the PP video series. Along these lines, find good quality videos that aren’t just drilling and boring (we tried the Your Child Can Read? and found it very dull). There are also a ton of high quality iphone/ipad apps out these days for kids (something for an older toddler but not a baby of course!). I’d keep screen time limited and use once in awhile. Mostly, it’s the daily exposure and talking about letters, words, numbers. Have fun!

  4. 14

    I don’t have a second child. My baby is 7 months old and I talk a lot to her and we are teaching her sign language. So far, it seems, it’s not working, but on the Mayo Clinic Baby’s 1st Year I read that babies start to use signs at about 8 months, so we’ll see next month, maybe, if our efforts will be rewarded. People stare at me like I’m some kind of freak when I say that we’re teaching our little noob sign language. But your concerns are very real, I do wonder about this when I think about having a second child. Will I be able to give another baby the same amount of attention I’m giving to this one?

    • 15

      Vica- Thanks for your comment! I definitely recommend sticking with the signs for at least another month or two. We used sign language with both our girls and they started signing on their own around 10-11 months. However, it was a great relief to be able to communicate. NB2.0 still signs when she wants more of something, milk, and all done. She also kind of made up her own sign for wanting to go outside which I think is hilarious.

      • 16

        It’s a relief to know that you successfully used sign language. Here in Brazil no one has ever heard about that, but at least my baby’s pedi got really interested about it. Other people just look at me as if I’m a crazy cat lady.
        I also give Martina, my daughter, a lot of books and try to read to her every night (and I read to her in English in the hopes that she’ll become bilingual). She seems to love books, gets really excited when we present her with a new one. Thank you for your kind response, my husband and I have a lot of fun reading your blog and it’s been really useful to us.

      • 17

        And PS. I couldn’t resist and bought the book you recommended in this post. So far, it’s really, really interesting. My husband got us a nespresso coffee machine… who needs to sleep, huh? 😉

        • 18

          Vica- I hope you enjoy the book! Let me just add that the chapter “Why White Parents Don’t Talk About Race”: As I was reading this chapter, NB coincidentally made a very casual, but surprising, comment about race that immediately floored me and made me just stare at that chapter again! Wow!

          • 19

            The chapter about LIES is terrifying! I know because I used to lie a lot to my mom. I’m thinking about maybe teaching my noob something I’m calling “talk about the bad, but reinforce the good”. My godson is 10 years old. For his birthday I bought him a board game that he already had, he was disappointed, of course, but he manage to tell me: “don’t be upset, you chose really well, godmother, this is a very cool game”. Isn’t he sweet? So I hope my girl can be like that, she can tell someone she didn’t like a present or something, as long as she says something true and good about the situation.

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