10 Best... Tips for Handling your Chatter-Box

I have the bestest kid ever- he's seven, creative AF, has the best imagination, loves LEGOs, reads above grade level, is super duper happy, has loads of energy, is helpful, is the absolute sweetest, has a definite feisty streak, is very inquisitive, and NEVER STOPS TALKING (these are all things he knows and has been told many times by me). He wakes up talking and falls asleep talking, I swear. I can be a somewhat chatty person, for sure, but I also desperately crave quiet time, especially since there is so much talking required as part of my job. There has to be balance, though, so we're both happy and neither of us go crazy. He's an only child, so I try to be sensitive to his need as an extrovert for company, for sure. I also know that if I don't have breaks in the noise I get incredibly cranky and have to spend every ounce of my energy from not snapping. 

Being together so very, very much during the pandemic has made me a much more thoughtful parent when it comes to navigating this territory, trying to embrace my child's desire to converse with my own sanity. I never want him to feel like I don't want to hear his ideas or appreciate his desire to communicate, but he has to realize that some people aren't wired as he is- his success as an adult depends on it! Here are my top ten strategies that have worked well for us!

1. Explicitly explain differences in communication styles- Little kids don't get nuance or subtle hints, for the most part, so I've had to be very direct when I tell him that some people are more talkative than others and some people have brains that need some quiet time to think properly. Neither way is better or worse- it's like having brown eyes or blue eyes. He doesn't need a lot of quiet, but I do need some small chunks of it here and there. He knows in order to be a good friend, student, son, etc... we have to respect and honor those differences. He also knows that in order to have a relatively happy mom he has to chill sometimes.

2. "Tell me two more things and things and then wrap it up..."- When a story is getting super long-winded and I need to move on, I give him a warning. I let him know that he needs to tell me two or three final details and then it's time to move on.

3. Be a good listener- Parents often fall into the "yeah, mmhmm, okay" responses and kids pick up on that. I try to be an active, engaged listener when he talks to me so that he knows I value his ideas and what he's saying. That way when I do ask for a break or for things to wind down he still has that sense of safety that what he says has value.

4. "Talking at" vs "talking with"- These terms are HUGE in our house and have really helped him monitor himself. We take a lot of walks together and he's at the point now where after a few blocks of talking at me he'll stop and ask "am I talking at too much?" If I say yes he knows that it's time to talk with and will ask me questions or ask what I want to talk about. I am very direct with him about losing his audiences' attention if you "talk at" too long. 

5. Post Its- If Sawyer wants to talk but it's not a good time for me (I'm trying to grade, read, etc...) I ask him to jot down his idea on a post it so he doesn't forget, which is something he's often concerned about.

6. Timers- If it's been a long day and I just need fifteen minutes of silence I'll let him know, ask him if there's anything important he needs to tell me, and then I'll set a timer and tell him there's no talking until it goes off (unless it's an emergency, of course). If he talks, I start it over (this happened a lot at first, but rarely now). When the timer goes off he's free to chatter away! I don't abuse it; I don't set it for an hour or anything crazy.

7. Copy cat narration- I don't do this often, but sometimes my son just TALKS FOR THE SAKE OF TALKING and provides every tiny detail for me. So, I sort of mimic him to make a point: "Sawyer, now I'm getting a cup from the cupboard and filling it with water. I'm putting it on the counter, and now I'm opening the pantry..." He thinks it's funny and gets the point immediately (if he had his feelings hurt I wouldn't do it).

8. Send them on an errand- We have a two story house and if I really just need a minute I'll send him upstairs to put something away, tidy up his room, grab some laundry, etc... He has no idea it's because of the talking, and I can reset. 

9. Escape- This is the reverse... I'll send myself upstairs for a few minutes for some sort of made up task. My room is off-limits without a knock and permission to enter, so sometimes I just hide out for a few minutes.

10. "Goldilocks"- "Goldilocks" is our code word for remembering to give just the right amount of information when talking- not too little, and definitely not too much. 

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