Incessant talking is rampant in my house. I am raising my 9-year-old daughter and a 12-year-old stepdaughter who has been living with us for less than a year. My husband has always blamed my genes for our daughter's chatterbox tendencies, but when her half-sister moved into the family, it is apparent my genes have been cleared of wrongful doing.
When I did research on this topic, most articles offered tips for curbing the incessant chatter of a pre-school aged child with little information being shared on dealing with tweens that have this issue. I will be the first to admit this non-stop talking drives me banana sandwich. As a writer, I work best in quiet spaces and think constantly about some idea or another. Those thoughts are more often than not derailed by endless talking coming from one child or both. Not a day goes by without having to put our foot down about maintaining some semblance of quiet at least 10 times.
Root of the Issue
I believe that the incessant chatter occurs in both kids for different reasons. My research provided plenty of data on non-stop talking issues for kids with ADHD or special needs situations, neither of which is relevant to my kids. My daughter was an only child in an extended family of adults for 8 years. She talks to be heard. She talks because she had to play on her own for most of her life. Our older child talks out of insecurity. She babbles when she is nervous and due to previous life experiences, she suffers a serious lack of self-confidence. She offers paragraph-long excuses when a simple 'yes' or 'no' is sufficient.
My husband and I get that both girls have reasons for their constant 'yappiness' and have been working through ways to cope and make the situation better.
Here is a mix of tips we personally use as well as some expert tips to help deal with the chatterboxes you love:
1. Stop Reacting
It takes a tremendous amount of patience to stay quiet when the kids won't shut up, but both kids are beginning to recognize that approaching us with a mouthful of details won't get them far, especially if their focus should be elsewhere. Our silence makes an impression about when the chatter has gone too far.
2. Correct Consistently
When I say our girls talk all the time, I am not exaggerating. In many cases they aren't even talking to each other, just themselves. This occurs during homework, game nights, soccer practice, and other activities. We correct them consistently when they need to close their mouths and focus on their tasks at hand. We do not yell but simply try to redirect their attention back to their work each time they begin to stray. We find that offering breaks to blow off some steam during heavy homework nights or other stressful times do help to minimize the distractions they create for themselves.
3. Redirect Energies
Our kids are involved in various activities but not overly scheduled for daily life. We have allowed them to select one or two simultaneous activities for the school year, which includes soccer and most recently music lessons (sax and clarinet). We try to encourage them to invest their time and energies into these activities daily. We have also cut down on the amount of time they are allowed to veg in front of the television during the school week. They must find other stuff to do that does not involve lounging on the couch and running through endless monologues.
4. Engage in Good, Regular Communication
Our children know not to interrupt a speaking adult and routinely utilize their manners. However, when there is an ounce of silence they assume the freedom to fill that silence with whatever noise comes to mind (talking, singing, goofing off). We take the time to schedule family fun where everyone can be heard and participate in family life. The kids really appreciate the uninterrupted fun time with us and it makes for polite, appropriate conversations. We are also consistent about offering praise when it is due.
5. Set Appropriate Boundaries
While it is always a work in progress, we work to set boundaries and continually identify when silence is appropriate and why it's important. For example, neither child has school issues so we often ask 'are you allowed to talk like this in school?' and then discuss why it is inappropriate. It is still an ongoing battle in our home for them to realize without being told that it's 'quiet time,' but as parents we stand firmly together about meaning what we say.
6. Lead By Example
My husband is not particularly chatty but he is naturally loud. We both work on our own habits to provide the girls with visible examples of good behavior. I am an avid reader and do other crafts with a dedicated focus. I encourage the kids to read books, draw, and be creative without talking through the whole activity. My husband is more inclined to issue silence warnings when the kids go overboard. We make a point to do a lot of activities together where everyone feels included to keep self-confidence growing.
7. Remain Respectful
Rarely do we use phrases like 'shut up.' Things have to get pretty over the top for either of us to scream when enough is enough. Rather, we try to remain as respectful as we expect the children to be. We have no problems being blunt about their excessive talking/noisemaking habits but are conscious of how we phrase our commands to stop talking.
Granted, we often get a kick out of what comes from the mouth of our babes — but we also realize that without direction to curb these talking habits, the kids will no doubt carry some of it through to adulthood. Our consistency and redirection seem to be working progressively and positively so far. We are sure that one day, when the house is always silent, we will remember these grade-school ramblings fondly.
But for now, we will continue to enforce why silence is golden and necessary in all of our lives.
I hear a lot of complaints from friends with the same tween struggle, and I'm curious to know how other parents are handling the blabbermouth syndrome. How do you handle the family chatterbox?