Have you got a child who just LOVES to talk? On the positive side, good verbal skills is always a great quality to have. The child that isn’t afraid to say what’s on their mind or gain some attention through their stories will certainly benefit. However, constant talking can drive a parent to drink!
How do you deal with your little chatterbox? Firstly, remember it is in your child’s personality to talk. They are not doing it to be annoying! Having understanding can give you a tiny bit more patience. Does your child know the ‘unwritten rules‘ about conversations? When is it appropriate to talk? When is it inappropriate to talk? How does your child know when they’re getting a bit boring? And how do they ‘wrap up’ what they are talking about?
Here are some conversations to have with your child. It might be worth whipping out a pen and paper and drawing it, cartoon-strip style. My post When in doubt, say it with a pen goes into more detail about the benefits of drawing to explain to your child.
- Make sure you have the person’s attention! This is an essential social skill that is almost vital for the child that loves to talk. If you’re going to talk, make sure someone is actually paying attention 🙂 You might encourage your child to say the person’s name first and then WAIT. Wait for that person to look their way or acknowledge them with a ‘yes?’ or another word. If the person isn’t looking at them, they might need to call their name again. Or even tap them (show your child what to do). But if that person looks busy with someone else or doing something else, your child will need to WAIT. You will need to run through some examples, such as ‘Daddy is busy brushing little Josh’s teeth, when he has finished, try calling his name again’. And then there is the time when your child is still talking as you buckle them into the car and close the door and the story is STILL going as you get into the car – remind your child to take note if you are looking at them and able to hear them. If not, they need to stop talking and wait. This point could definitely use a drawing to accompany and would only be understood by children 3 years or older. And will need plenty of practice!
- Take turns at talking, remember to LISTEN. Without being a Nazi about it, you might really have to spend some time pointing out when you have started talking first if your little one interrupts. Young children need some time to get used to waiting and not interrupting, but it is a good social skill to persist with pointing out. You might remind your little one, to be a good friend, you have to remember to listen too 🙂
- No talking when I’m on the phone! Except.. Explain to your child that when the phone is ringing, you have to answer it then and there. And you can’t talk to two people at once. Your child will have to wait until Mum puts the phone down. UNLESS (start thinking of all the times when you’d want your child to interrupt your phone call). For younger children, you might start with just a few examples – if you get hurt, you come and tell me if I’m on the phone… This leads into ‘what is an emergency’ talk down the track.
- Mummy needs a break from listening sometimes. Some children honestly believe they have the right to your attention whenever they need and it can dampen their spirit when they are not feeling listened to enough. But they do need to learn when enough is enough, particularly by the time they start school! You might start by giving a warning ‘just tell me what happened next/just one more question, then Mummy needs a break for a bit’. Then be specific about what your child needs to do to ‘stop talking’ (short of saying ‘close your lips!’). For example, ‘Cooper can have a break from talking and play in his room with his cars for 10 minutes, while Mummy goes to the toilet’ (and don’t start further conversations if they follow you there!). You might need to physically separate your child and yourself for even just a few minutes for your child to understand ‘being quiet’ and you ‘taking a break’. This can then build into longer periods of quiet play where they are encouraged to talk to their toy friends and make up stories with them. Bring on pretend play!
- Sometimes a sibling might need attention or you are just a bit busy for a good talk. If your little one is getting enough one-on-one time with you and still vying for your attention at other times, this is when you can teach them that besides you needing a break, a sibling might need some attention or you might just be a bit busy for a good talk. Always give them a tangible time to come back and try again. ‘Let me just watch this bit of the news and when I turn off the TV, I will be all yours’, ‘I’ll just finish on the toilet and when I come out, you can tell me your story’, ‘Josh is pointing at something, but when I have worked out what it is, I will let you know..’. If you find you are fobbing your little one off a lot, this is when you will have to make up for it by offering them some full attention in between.
- Help your child to get to the point! If your child is spending five minutes trying to work out how to ask the question in their head, you might need to simply ask ‘so what is your question?’. Or if they are telling you a five minute monologue, try guiding them with questions, to help them ‘make their point’. You might need to keep summarising what they are saying, just to keep on top of the whole story!
- Remember, talking is a way for your child to process. If your child is asking the 100th question, go through the story or the reason over and over, even if you have to say ‘let’s talk about this again after lunch (or tomorrow morning)’. The questions are important to them and repeating them is necessary for some children to really understand what might have happened to them, what might happen to them or information they want to know about. It can be exhausting, but bring in your understanding and you will have more patience!
So go out and practice your strategies with your child, certainly not all at once! Whilst they may still talk more than the average child, remember that there is still some ‘taming’ that you can do especially for them to succeed in the classroom. Aim for your child to be very familiar with the above points by school age.
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