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
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.