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My Child Talks Out of Turn in Class

By Debra Collins, Family therapist

Question:

My first-grader gets at least one warning a week from his teacher for talking in class and/or blurting out the answer. He is in the gifted and talented program. My child and two others in his regular class get accelerated work. Should I be concerned or is it typical for first-grade boys to get at least one warning a week on their behavior chart? I have asked the teacher for a conference. I've also started taking away privileges at home.

Answer:

Many teachers use behavior charts for classroom management. These help a child learn what is expected of them and provide tools to practice self-control. Learning appropriate social skills and coping mechanisms are important factors in children's development. It is great that you have scheduled a conference with the teacher because it will inform you more about the nature of his behavior and if there is a pattern. For example, talking to his classmates because he is already finished with his work and doesn't know what to do with himself is different from acting out. Many children need help with waiting their turn so it is not unusual for children to get excited and blurt out an answer. Having a more thorough understanding of his behavior will help you know how to guide him at home and determine if taking away privileges is the most appropriate action.

Your son's teacher is using logical consequences with the behavior chart. He is not being punished; he is being taught that if he is not following the classroom rules the logical consequence is a warning. There are many different styles of behavior charts and incremental degrees of the consequences. You may want to use a similar system at home as part of your discipline regime. I do not know all the details about your son's misbehavior, but I don't think one warning a week is excessive; it is part of his learning process.

I applaud your prompt response to this situation. Early intervention and your willingness to learn about what your son needs will help keep him enthusiastic about learning. For more information on natural and logical consequences try Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, Ed.D. This book is a classic for both parents and teachers.


Debra Collins is a licensed marriage and family therapist and has worked in both primary and middle schools as a school counselor. She gives workshops to teachers and students and offers parenting classes in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more, visit her website.

Advice from our experts is not a substitute for professional diagnosis or treatment from a health-care provider or learning expert familiar with your unique situation. We recommend consulting a qualified professional if you have concerns about your child's condition.

Comments from GreatSchools.org readers

01/13/2012:
"Only one warning a week? Seriously? This child is completely normal. Chill out. "
03/28/2011:
"My grandson seems to have a problem talking in class. His mother says she has tried everything. I as a Grandmother would like some advise as to correct this. I am willing to help in any way that I can, he is a very intelligent child but can not keep his mouth shut in class. PLEASE HELP!!"
09/24/2009:
"My son is in 3rd grade. He STAR tested on 6th grade in reading and on 8th grade in math. He is an only child and accustomed to being the center of attention. He is easily frustrated in class b/c he is always the first to know the answer and seldom called on b/c the teacher knows he is smart. He is a talker and the teacher is threatening to take points off his grades for talking in class or the hallway. I teach at the same school and don't want conflict, but feel this is an unfair practice. What do you think?"
02/27/2009:
"Same case with my 1st grader son. He gets timeouts or warnings alomost every day for talking and disruptive behavior. He usually says, my teacher needs to give me more harder problems. He listens to us at home without talking back. I never had such complaints from his Montessori school where he did kindergarten. What do I do? "
01/10/2007:
"my daughter goes into timeout everyday because she usually finishes her work before her classmates. we started taking away things from her as well, and out her im timeout at home, but nothing seems to work with her. should the teacher find others things for her to do or should we remove her from class and find a teacher that can come up with more creative things for my daughter to do, then sit in the corner of the classroom?"
01/10/2007:
"My first grader also gets in trouble for talking, but he gets bad marks for it almost every day and even a note on his report card every six weeks. I've discussed this with his teacher, and the main thing we've concluded is that he's probably bored since he seems to know almost everything she's teaching. Gifted classes don't start until 2nd grade, but at least he's involved in an accelerated reading program. We've tried taking away privileges at home for his repeated marks, but that didn't seem to alter his behavior at school. So, we've stopped using this form of discipline for his excess talking and are reserving it for other forms of misbehavior (which are much less frequent). Do you have any other suggestions that I could give his teacher for getting the excess talking under control? I know she can only supplement his classwork to a certain extent since there are about 25 students in the class. Thanks! "
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