What do you do if your child is talking in class too much? Help her focus, pay attention, and learn in class with these gentle and effective tips.
SSBE reader Jeanette saw the dreaded teacher’s note.
As usual, it said her child had been disrupting the class again with her nonstop talking. She’s getting left behind because she’s missing or misunderstanding instructions.
What to do when your child is talking in class too much
Jeanette has tried punishment, which never seems to work. And both she and her teacher recognize her daughter is a bright girl. But she’s running out of ideas on how to get her daughter to focus and stop talking in class.
Find the reason
A talkative child isn’t usually a troublemaker, so it’s important to find the reason why. As in Jeanette’s case, acknowledge that your child is bright and has many positive traits. Talking in class a lot doesn’t always mean a lack of eagerness to learn or the inability to do well in school. It could mean she…
- feels like that’s the only time she gets attention, whether from the teacher or her classmates.
- feels bored with the material and needs something more challenging.
- is too challenged with the material at school and needs help understanding it.
- sits next to a talkative friend.
- needs frequent physical breaks (in this case, ask her teacher to make sure she’s active and gets the “jiggles” out during the day)
- is six years old and perhaps entering school. This could be the first time she’s competing for attention with other children
As you can see, the reasons aren’t always as obnoxious as it seems. Dig deep and find solutions for the most likely reason.
Ask open ended questions to come up with solutions.
Kids have a knack for not only coming up with their own solutions, but sticking to them because they came up with it. Before doling our your own suggestions, see if she can brainstorm a few of her own. And you do this by asking open ended questions. For instance:
- “What happens when you’re talking in class and you can’t the teacher’s instructions?”
- “What are the classroom rules about turn-taking or talking out of turn?”
Then encourage her to come up with her own solutions. If she can’t or doesn’t want to, suggest a few of your own. She can…
- fold or sit on her hands when she feels the urge to talk.
- raise her hand before talking.
- write her thoughts on a piece of paper first.
Practice turn-taking and back and forth conversations at home.
Practicing turn-taking habits at home cements the idea of waiting. She’ll have more chances to control her impulses.
- Build good habits at home. For instance, stop her from interrupting conversations. If she’s talking too much, remind her it’s not time to talk yet, or that it’s quiet time. You’ll want to do this naturally and respectfully, not like she did something wrong. It’d be as natural as telling her “It’s Monday.” Avoid placing guilt—you’re just stating a fact.
- Play games that involve taking turns. Board games make for a fun activity that involves turn-taking. Or make your own listening and telling games where you each takes turns talking or telling a story. Or read a book together but take turns reading pages aloud (you read one page, she reads the next).
Praise her when she’s behaving well.
Despite her constant talking, your child will at some point be able to contain her urge to talk. During these times, praise her when you catch her behaving well and not speaking out of turn. Maybe her teacher can do the same, even if it’s just a quick whisper of acknowledgment that she waited to speak. It’s way more effective to praise the behavior you want to see than to correct the behavior you don’t.
Have your child write her thoughts first.
Want to practice impulse control at home with your child? Have her write her thoughts first each time she interrupts. Sometimes kids feel an urge to talk because they think they won’t remember if they don’t say it right now.
By writing it down—even just key words—she now has something to refer to when the appropriate time to speak comes up. She’ll feel reassured she won’t forget what she has to say while giving other people a chance to finish speaking.
She might also find herself too tired to write her thoughts, at which point, she can develop impulse control. Between a choice of writing it down and simply waiting her turn, she just might learn to wait more often.
Avoid making talking a bad thing.
Talking a lot is not a bad thing. I’d hate for any child to grow up thinking she got punished for talking. Or to associate her opinion, speaking up or sharing her ideas as something negative.
While you’re teaching her the skill of turn-taking, don’t discourage her enthusiasm to talk and express herself. That’s a positive trait in itself. (You can imagine the many parents who wish they can get their kids to talk more.)
Instead, focus on teaching social skills and etiquette. Teach her when it’s appropriate to talk, and when it’s time to listen. Talking is a great skill, but so are listening, being quiet, and, most importantly, knowing the difference.
Get more tips:
- Remember to Praise Your Child’s Positive Behavior
- Parenting Your Strong Willed Child
- Help Your Child WANT to Behave
- How to Stop Your Child from Interrupting and What to Do Instead
- Unfair Reasons We Get Mad at Our Kids
And read My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook with your child. The story talks about why kids interrupt and ways to stop.
Tell me in the comments: Does your child struggle with learning how to stop talking in class? What are some ways to encourage children to practice turn-taking and listening (instead of just talking)?
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