By Amita Bhardwaj
To be summoned by the school teacher for her five-year-old was nothing short of overwhelming for Sunita. She had earlier heard about how “talkative” Vansh was in class, but had never given it too much importance. A working mom, she herself had little peace and quiet with Vansh around, talking nineteen to the dozen. “Vansh is a bright boy but talks so much that he barely stops to listen to instructions,” was the gist of what the teacher had to tell Sunita.
Sounds familiar? Then, read on.
First things first; amid the constant protests about the child talking too much, we tend to overlook the positive facets of the little one’s personality. Typically, a talkative child is one who loves to socialise, is friendly and outgoing. Ever so often these aspects, however, are camouflaged by the child’s nonstop chatter and one tends to be weighed down by this singular aspect of the child’s personality. On days when you are particularly feeling at the end of your tether it may help to remind yourself of this lovely quote. “If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”
Here are some constructive ways of coping with a chatty little one:
Steer clear of labelling
Constantly labelling a child as being “too talkative” or a “chatterbox” and perpetually asking them to quieten down may turn out to be damaging to their self-esteem in the long run. Long after you stop associating the child with these labels, the child will continue to tell these stories to himself and the labels tend to become his or her reality putting severe limits on the child’s potential.
Set aside one-on-one time
While the rigmarole of life may mean you may not be able to pay too much attention to the constant babble, ensure you set aside quality one-on-one time where you give the child undivided attention. Maintain eye contact and show interest in what the child says irrespective of how mundane it may seem to you.
Play the “quiet game”
While talking is an important aspect of communication, the one other thing that you need to teach the child is the importance of silence, of listening. Playing the quiet game, where the person who breaks the silence first, loses, can go a long way in helping the child develop the quality of keeping silent, even if in the spirit of winning the game. Similarly, it will help to play the game where you take turns telling stories. This is particularly helpful if the child has an introvert sibling, who almost never gets a chance to get a word in.
It will also help if you establish boundaries early. Point out how it is not okay to talk in the library or when others are engrossed in work or watching their favourite show. Similarly, help the child pick up social cues such as body language and tone of voice. Helping the child name his own emotions will help him recognise similar emotions in others. Similarly, help him recognise body language in other people. Drawing attention to someone standing with her arms crossed and speaking in a certain manner will help the child pick up body language cues. Charades that offer different facial expressions can also be a good way to introduce the child to picking up social cues.
This one is not for the child, but for the parents. The fact is that despite your best efforts there would be times where you feel particularly underwater. The idea is not to drive yourself to this state. Instead, give yourself 10-15 minutes of me-time every day. It could well be a music break if you are a music aficionado. Chances are that the child will stop to listen to the music too.
If done correctly, over-chatter is something you would be able to constructively manage with most kids. There are, however, some medical issues that could have over-talking as one of their symptoms. Ensure that you are mindful of them:
Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
Children with ADHD are known to do a number of things in excess, including talking.
Kids with Aspergers Syndrome find it particularly difficult to pick up social cues and hence among other things land up monopolising conversations.
Nonverbal Learning Disorder
This is often associated with a pronounced difficulty in recognising and processing nonverbal cues — body language, facial expression, as well as the nuances of conversation.
If at any point you feel that the child’s over-talking could be related to any of the above conditions, do seek professional help.
(The writer is VP-Curriculum, Footprints Childcare.)