Your child’s teacher has just told you that your Primary 1 kid talks too much in class and doesn’t pay enough attention. That’s bad enough, but she also tells you that because he talks too much, it is affecting his grades.
You are pleased he enjoys school so much, and that he has good language skills, but you recognise it is time to rein in your Mr Chatterbox.
I recall having that problem when I was in school but I had no idea at the time – it wasn’t until my mother once returned from a Parent’s Night meeting at the school and she told me the teacher said I “should be gagged”!
I was so embarrassed. After that, I made a specific effort not to be so chatty to my classmates… well, at least I tried.
Talk to your child about school
To avoid diminishing your child’s enthusiasm for the classroom, start your discussion by telling him how pleased you are that he has made a good start to school. You are delighted he is so sociable and has lots of pals in class.
Ask him what he likes best in school, and how he thinks he manages in class. During this discussion, gently inquire if he talks to his peers when he should be working on his assignments, or if he ever asks the teacher to repeat instructions because he might not have listening attentively.
As well as giving you some understanding of how your child sees the world around him and of how he sees himself in relation to others, this conversation directs him to think about his behaviour in class in a way that he may not have considered before.
Related: How to break your kid’s bad habits
Explain what’s happening
Then calmly explain the teacher’s concern.
Use positive language. For instance, instead of saying: “Your teacher is annoyed because you talk so much in class and you are not working as hard as you could”, you could say: “Your teacher knows you are very clever and thinks you can get excellent grades, but she is worried that you might not be paying enough attention, that you might be chatting to your pals when you should be listening. Do you think that could be possible?”
Then, listen to his response.
Once you have let him have his say without interruption, encourage him to reflect on his behaviour in class. If you can, give him specific incidents that the teacher mentioned.
Keep the discussion calm and relaxed, even if he begins to get distressed. Emphasise that you want to help him do well in class, and that you are not criticising him.
Follow the rules
Next, give your child four basic rules to help him stop being Mr Chatterbox in class. First, he should not talk at the same time as the teacher – if he talks over the teacher, he can’t learn from her.
Second, he should look at the teacher when she talks to him, to his group, or to the whole class. He shouldn’t look at his friends, or play with anything on his table, while the teacher speaks, and he should make eye contact with her.
Third, he should complete his work before he starts chatting to his classmates.
Fourth, when he has to complete a task as part of a group of pupils, he should talk only about the task, not about anything other topic.
Carefully repeat these four rules each morning. At the end of each school day, ask him how he coped in class without talking so much.
Follow up regularly
Give him lots of praise when he tells you that he spoke less than usual, and keep in touch with his teacher to keep informed about his progress.
Related: Help your kid do better in school