Hyperactivity / impulsivity

My Child Talks Nonstop. What Can I Do?

By Kristy Baxter

My son with ADHD talks endlessly, and he doesn’t seem to realize it’s annoying to other people. How can I help him learn to stop before it gets to that point?

Kristy Baxter

Former Head of School, the Churchill School

Many kids with ADHD like to talk, especially if they’re passionate about something. That’s not always a bad thing. But when they talk excessively, or say things at the wrong time, it can understandably be annoying to others.

Excessive talking can take many forms. Kids may talk at an inappropriate time, speak out of turn, talk over people or monopolize the conversation. They may also offend or annoy others by saying the first thing that pops into their head.

The first thing to know is that your child isn’t doing this on purpose. In fact, he may not even realize it’s happening. That’s because his actions are most likely the result of his ADHD symptoms.

Lack of self-control might be making it tough for him to stop and think before speaking, for instance. (If he’s overexcited the words can spill out all at once.) He might also be too distracted to pause and listen to others. And he might be worried he’ll forget what he wants to say if he doesn’t say it right away.

No matter what the reason, you want your child to have more control over his talking. Here are some ways you can help him work on figuring out when to stop speaking.

Practice having conversations. Explain to your child that the most important part of talking with others is listening. Then have practice conversations to build this skill. Help him focus on listening by asking him questions about what’s being said.

Have him silently repeat what he’s hearing. This can help keep him focused on what other people are saying. It might also help him shift the focus away from the thoughts in his head that want to come spilling out.

Encourage him to write it down. Sometimes kids speak up in class too much. If your child has that issue, it can be a good idea for him to take short notes to remind himself what he wants to add to the discussion. Having notes can help keep him focused. It can also help if another student mentions the same idea first. In that case your child can replace that note with another one, and add a different idea to the conversation.

Teach him to “stop, look and listen.” Show him how to stop every few minutes and look to see how his conversation partner is reacting. Does she appear or sound annoyed? He can practice tuning in to his own tone of voice and thinking about whether he’s talking faster or louder than the other person.

Develop a “secret code.” Secret signals can be a good way to let him know he’s going off topic. For example, you tapping your chin can be a subtle way to let your child know if he’s hogging a conversation.

Help your child acknowledge the issue. Practice things he can say if he catches himself talking too much. One example is: “I interrupted you. Sorry about that. Sometimes I worry I’m going to forget what I want to say!” He can follow that by saying, “What were you about to say?”

Be patient. It takes time, effort and lots of practice for kids to get into the habit of using these kinds of strategies.

Praise your child. Point out when he has a conversation that goes smoothly. The more specific you can be with your praise, the more likely he’ll be to repeat those positive behaviors. You may also want to explore age-specific strategies to help with fitting in, interacting with kids and managing ADHD.

Looking for more ideas? Discover more ways to help your child build social skills.

About the Author

Portrait of Kristy Baxter

Kristy Baxter taught at the Churchill School, an independent school in New York City for children with learning disabilities.

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