Why Does My Toddler Repeat Himself Under His Breath? – Should I Be Worried?

Repetitive speech is an exceptionally common part of language advancement in young toddlers who are learning to communicate. Most children will start mixing in their utterances, which they think they are saying in their head, and not aloud, along with repetitions of what they hear by the age of 2, which expresses anxiety. But by the time they hit the age of 3, it should be minimal if not gone.

Some toddlers experience this repetitive issue only when they are unhappy or anxious, but other toddlers experience it time and again, which may eventually cause them to go mute because they can’t express themselves.

Famously known as Echolalia and Palilalia, the former is a parrot-like repetition of words spoken by others with no elaboration of the input, often with a change of personal pronoun, while the latter is the automatic repetition of one’s own words. 

Defining Palilalia and Echolalia


Palilalia is a speech tic depicted by a toddler’s repetition of words he has used in a conversation, with the repeated words being said in a mumbling or whispered manner.

A child who has adopted Palilalia may say, ” I am going to play,” then immediately after whisper, “going to play.”

This disordered speech is included amongst the elements and signs of autism. It is often an indication that your child is not gaining and using verbal communication in a neurotypical manner.

We can categorize this as an expression of anxiety.

Many kids develop minor tics when they are under stress, such as starting school or accomplishing a developmental hurdle like bike riding, or even the arrival of a new sibling, but once they get accustomed to the situation or master how to deal with it, the tic fades.


This is a term used to describe a child’s nonfunctioning repetition of actual words such as those heard from parents, siblings, or television programs.

For example, when an adult asks, ” do you like apples?” Rather than saying “no” or “yes,” a child who has adopted echolalia will respond with, “do you like apples?”

This echoing of words or questions that the child is asked promptly is known as immediate echolalia, which is also a common trait in people with autism and Asperger’s Syndrome. 

On the other hand, delayed echolalia occurs when a child simultaneously repeats a sequence of words that he heard earlier from previous interactions in a manner that is out of context with a typical conversation.


Why does my son keep repeating himself?

I promise you that your toddler is not trying to get on your nerves. Toddlers like to hear themselves converse, and when they repeat themselves or ask the same question repeatedly, one of the main reasons is that they exercise how to talk.

Experts agree that repetitive speech is usually a normal behavior in toddlers, and they may repeat words and phrases to try them out and commit them to their memory. Still, most people, regardless of age, like to hear themselves talk.

Is it normal for a 3-year-old to repeat themselves?

All humans learn through repetition, and experts agree that there’s no major cause for concern when your toddler looks grown but still repeats himself. The more you talk to them, the more they learn, so engage with them over and over.

Take away

Supposedly, Palilalia is common in very intelligent toddlers like Albert Einstein. He went through a year when he was around the age of six years, where he repeated to himself in a whisper everything he said.

As far as treatment goes, pestering your toddler about it will just make them self conscious, and Freeing Your Child from Anxiety: Powerful, Practical Solutions to Overcome Your Child’s  Fears, Worries, and Phobias by Tamar Chansky will help you address anxiety more generally from the root which is much more effective than getting into a power struggle about something that your toddler probably has no control over.

Freeing Your Child from Anxiety, Revised and Updated Edition: Practical Strategies to Overcome Fears, Worries, and Phobias and Be Prepared for Life--from Toddlers to Teens

In addition to this being an indication of anxiety, adults who did it as toddlers said they were just double-checking whether they said the intended objective correctly the first time and that they outgrew it. So stop worrying and enjoy your son! 

Was this article helpful?

Hello, I am Emelda from Nairobi, Kenya. They simply call me mama Lilly. A fun of long road trips and a very good cook, along with my mommy duties to a super active girl. She inspires and challenges me in equal measure, and that is how I get to share with you our journey of triumph as we grow and tag you along.

Leave a Comment