What to do if your child is talking in class too much? Learn how to help kids focus and pay attention in class with these effective tips.
The dreaded teacher’s note.
As usual, it says your child has been disrupting the whole class again with his nonstop talking. That he was getting left behind because he was missing or misunderstanding instructions.
He’s been getting in trouble nearly every day for talking when he’s not supposed to. And since he’s social and loves attention, it’s like he’s “rewarded” for the negative behavior.
You’ve tried “punishments” at home, which never seem to work. He’s a bright child, but you’re running out of ideas on how to get him to stop talking in class. And you’re worried that the lack of focus and inability to pay attention will lead to bad grades in school.
How to get your child to stop talking in class
These are valid concerns for any mom whose child struggles with talking too much in class. It doesn’t help that you’re not there in the classroom to monitor your child’s behavior, much less discipline him 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 he’s behaving in class.
If this sounds all too familiar, read on. You can still do plenty at home to help him stop talking in class so much, as well as with his 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 your child is out to cause trouble. Finding the reasons he talks so much in class allows you to dig deep and address those issues instead of focusing only on the talking.
Learn six common reasons kids talk a lot in class:
He could be talking in class because he…
- feels like that’s the only time he gets attention, whether from the teacher or his classmates.
- feels bored with the material at school.
- is too challenged with the lesson he’s learning at school.
- sits next to a talkative friend.
- needs frequent physical breaks.
- is entering school (and is the first time he’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 issues before he feels compelled to talk out of turn.
If he need frequent, physical breaks, his teacher can make sure he remains active, has plenty of hands-on activities, and gets the “jiggles” out. Appropriate work for his academic level as well as sitting away from fellow talkative friends can help as well.
Free resource: Raising a strong-willed child? Grab 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child! Discover 5 ways to nurture and work with—not against—his inner spirit and strong personality. You’ll also get my newsletters, which parents say they LOVE:
“Your newsletters are very interesting and truly inspiring.” -Salma Lim
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 guidelines 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?”
The answers to these questions can give you valuable insight. 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 his mind that he finds any opportunity to share them with others. While sharing ideas is fantastic, so is listening, especially because it’s an act of respect, curiosity, and friendship.
One way to encourage a fair exchange of dialogue is to practice turn-taking habits at home. This teaches him how to wait and listen, allowing him to practice controlling her impulses.
For instance, stop him from interrupting conversations. Hold up a finger or hand as a sign that it’s not his 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 he did something wrong. It’d be as natural as telling him “It’s Saturday.” 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, he 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 the urge to interrupt. During these times, praise him when you catch him 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 his teacher to do the same, even if it’s just a quick whisper of acknowledgment that he 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 young children 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
Disclosure: This article contains affiliate links, which means I will earn a commission—at no extra cost to you—if you make a purchase.
At the end of the day, talking a lot is not a bad thing. I’d hate for any child to think 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 his enthusiasm to express himself, 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 he 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 he can try. Practice turn-taking and back-and-forth conversations at home, praising him when he makes an effort.
If he feels the urge to speak out of turn, encourage him to carry a notepad to write his thoughts to refer to at a better time. And finally, don’t make talking a bad thing—you wouldn’t want the opposite where he 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:
- 6 Tips to Make Your Morning Routine for School Run Smoothly
- 5 Useful Tools to Teach Impulse Control for Kids
- Help Your Child Transition to Preschool (and Calm Your Nerves as Well!)
- Questions to Ask Kids about School to Spark Conversation
- 6 Useful Back to School Tips for Parents and Kids
Don’t forget: Join my newsletter and grab 5 Tips to Raising a Strong-Willed Child:
Open ended questions and practicing at home seem to be great solutions for so many issues!
Nina Garcia says
Yup, Steph—I even have a post coming up about open-ended questions 🙂
Sara Blood says
My third grader is constantly talking. She has been moved from table to table so I know that it’s not the other children. She is an only child and likes to be in charge. She is also testing high in both reading and math but I don’t think she’s necessarily bored. I’m not sure what to do anymore.
Nina Garcia says
I can imagine how exasperating this can be for you. I have a few additional suggestions. First, I’d consult with your child’s teacher to see if she can offer more hands-on activities and lively discussion with the kids on a regular basis. I’m wondering if the kids are expected to sit still too long while not giving enough opportunity to share her thoughts.
You and her teacher can also nurture her leadership skills. Perhaps she can lead class projects in school, or give her more independent responsibilities at home.
Also, if she’s exposed to excess screen time, consider reducing it to help hone her attention. I spoke with other teachers who’ve seen a rise in talkative children these last few years and many believe it can also be due to an increase in screen time, whether television, phones, tablets or computers.
At home, practice listening skills, such as looking one another in the eye when you’re speaking to each other. Don’t let her interrupt you as you’re speaking or other conversations she hears. You might also want to give her a journal that’s solely hers, where she can write her thoughts and feel like she’s gotten it out of her system. A girl I know who has been known to talk a lot credits writing in her journal every day to helping her manage.
