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Hyperactivity / impulsivity

Why Does My Child Talk Nonstop and Not Realize It’s Annoying?

By Kristy Baxter

Why does my child talk nonstop? He doesn’t seem to realize it’s annoying.

Kristy Baxter

Former Head of School, the Churchill School

There are many possible reasons why kids with learning and attention issues might talk too much or say things at the wrong time. For example, if your child has ADHD he might be worried that he’ll forget what he wants to say if he doesn’t say it right away.

If he has issues with impulse control, it may be tough for him to stop and think before speaking. His words may seem to spill out all at once, especially when he’s excited.

Impulsivity may cause your child to speak before realizing that it might not be the best time. He may offend or annoy others by saying the first thing that pops into his head. Or he may speak out of turn and monopolize the conversation.

Another possible reason for the nonstop talking is trouble picking up on social cues. Your child might not notice the facial expressions or body language that indicate other people are not so interested in what he’s saying. It’s not unusual for kids with learning and attention issues to have difficulty with this.

Excessive talking can also be a sign of weak listening skills. If your child is too distracted to pause and listen to others, it will be difficult for him to determine what to say and when to say it.

Here are some ways you can help your child work on figuring out when to stop speaking.

Practice having conversations. He can do this with you or with another family member or trusted friend. Remind your child before he starts one of these conversations to work on listening to the other person. Help him focus on listening by asking him questions about what’s being said.

Encourage your child to silently repeat what he’s hearing. This can help keep him focused on what you’re saying. It might also help him shift the focus away from the thoughts in his head that want to come spilling out.

Write it down. If your child has issues with talking too much in class, it can be a good idea for him to take short notes to remind himself of what he wants to add to the group conversation.

Teach your child to “stop, look and listen.” Show him how to stop every few minutes and look to see how his conversation partner is reacting. Is the other person annoyed or looking away from him? Practice tuning into things like tone of voice and thinking about whether he’s talking faster or louder than the other person.

Work together to develop a “secret code.” You tapping your chin can be a subtle way to let your child know he’s hogging a conversation. Secret signals can also be a good way to let him know he’s going off topic.

Help your child be upfront about the issue. Practice together ways he can let a new conversation partner know that he tends to interrupt. He could say something like, “I apologize in advance if I interrupt you. I care a lot about this topic!” Or “I’m sorry if I interrupt you. Sometimes I get worried that I’m going to forget what I want to say!”

Talk about what your child can do after the fact. Practice together what he can say after he interrupts someone. Let him know it’s OK to apologize and then ask the other person to continue talking.

Be patient. It takes time and effort 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 Parenting Coach for more strategies. It covers such topics as fitting in, interacting with kids and managing ADHD.

About the Author

Portrait of Kristy Baxter

Kristy Baxter

Kristy Baxter, M.A., is a former head of the Churchill School in New York City and cofounder of Camp Northwood, a sleepaway camp for children with learning disabilities in Remsen, New York.

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