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Mama Drama: Chilling a Chatterbox

Dear Mama Drama:

My five year old daughter is very bright, very verbal, and very passionate. She is a delight to be around most of the time and has tons of ideas and information to share, but she often struggles to let others have a turn talking in social situations. She gets so excited about what she wants to say that she interrupts or talks over others and then does not understand when they are frustrated with her. Her teachers have also noted this and indicate that it is beginning to have a negative effect on her friendships.

How can I help her learn to be more patient and honor what others have to say?

~Chattered Over Mama

 (photo credit)

Dear Chattered Over:

It is wonderful that you recognize the positives of your daughter’s intellect and enthusiasm. Helping her find the balance between  talking and listening will be an important life skill and will probably be a life long practice for her.

The first step is to raise her awareness about the behavior. A great place to start is a delightful book called My Mouth is a Volcano by Julia Cook. The story describes a little boy, very similar to your daughter, who feels like he is erupting with words and must let them out. Your daughter will hopefully identify with the little boy and begin to recognize how her erupting words impact her relationships. The book also demonstrates ideas to begin quelling the volcano.

Next, help her to notice when she is more prone to the behavior. As you recognize the situations that frequently lead to the overzealous talking, you can pre-plan with her to think about how she can handle these situations differently.

One strategy is to come up with a signal that will cue her to stop talking. When she starts to talk over someone or goes on too long, you give the signal – it can be a gesture, random word or phrase, or a song you start to hum. When the signal is given it is her job to finish her sentence and stop talking. It’s sort of like the music starting to play when the Oscar winners get a bit too long winded. Sharing this strategy with her teacher or other caregivers will also help her to be more successful.

Practice at home. You can practice during dinner conversation, when she’s with her siblings or friends, or do role plays of different scenarios.  During this practice help her notice the body language and facial expressions of those around her when she is listening, talking appropriately, and over talking.  Eventually, these social cues will replace your cues and help her to manage this independently.

Finally, give her time to talk.  Find a time each day when you can really sit and listen to your daughter as she shares the things she is enthusiastic and passionate about. Let her go on and on without interrupting. You can also set a time limit to help her begin to prioritize the things she most wants to tell you.

Motherhood is an amazing journey that can have its share of Mama Drama. The Mama Drama column runs on Fridays with everyday mothering questions from readers and answers providing strategies to tackle these daily challenges. Send your questions and challenges to [email protected], and your Mama Drama could be in next week’s column! Lisa is also available for private consultations. All emails and identifying information will remain confidential. Read more of Lisa’s parenting perspective at her Laughing Yoga Mama blog.

Mama Drama: Getting Kids to Tune In

Dear Mama Drama:

I have three children ages 2, 4, and 6. I struggle so much to get them to listen to me when I am giving directions or asking them questions. They don’t even listen when I’m trying to do something for them like fix a meal and give them a choice about something. I get so frustrated that I end up yelling at them.

This is clearly not working, but I don’t know what else to do.

~Tuned Out Mama

(photo credit)

Dear Tuned Out:

It is extremely frustrating when your kids don’t listen to you. Sticking with the same old patterns of repeating directions and yelling, however, will only bring the same results. You’ll have to change your approach in order to change their response.

First make sure you have their attention before you give any information. Go to where they are, say their name, get down to their level, and obtain eye contact. Some children need a physical touch such as a hand on their shoulder to move their attention from the activity in which they are engaged.

Give clear, concise directions. Know what you are going to say before you say it and use developmentally appropriate language. Limit the number of directions you give at one time again depending on the developmental level of the child to whom you are speaking.

Remember to support your child through the task. Your two year old will need more support and supervision than the six year old, but don’t expect the six year old to be completely independent.

Encourage your children even when they are not completely successful. Recognize the small steps along the way as they work toward a larger goal.

Natural consequences to not listening can also be very effective. If you are asking if they want pretzels or carrots for snack and they don’t respond, they don’t get a snack.

Sometimes hearing the same old directions in the same old way gets boring and is easy to tune out. Make a silly rhyme or sing the directions. If your kids needs to pick up toys make it into a game by racing the clock. Pretend you are on a safari and use your hands and binoculars to search out items to be captured.

Your six year old should be able to understand opposites so have him do exactly the opposite of what you say such as, “Don’t go into that bathroom and brush your teeth.” or “You had better not put those dirty clothes in the hamper, they belong on they floor.” Kids think this is hilarious and are eager to disobey and do the opposite.

Remember that if you expect a behavior you have to teach it. And you’ll need to reinforce, re-teach, and reinforce it many times before each child has mastered that skill. Have fun, be silly, and help yourself and your kids not take things so seriously.

What tricks do you use to get your kids to listen?