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 shall pass".
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 themselves 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 co-operative 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 . ’cause this too shall pass . and be inclusive of everyone in the family.