Q: I’ve got three kids. The middle one, who’s five,
starts chattering the second she wakes up and doesn’t close her mouth until she’s
asleep. On one hand, I love to hear her talk and have conversations about “Why
this?” and “Why that?” But she’s exhausting me and I feel like
my other children aren’t getting the attention they need because the 5-year-old
is constantly interrupting. What can I do?
A: When babies are born, we look forward to all of their “firsts.”
First smile, first laugh, first steps, first words. Especially with our first
baby, these are milestones that make us giddy with anticipation and cause us to
break out the camcorder at every turn.
Then they start rolling…and walking…and talking – and we wonder, “What
was I thinking?”
Infants get going rolling, then crawling and we are amazed at how quickly they
get good at it and soon are getting from point A to point B in little more than
a blink of an eye. Toddlers start walking sometimes just as an aside to running
and seemingly thrill at their new found ability to run in the “wrong”
direction every time. But we understand that though these may try our patience
and challenge our creative problem solving skills at times that, “This too
Talking is a whole different ball game. Or is it?
We wait so patiently for their first coherent words, regale friends and
co-workers with tales of our baby’s babblings, pride ourselves in how well and
early she’s speaking in full sentences. And then it starts – the flip switches
on and there’s no off button in sight. And yes it can be exhausting.
But there’s good news! Young children learn at lightening speed with every
sense available to them. This is such a good language learning time for them
that adding a second language is a possibility. And reading to them is close at
hand. All good things.
So how to embrace the chatter of this age group without losing your cool? And
how do you ensure that the other members of the family get a word in edgewise
meanwhile? Here are some ideas:
- Learn to ask questions that require more than a “yes” or “no”
answer. Questions that start with ‘how many,’ ‘when,’ and ‘what if’ are good
places to start. How many nuts were in that bag that just spilled? When do you
think the apples will be ready to pick? What if we didn’t do the dishes and
take out the trash?
- Take turns (literally at first) answering questions like these. .. include all
of your children. This teaches the art of dialog rather than monologue.
- Look for projects that the whole family can enjoy together. This way the
project is the center of attention and not one child in particular.
- Schedule reading times and quiet times – children this age are more than
capable of entertaining themselves for short periods of time without getting
into trouble. This gives everyone in the house a much-needed moment to recharge
and regroup. Often a chatty child is a tired child and naps are not uncommon
once they slow down.
- Be as good a listener as you want your child to be. Children learn their
talking and listening habits from us just as they do anything else, through
observation and imitation. The better listeners we can be, the better they will
ultimately be also.
Learning to talk and have cooperative conversations are important
stepping-stones to reading. Once she’s reading, you’ll have some of that quiet
thinking time of your own (perhaps a dim memory at this point) back. Meanwhile,
find ways to appreciate that she does want to talk to you and be inclusive of
everyone in the family.