Rest assured Sara that your daughter sounds like a fantastic girl with plenty of ideas, leadership and the willingness to speak up. These are fantastic skills, they just need to be channeled at the appropriate times.
We have EXACTLY the same situation with our third grader. Getting notes everyday about my alpha child who talks excessively non stop
This is my son exactly except for testing high in math! You are not alone. I am excited to try some of the tips and tricks – fingers crossed we can find the solution.
I think my 9 year old son try’s to be “the class clown” to get this certain group of friends to like him more. I get the teacher telling me he constantly disrupts class by talking and even when she tells him to stop and is trying to teach the class he carries on talking. He doesn’t interrupt at home and is a chatter box but I don’t know why he is being so disruptive at school. What sort of questions should I ask him? To find out why he is talking so much in school ?
Nina Garcia says
I would start by emphasizing true friendships and feeling confident in himself for who he is, not for who he thinks he needs to be to get others’ approval. It’s hard, but at the root of it, boys sometimes hide beneath masks, one of them being funny. I would ask him for suggestions on what he can do to keep himself from talking, or how he can concentrate more in class. If he has no responses, then suggest your own like the ones I mentioned in the article.
Also see if he’s either bored with the material at school or struggling with it. He could be having a hard time focusing when he’s either bored or confused by what is being taught in class.
Jenna Whitehead says
Oh my gosh, this is my child. She’s had a problem with talking since she was in pre-k. It’s so hard raising a social kid who is outgoing (She gets it from me), so I go back and forth between encouraging her to be herself and disciplining her for it. She’s in the first grade now and gets on yellow for talking once every two weeks. Some weeks are better or worse than others. I hate the color system sometimes because it is so much harder for a talkative and outgoing kid to get a better color than ones who are naturally quiet. Now, she gets “rewards” for staying on green, I paint her nails at home and I’m hoping seeing her nails during the day is a good reminder to make better choices during the day. If she gets a better report, I come eat lunch with her at school. What I hate now is that when I ask her how her day was, I’m looking for what she did and what she learned and her first response is what color she was on. I hate that. Oy, Parenting is hard.
Nina Garcia says
“I go back and forth between encouraging her to be herself and disciplining her for it.” <-- this exactly! Kids, no matter their temperament, go back and forth between being disciplined but at the same time encouraged to be who they are. I know quiet kids also get encouraged to "speak up" in class, and vice versa with talkative ones. One teacher of my son's also did the color system and to be honest, I didn't like the idea of it. Imagine an office space where everyone was ranked on their behavior, and everyone could plainly see who was trailing below. It makes it easier for kids to label a few as troublemakers, or others think they're just average, etc. I think teachers or parents have better luck giving talkative kids ways to cope when they feel the urge to speak. Maybe it's a little notebook to jot down a few words to "hold" their thoughts so they don't feel compelled to blurt it out, or encouraging listening skills when someone else is talking, or focusing on their thoughts or being in the moment when it's quiet time.
I am really glad that I came across this information. I have a 10 year old girl and I am really struggling. How do I deal with the “I don’t know” or the non-nonchalant attitude. I will try the open ended questions tonight, but would appreciate any more guidance. She has always been a “chatterbox” but now it’s getting to the point that she is being a distraction to others and not completing her work in class.
Nina Garcia says
Thanks, Alicia! It’s definitely tough to get kids to open up, and I’ve found that this is something we simply can’t force. Not only that, but the more we try to get them to talk, the less likely they will. A few things that can help though are more about the way we open up communication. One important thing is to know the right time to start conversations. I would wait when you are snuggling together or are happy. She’s less likely to feel attacked than asking her right when you get a note from the teacher. I’d also communicate in a way that doesn’t make her feel like she’s being lectured, but that you’re truly trying to help and understand the situation. You can show empathy or show that you’re on her side, as opposed to making her out to be the problem.
Jenitha Sarpong says
I’m grateful to have Come by this. I recently have been same notes about my son talking a lot in class. The only thing I’ve done is give him warnings upon warning n taken favorite things from him so I’m glad to try these steps
Nina Garcia says
Awesome, Jenitha! I’m glad the article is helpful and that you’ll be implementing these steps. Keep me posted on how it goes!
My son is in third grade and I have the same issue he disrupt the class and he gets up and walks around. The teacher mention as well that his grade are decreasing. The grades have been decreasing only in two classes, which I don’t think is bad but i know he is able to do better. The principal send me an email asking to bring him to the doctors because he needed to be medicated. can you please give me your opinion.
Nina Garcia says
Hi Anny! Sorry to hear about that. I would follow the teacher’s and principal’s suggestions and speak with his pediatrician. She may or may not prescribe medication, but at least you can rule it out or not. At home, I would also offer a lot of down time, where he isn’t always so stimulated all the time. Give him plenty of quiet time so he can process things during that time.
I’m sure glad I found this article! Having this issue with my 8 year old son who is in the second grade. I’ll give these tips a shot!