HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

How Can I Help My Child Talk Less in Class?

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My daughter has continually talked in class since pre-k and nothing seems to stop her. I have had her pediatrician talk to her and I've implemented punishments, such as keeping her in, taking away privileges and even a combination of the two. She claims she doesn't know why she continually does this. I explained that it's a distraction for her teacher and the other students not to mention embarrassing to me. How should I handle this?


I believe your daughter when she says that she doesn't understand why she is doing this. If this behavior has been occurring since pre-k, it is possible that it has become a conditioned response or habit.

There were probably initial "reasons." In pre-k she might have been anxious and talking helped soothe her or provided her with a needed connection. Over time this "overly talkative" behavior can become unintentionally reinforced and she responds to a variety of situations by talking, regardless of the initial motivation or appropriateness of the current situation.

When talkativeness becomes disruptive there may be other origins for this behavior, such as learning challenges, ADHD, anxiety, physical illnesses, medication reactions, depression and so forth.

Often children with poor impulse control show other disruptive behaviors as well, that occur both at home and at school. They interrupt or continuously talk over adults and peers. They have low frustration tolerance, poor decision making skills, and difficulty with their peer relationships. They may have poor school performance. It would be important to explore if any other behaviors are troublesome, to make sure that you address all of your daughter's needs. A student study team might be a good first step in helping you start the process.

Consequences are not enough if there is not a thorough understanding of the issue. A successful behavior plan shows both awareness of "the problem," clearly defined goals, and a plan to teach new skills to substitute for the unwanted behavior. To help reduce your frustration and concern, you might consider using a school counselor or a behavioral pediatrician to help you better understand the origins of the behavior, the function of the behavior now, as well as learn new coping strategies for everyone involved.

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 readers

"I have the same issue with my 2nd grade daughter. She has had this issue since pre-K and she even admits that she's not comfortable just being quite. She does well in school, but is a total distraction to her classmates and teachers. I'd like to see more advice on this topic as the above article from Debra Collins is a little to vague for me. How does one go about finding a behavioral pediatrician? "
"Im having the same problem with my 6 yr old. Hes above average when it comes to his work. He has the tendency to always disrupt the class. Fed up with the teacher constantly telling me hes talkative, loud, and too playful during work time. Dont know what to do. I take away his toys, make him do extra homework, make him read all day... Nothing seems to be working. Next day he does it over again. Ive sat with him on a reg basis and spoke to him about it.. Hiis answer... Dont know why I do it. I need help.... "