Objective: To investigate parents' experiences of surveillance for early talking difficulties. Design: Qualitative study nested within a randomised controlled trial. Setting: Interviews with the parents of 20 children identified as having early difficulties. Results: Most parents were in favour of surveillance of children's language. Parents do not totally welcome surveillance, however, as it also potentially medicalises their children's early lives. The study also revealed that many of the parents felt stigmatised by their children's difficulties. Conclusions: Listening to parents' accounts can increase professionals' understanding of their responses to monitoring of their child's development and referral to specialist services.