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 I have seen children go from being chatty to becoming anxious and withdrawn.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.
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.
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