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My son is 6 and can often "talk too much". He could talk for hours if nobody stopped him. This is mainly with adults, because they stick around out of politeness. His peers usually just walk away when they had enough.

Mind you, I'm pretty proud of his loquacity. I think it's a good trait. However this often interferes with important tasks: he would talk over his teacher in class, talk to the swimming instructor during the lesson, interrupt people talking, etc.

I don't want to repress him but obviously the teachers are starting to complain. And interrupting others is not polite.

We tried to explain that during lessons he has to pay attention and that it's rude to interrupt others unless it's an emergency but he doesn't seem to take it in.

What should we do?

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    How well does he do in conversations, the taking turns aspect, in particular? Can you explain whether he usually stays on topic / the given context when he keeps talking? – Stephie Jan 28 '20 at 16:33
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    @Stephie the biggest issue is that his conversation has usually nothing to do with the context. He always brings it to his own interests. He then stays on HIS topic. – algiogia Jan 28 '20 at 16:39
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First consider that your child might have ADHD. Read about it here (search ADD and ADHD or click this tag) If it's likely, have the child tested and take things from there as well.

Mind you, I'm pretty proud of his loquacity.

It sounds as though loquacity may (consciously or unconsciously) have been encouraged by you. This is no different than delighting in baby's other achievements, but we don't delight in a 6 yr old's ability to walk anymore. It's time to teach and reinforce what words are actually for: communication. Also teach what they are not for: a means to get and keep someone's attention.

If you do not, less polite people might (by their actions) let your child know they are disliked for their rudeness (as is being done at present by his peers.) Please take this in the spirit it's given: I care for your child's self-esteem, and ideally that self esteem should be based on something of value.

First, I advocate strongly for giving a child a rich emotional vocabulary, so that they can identify the great variety of feelings they have, which is the first step in addressing them.

I would take a five pronged approach:

  1. Stop admiring the ability to speak for long periods of time.
  2. Practice concise speech and model it for your child. Make sure to avoid unnecessary interruptions.
  3. Identification of problematic verbosity (discussing why and feelings).
  4. Gamification/praise for concise speech and good communication; and finally
  5. Teach the importance of manners (to show others the respect one would want others to show oneself), which requires self-control (also praiseworthy.)

I love words, and one of my favorite words is laconic: "the skill of saying much in few words." According to Plutarch, Philip II of Macedon called on the Spartans to surrender, sending them the following message: "If I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city." The Spartans sent a messenger with the answer: If. Phillip did not attack.

Example of approach #3:

Child: interrupts you and goes off on a long tangent....
You: "(loving nickname), I heard what you said, but I have a question for you: why did you say all that just now?
Child: "What do you mean?/Huh?/Because I wanted to!/other"
You: "But what made you want to say it so badly that you needed to interrupt me?

Keep at it until you get an emotion underlying is interruption, but you need to teach these emotion-words first. Some possibilities: Because I wasn't interested in/bored with what you were saying, because I was excited about x, because I was feeling impatient, because I wanted you to listen to me, because I wanted to feel important (I feel important when people listen to me..."), then discuss the behavior-emotion tie as non-judgmentally as possible. Repeat every time this behavior occurs. He will either find the reason he does this, give up, or change the subject (which brings you back to the first step.)

Example of approach #4:

Child: goes off on a long tangent....
You: "(loving nickname), I heard what you said and I'm interested, but can you say it again in fewer words? If you can say it in (reasonable number of words), you get a sticker (with nice enough rewards for x number of stickers so as to truly encourage him.)"
Child: lotsalotsawords
You: "Let's see, does that mean (you say it in many fewer words)?"
Child: "Well, yeah, but-"
You: "See if you can say it in fewer words like I did, and see if you can get a sticker."

Example of approach #5:

Child: interrupts you and starts to go off on a tangent
You: "(loving nickname), did you just interrupt me?"
Child: "No, I just-"
You: "(loving nickname), I know you want to change the subject to x, but really, did you interrupt me?"
Child: "Maybe, but-"
You: "Name, wen I get interrupted, I feel lonely (or whatever is true.)
Child: "Lonely? Why do you feel lonely?"
You: "Because when no one listens to what I'm saying, I feel like I'm all alone, even though I'm not, and I feel lonely." (Whatever is true and not too promoting of the child's guilt.)

Do you think this is a lot of work? Because it is. But you want to help your child.

This is what I would do.

Also, read about how to help a child pay attention (and other sites) and how to help a child stop interrupting.

Also, I am not laconic. I wish I were.

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  • Thank you for your answer. I said I'm happy of his loquacity but I don't praise my son for that. Actually we tell him often that it's not OK to talk that much, especially with strangers (he once entertained a 1hour long conversation with a random lady in the train). We spoke with his school teacher this morning and said he's improving and interrupting less. I will have a look at the links. – algiogia Jan 29 '20 at 10:42
  • "...he once entertained a 1hour long conversation with a random lady in the train" Why did you let this happen? Telling him it's not OK but letting him do it anyway isn't a good message to send. This is a learned behavior. You need to work on this with him. – anongoodnurse Jan 29 '20 at 13:20
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    We tried but then the lady said it was OK ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ – algiogia Jan 29 '20 at 14:38
  • It's either ok or it's not. If someone else decides for you, you're not doing the parenting, the stranger on the train is. One of the most beneficial habits a parent can have is consistency. You asked how to change your son's behavior. Letting other people decide isn't achieving your goal. You have to decide what's right for your child and how to go about it. Not infrequently, that means saying no when someone else says, "Go ahead." – anongoodnurse Jan 29 '20 at 19:38
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Maybe your kid has something to say. Teaching them to interact in a non-disruptive way, or to speak for quieter members in a group setting might be good. Showing children others with normal behavior will help them calibrate themselves. Don't crush the wonderful individuality of your child with expectations and drugs unless there is a REAL PROBLEM.

Humans have a range of behaviors, and if its not truly creating a problem for others you should relax and worry about yourself. You can also model good behavior by having him repeat what you say, then respond to it, you repeat what he said and then respond to it. This simple exercise should help you both communicate better. Children need attention. Speaking to your child, reading to them or with them can help them get their words in and promote better personal interaction in the future. Lack of communication is this generations problem, not too much of it! Some people simply talk more than others. And that is ok.

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