HomeHealth & BehaviorBehavior & Discipline

Ask the Experts

My child is too talkative

By Debra Collins, Family therapist


My kindergartner is talkative and rarely quiet. She wants to talk while dressing, eating and brushing her teeth. She is also talkative at school. The teacher thinks it's cute because she is a good student. However it is a problem because she needs to know that it is not OK to talk all the time. We have set up a system at school and home where we remind her to have her ears open and mouth closed.

At home she will disregard my statements about it not being time to talk. If I stop doing everything and say, "Now let's talk," she has nothing to say. It's driving me and her father bonkers. She is an only child. Could this have something to do with it? Any suggestions on how I can help her to be less talkative would be greatly appreciated.


From your description, I envision a relaxed, talkative child who is enthusiastic about her experiences. Five-year-olds typically enjoy conversing. They are interested in language and ask a lot of questions.

I think you and your husband taught her the power of communication. She clearly feels heard and understood and, because she is only five, thinks that everyone will respond to her as you both have. As you observed, she is no longer the only child and now needs to learn to delay gratification. You want her to understand the concept of waiting and appropriate timing without shaming her or making her anxious. I have seen children go from being chatty to becoming anxious and withdrawn.

Perhaps rather than “ears open and mouth closed,”i t might be better to say, “It is time to wait and listen.” When she has stopped to listen, guide her to reflect on what was said. After repeating what was said, she can then add her thoughts. Her teacher can also encourage this give-and-take as a way to teach conversation skills and slow down the process. Some teachers use a “talking stick.” The child with the stick is the only one who can speak.

At home she is not used to “Now let’s talk.” She probably feels more self-conscious and has forgotten what she was about to say. If you want to introduce this concept, try creating a special sharing time at home. Dinner is a natural time to attempt this, and you can each take turns going first. It might be awkward in the beginning, but she’ll get better at it. Give her other opportunities to talk such as reading out loud. I imagine there will be a time when you look back on this period fondly — perhaps when she is an adolescent.

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

"Hi All, I'm facing the same problem both of you are facing. My daughter is OK at home, she's very expressive and i allow her to do many creative things that she like, such as art and craft, cooking, playing games. She also love chores like folding clothes , cleaning up after she play and taking care of her younger sister. To me, she's a very obidient girl, although she could be quite chatty, talkative and loves to play with her peers. I don't understand why some teachers sees this as a problem instead of it being her channel of expressing herself and just as simple as accepting it as her characteristic. I know of some parents who have problems in getting their children to speak up, but i guess teachers like my daughter's would probably like those type of kids. It's so unbearable to see myself scolding my daughter for being herself instead of phrasing her for doing well in school. I see that her teachers discounts so much her ability to do well in her studies just because she's chatty and abit playful. Some teachers have boring ways of teaching as well that could lead kids who catch things up very quickly to turn to something else when they already get what is being taught. I'm really in a dillema because I've been scolding my daughter for many days now to ask her to stop talking in class and i think i'm just building a barrier between us. She loves me and likewise and i really want to focus on positive motivation rather than this, but her teacher keeps on telling me about her chattiness and it often creates anger and frustration in me. "
"YES! I am a teacher/parent and I agree that many teacher's are too focused on talking. It seems like teacher's want it to be quiet ALL of the time. I try to focus on: are the children learning. I try to 'see little and hear little' during activity time. I teach in a really good public school, where at times it seems the teacher's focus on the negative. Luckily the district and administration keeps the focus on learning and positivity. I suggest that you continue to focus on the positive and your child's progress. Explain to the teacher that you have high expectations for your child and his progress. Meet with the teacher if possible. Inquire about opportunities for hands on activities and group discussions within the classroom. Ask if there is a 'job' your child can assist with. Possibly your child just needs a little extra attention during class. Ask the teacher for suggestions and solutions. If the teacher cannot offer any, advise the teacher you will seek ! suggestions and solutions from the principal. Some teacher's just need help and motivation on how to deal with a loquacious, chatty student. "
"My 7.5 year-old-son is in 2nd grade and has had issues with being too talkative at school. He can sit still and watch movies and I would not classify him as hyper... he acts like a typical little boy. We struggled with this last year too and I hoped that he would mature a little more over the summer and this year would be better. His teacher called me on the 3rd day of school this year asking if I had ever considered medication for him. Talking seems to be the only thing he gets into trouble for at school, he is not disrespectful, is not mean to other kids or other mischievous things that some get into trouble for. His teacher last year said she didn't think it was anything medication could help with, his counselor, his doctor and myself do not see consistent ADHD characteristics. He seems to do good for a week or two, and then he gets into trouble again and we have been on a 3 bad day stretch this week. I get so frustrated, I just don't know what else to do. His punishment at home for getting into trouble at school is that he has to write sentences and he started with 20 sentences for his first offense and each time he gets into trouble he has to add 10 more sentences. He is already at 70 sentences...I have figured out that this is not going to work for long as he is going to have to write more sentences than he can in one evening. I still want him to be able to play outside in the evening for exercise, but have I take phone, TV and game privileges away when he has been in trouble at school. I don't want this to be a rough year and am starting to feel like a broken record in the mornings when we go through the whole what kind of day are we going to have today, and how are you going to do that? I am totally stressed out by this! I also don't want him to have low self esteem because he is always in trouble for TALKING! Part of me really feels that some teachers are too focused on medicating kids rather than letting them be kids. My ex husband and I have talked and agree that we would not want to medicate him even if it was ADHD or something, but I feel that is what is being pushed for. I hate that I get that sick feeling in my stomach every day that he comes home and has been warned (which they get a yellow card for) or even worse actually got into to trouble and got a red card. Thankfully we have more yellows than red, but yellow is still unacceptable to me. Does anyone have any ideas? I want to be supportive of the teacher, but also think that a lot of things like this really should be dealt with at school. I think back to when I was in school and it wasn't like this. I got into trouble at school for talking WAY too much...but unless it was bad enough to be sent to the principal or sat out in the hall they didn't send anything home. Are they making too big of a deal out of talking???"