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.
The dreaded teacher’s note.
As usual, it says your child has been disrupting the class again with her nonstop talking. That she was getting left behind because she was missing or misunderstanding instructions.
She’s been getting in trouble nearly every day for talking when she’s not supposed to. And since she’s social and loves being the center of attention, it’s like she’s “rewarded” for negative behavior.
You’ve tried punishments at home, which never seem to work. She’s a bright child, but you and her teacher are running out of ideas on how to get her to stop talking in class. And you’re worried that the lack of focus and inability to pay attention will hold her back further in school.
How to get your child to stop talking in class
These are valid concerns for anyone whose child struggles with talking too much in class. It doesn’t help that you’re not there in the classroom to monitor her behavior, much less discipline her right then and there.
Then there’s the guilt and stigma of feeling reprimanded yourself. Even if it’s not the case, it’s easy to feel like you’re being judged for the way she’s behaving in class.
If this sounds all too familiar, read on. You can still do plenty at home to help your child stop talking in class so much, as well as with her teacher to come up with in-class solutions.
Take a look at these tips:
1. Find the deeper reason
Talking in class doesn’t always mean a lack of eagerness to learn, the inability to do well in school, or that a child is out to cause trouble. Finding the reasons your child talks so much in class allows you to dig deep and address those issues instead of focusing only on the talking.
Watch this video or read below to learn six common reasons kids talk a lot in class:
For instance, she could be talking in class because she…
- feels like that’s the only time she gets attention, whether from the teacher or her classmates.
- feels bored with the material at school.
- is too challenged with the material at school.
- sits next to a talkative friend.
- needs frequent physical breaks.
- is entering school (and is the first time she’s competing for attention with other children).
As you can see, the reasons aren’t as obnoxious as they might have first assumed. By finding possible culprits, you can then prevent and address these isues before she feels compelled to talk out of turn.
For instance, if she need frequent, physical breaks, her teacher can make sure she remains active, has plenty of hands-on activities, and gets the “jiggles” out during the day. Appropriate work for her academic level as well as sitting away from fellow talkative friends can help as well.
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2. 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 out your own suggestions, ask open ended questions to help your child brainstorm a few of her own.
You might ask:
- “What happens when you’re talking in class and you can’t hear the teacher’s instructions?”
- “What are the classroom rules about turn-taking or talking out of turn?”
- “How might your behavior cause problems for your friends?”
- “What can you do to concentrate more in class?”
Then, encourage her to come up with ideas on how to solve these problems. 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.
- look the person in the eye before talking.
Or let’s say she tries to be the “class clown” as a way to get the approval of her peers. Ask her what she thinks being a good friend means, or how her behavior might be disrupting her friends from learning. Suggest other times in the day she could make her friends laugh, like at lunch or recess.
You’re allowing her to own her problems—and the solutions to them—instead of trying to solve them yourself.
3. Practice turn-taking and back-and-forth conversations
Your child likely has so many ideas flowing through her mind that she finds any opportunity to share them with others. While sharing ideas is fantastic, so too is listening, especially when doing so is a sign of respect, curiosity, and friendship.
One way to encourage a fair exchange of conversation is to practice turn-taking habits at home. This teaches her how to wait and listen, allowing her to practice controlling her impulses.
For instance, stop her from interrupting conversations. Hold up a finger or hand as a sign that it’s not her turn to talk yet, and continue with what you’re saying (or encourage the person speaking to keep going). If need be, briefly stop the conversation and explain that you’re not done talking yet.
Do this naturally and respectfully, and not like she did something wrong. It’d be as natural as telling her “It’s Monday.” Avoid placing guilt—you’re simply stating a fact.
You can also play games that involve taking turns. Board games make for a fun turn-taking activity, or make your own games where you each take turns listening and telling a story. Another idea is to read a book together, taking turns to read the pages aloud (you read one page, she reads the next).
4. Praise your child 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.
You might say, “Thank you for waiting until your brother finished his story before talking.” Or “I noticed that you listened and followed my instructions.”
Ask her teacher to do the same, even if it’s just a quick whisper of acknowledgment that she waited to speak. Praising the positive behavior you want to see is far more effective than correcting the ones you don’t.
5. Have your child write her thoughts first
Sometimes kids feel an urge to talk out of turn because they assume they won’t remember if they don’t say it in that moment. When your child feels this urge, have her write her thoughts instead.
By writing it down—even a few 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.
Encourage her to keep a small notepad in her pocket to record these thoughts, and let her teacher in on the plan. Should she feel the urge to share a new idea, she can jot it down first before blurting it out at an inappropriate time.
With enough practice, she might even find that her impulse control has developed so much that she won’t need to write her thoughts each time. She’ll realize that she can simply hold her thought and wait for her turn to speak. Better yet, she’ll become a more curious listener and give the speaker her full attention.
6. Avoid making talking a bad thing
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At the end of the day, talking a lot is not necessarily 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.
Besides, plenty of parents wish their kids talked more in class, not less.
While you’re teaching your child how to take turns and pay attention, don’t discourage her enthusiasm to talk and express herself, either. That’s a positive trait in itself, after all. The problem isn’t about talking a lot as it is knowing the appropriate times to do so.
A great book to read is My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook. The story explains why kids interrupt and how they can find a way to stop:
No parent wants to see the dreaded note or to have the after school conversation about her child talking in class too much. Thankfully, you can do plenty to change this behavior in your child, even if you’re apart during the day.
Find the reason she could be talking a lot in class, from competing for attention to a lack of physical activity. Ask open ended questions, and together, come up with solutions she can try. Practice turn-taking and back-and-forth conversations at home, praising her when you catch her making an effort.
If she feels the urge to speak, encourage her to carry a notepad to write her thoughts. She can refer to these for a more appropriate time to talk without fear of forgetting her ideas. And finally, don’t make talking a bad thing—you wouldn’t want the opposite where she feels obligated to remain silent all the time.
Talking is a great skill, but so is listening, and the ability to know when to do each one.
Get more tips:
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- 5 Useful Tools to Teach Impulse Control for Kids
- Help Your Child Transition to Preschool (and Calm Your Nerves as Well!)
- 18 Sneaky Questions to Ask Kids about School
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