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Parenting Help: When your child won't stop talking

Updated on March 4, 2011

Verbal diarrhea

Some kids once they learn to speak are like one endless run on sentence that only takes a break when they sleep or leave the room and it doesn’t seem to stop until the day they move out of the home. For some parents this can be a problem but many parents don’t believe there is much they can do about it. They often assume their child is just a loquacious extrovert and that talking is just a big part of their personality. While this is certainly true to some extent, talking without really communicating can be a behavior problem while knowing when and how to use the gift of the gab is an important social skill just like any other.

When your child first began to talk you were probably very attentive and encouraging and you couldn’t wait for them to learn new words. This is the natural supportive response that most parents should have as their child develops language aptitude. Listening to kids learn to speak is an exciting event for many parents and there is no reason not to encourage the acquisition of this new skill. But at some point children also need to learn that they may need to develop a certain degree of self control regarding when and how they speak.

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What not to do

As parents we certainly don’t want to discourage our child continually improving language abilities. We should spend time helping them with new vocabulary and encouraging them to use proper grammar and more and more complex sentence structures. Some conscientious parents might feel uncomfortable telling their kids to stop talking because they want to encourage their language skills, but many other parents may ask their children to refrain from speaking at certain times in ways that are really not productive and may even discourage a child’s language skills. Telling a child to be quiet, or even to shut up, while using a harsh tone of voice can often cause kids to feel more and more insecure about whether they are being acknowledged and heard by their parents. In some cases kids will even begin to talk louder and louder as their need to be significant often out ranks their need to comply with their parents wishes.

Teaching self restraint

As parents we certainly don’t want to discourage our child continually improving language abilities. We should spend time helping them with new vocabulary and encouraging them to use proper grammar and more and more complex sentence structures. Some conscientious parents might feel uncomfortable telling their kids to stop talking because they want to encourage their language skills, but many other parents may ask their children to refrain from speaking at certain times in ways that are really not productive and may even discourage a child’s language skills. Telling a child to be quiet or to even shut up, while using a harsh tone of voice, can often cause kids to feel more and more insecure about whether they are being acknowledged and heard by their parents. In some cases kids will even begin to talk louder and louder as their need to be significant often out ranks their need to comply with their parents wishes.

Using play to encourage communication skills in kids

Still, some kids may need to learn the social skills required for a genuine give and take conversation. They need to learn that the skill of listening is just as important as the skill of talking. Many parents can help their children by playing with them. It is much easier to correct and help our children when their minds are open and they are playing. I am sorry officer Bob but I am a taxpaying citizen and I expect to be treated properly. I need you to listen to me when I am speaking to you and trying to explain why I was speeding. It doesn’t matter how realistic our play is as long as it is something we can later use as a reminder to help our child develop better communication skills.

Learning cues

Lastly, we can further help our children by explaining that an important part of conversing with others is being able to read the signs when the person they are speaking to is no longer paying attention to what they are saying. Helping our kids learn that when a person is distracted and fidgeting, when they are looking away or off in the distance, when their eyes glaze over, or when their body language becomes closed or defensive (i.e. crossing of the arms, turning sideways) these are cues that the other person is no longer engaged in the conversation. They need to learn that when they notice these cues it means they should probably turn the attention of the conversation to the other person and they can do this by asking that person a question.

Children who learn to read social cues and have a good understanding that communication is a two way process will be much less likely to continue to engage in long one way run on conversations. Kids who are able to feel they will be genuinely listened to at other times and who also learn self restraint will also be better able to learn to communicate in a more effective manner. As parents our goal should be less about stopping our children from talking too much and more about teaching them self restraint and effective communication skills that will improve their overall social skills.

Giving attention

The flip side of this is that we need to spend some time every day engaging with our children, asking them what they are doing, and giving them our undivided attention. The more they feel they are really being listened to by someone who is present and mindful the less they will feel the need to blather on endlessly in an insecure quest for acknowledgment and attention. Often kids who try to talk over us or who have a habit of talking louder and louder are doing so because they really don’t know any other way to gain attention. The more we fill this need in a truly genuine way the less they will do it at other times. When we do this, we are also modeling how to listen properly.

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    • profile image

      Anita Bushell 

      5 years ago

      Hi TP: Just read your blog for the first time and it was super helpful. I quoted a section of it on my blog:

      http://anitabushell.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.ph...

      Will definitely be back for more!

    • profile image

      Brenda 

      5 years ago

      OMG....I had two hyperactive boys and now they are grown and one has a hypreactive daughter age 4. When I was younger I was able to put up with the non-stop talking, but now at 56 it really stresses me out. I love my granddaughter, but feel I am unworthy of her because I can't stand the non-stop talking. It actually tires me out and wants me to retreat behind closed doors.

    • TPSicotte profile imageAUTHOR

      TPSicotte 

      7 years ago from The Great White North

      Thanks D, Steph and Lily. D I think the worst is when we are on the phone and they haven't needed to say anything for the hour before that buy now that we are occupied what they have to say is of the utmost urgency.

      Steph that is great advice when it comes to a child who is always asking questions. What is a reasonable amount by the way?

      Lily I feel a little overwhelmed just reading you comment. Brings me back to when my kids were smaller and just didn't quite have that off button.

    • Lily Rose profile image

      Lily Rose 

      7 years ago from A Coast

      I am trying very hard to read all of this while my 4-year-old is standing next to me talking non-stop! This is my life every day. I sometimes feel like I'm going to explode if she doesn't stop talking! I try and ask her nicely to give me 5 minutes of quiet and it never works. Seriously, she doesn't stop talking ALL DAY! And it's not a lot of questions, although Steph's suggestion is a good one. Also, I don't think that at her age she is able to take the cues of distraction to mean it's time to stop talking - even if she did, she probably wouldn't care! Sorry, I didn't mean for this to be a rant - as much as it drives me crazy at times, I often laugh about it!

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      A trick we learned from a child psychologist (for kids ages 3 and up) is to ask them how many questions would you like to ask today? Suggest a reasonable number of 10-15. Then, gently warn them as they reach that number throughout the day. Kids learn skills to help them self-monitor and it gives both sides some boundaries and predictable results. :)

    • Ddraigcoch profile image

      Emma 

      7 years ago from UK

      You have some great points and practice views. My children could power the national grid with their talking. I have to show restraint some times. They do get told to wait if they try to butt in whilst I am mid conversation with another Adult. I then let them know when I have finished and I am free to talk to.

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