My 7-Year-Old Talks Too Much in Class

My daughter is seven years old and is in second grade. She is having trouble focusing in on her classroom assignments and she is spending too much time talking. When she does get her work done it is usually without errors. I know that she is relatively smart and can do the work; she just talks too much. Her teacher doesn't seem to know what to do to help resolve this and she wants me to come up with a solution. I am not there and do not have the opportunity to observe her behavior and so I don't really know what to do.

Our daughter is a child who does things on her time and I have never known how to get her over that. She reminds me of my sister -- never in a hurry. She is very creative and imaginative and I don't want to take that away from her, but I also know that she needs to conform to today's classroom that doesn't seem to allow for that. She needs to learn not to talk so much and to get her work done.

Question:

Your daughter sounds like a charming girl with a great deal of charisma. Social children are usually popular among their peers, and from your letter I assume that your daughter has many friends in her class.

The teacher obviously feels very strongly about your daughter's behavior in class to have asked you to participate in correcting the problem. Generally speaking, when a child's behavior interferes with her ability to complete her work in a reasonable period of time, the behavior needs to be changed. The teacher probably feels frustrated, as you do, about how to motivate your daughter to stay on task and minimize her talking in class.

The next step in this process should be a conversation with your daughter. Ask her how she feels about school, her friends, and her academic progress. Share with her your concern, as well as the teacher's concern, over her classroom behavior. Use words that she can understand to explain the importance of the classroom environment to learning for all students, herself included. Together, set a goal for her, one that she can achieve in a short period of time. For example, you could set up a daily contract with her. The teacher could send home daily notes, or even stamp a small chart, to let you know how she did each day. Your daughter may want to work toward a special treat, such as a trip to the ice cream shop for 5 stamps, for example. Whatever system you choose to implement, be sure that all involved parties are in agreement. Your daughter should feel that she can indeed reach the goal, the teacher should be able to monitor and report your daughter's progress easily, and you should be able to meet your end of the contract soon after she reaches her goal.

Throughout this period, you will need to give your daughter consistent praise for getting her work done quietly in class. Go over her corrected assignments with her and let her know how proud you are of her accomplishments. In order to achieve the desired behavior, positive reinforcement is needed constantly and consistently. Ask the teacher to call or write notes periodically in addition to the daily stamps or stickers so that your daughter knows you are interested in her progress. She will need your support to meet her goals.

In addition to your desire to help your daughter learn to conform to the norms of the classroom, you also expressed your concern for retaining her creativity and imagination. While helping her to learn to modify her classroom behavior, you can also teach her to re-direct her enthusiasm. Enroll her in drama, art, or dance classes to give her additional outlets for her creativity. Make arrangements for playdates with classmates on weekends or afternoons, so that she can look forward to some social time with her friends. These are all situations in which outgoing personalities are helpful and she will be able to see there are times and occasions when talking is permissible and even encouraged.

By positively reinforcing the behaviors that you would like to see her display, as well as giving her appropriate outlets for her energy, you should be able to help your daughter get the most out of school.

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