I have a 6yr old son in kindergarten. He is constantly getting in trouble for talking. I have done just about everything I know to do to quiet him. I know children like to talk, but this is really getting out of control. He is very bright and has a wonderful personality. I don't want to be to hard on him because I don't want to change his little personality. He just loves people and loves to TALK. I have explained to him that there is a time and place for talking, playing etc.....I have taken away favorite toys, TV, games, just about everything at some point. PLEASE HELP!!!
What a lucky young man! He has a mother who recognizes his positive characteristics, despite the difficulty they may be causing him in the classroom. You are right when you worry about discouraging him. Talking can be seen as disrespectful, or it could be seen as enthusiasm. In either case, it can be a problem that needs to be addressed. Seeing talking as enthusiasm, however, instead of disrespect creates a totally different attitude for dealing with the problem.
Give back the toys, games, TV, and everything else. Taking them away obviously isn't working. The reason may be because your son doesn't see the relationship between losing these privileges at home and talking at school.
Consequences usually work when they are related, reasonable and respectful. It sounds like you have the respectful and reasonable components in place. Sometimes the related component is difficult, especially when the misbehavior is at school, not in your home. When consequences don't work, it's time to search for solutions. Here are some possibilities:
Chapter 4 in Jane Nelsen's book Positive Discipline, talks about mistaken goals of behavior. These are called mistaken goals because they are based on mistaken beliefs about how to achieve belonging and significance. The four mistaken goals are: Attention, Power, Revenge, and Assumed Inadequacy. The information in your letter doesn't provide enough information to accurately assess what your son's mistaken goal might be, but it sounds like it could be Attention.
This means his mistaken belief is that he feels a sense of belonging and significance only when he receives constant attention and he keeps others (especially adults) busy with him. In other words, he is wanting to be noticed and needs to be involved. This is a common problem when children enter kindergarten, where they no longer compete with one or two siblings for attention. Instead, they find themselves competing with an entire classroom of children their own age.
Encouraging responses by an adult can redirect a child's misbehavior. Here are some suggestions to deal with the issue from home:
1) By now your son knows talking in class is a problem for him. Use open-ended questions to help him come up with a solution. For instance: "What classroom rules does your teacher have for taking turns talking?" "How do you think the teacher feels when you disrupt her lessons?" "How do you think other students in your classroom feel when they can't hear what the teacher is saying because you are talking?" "How would you feel if the teacher was giving you instructions and you couldn't tell what she was saying because the student next to you was talking?"
You won't need all of these questions. Pick one or two, then work on a solution that he chooses to try. Ask, "What can you do when you feel like talking when it's not your turn?" If he has difficulty coming up with solutions, ask if it's okay for you to offer some suggestions. They might include: sit on his hands; keep his eyes on his teacher while he is waiting for a signal from her that it's okay for students to talk; put a note card on his desk [with a picture drawn by him, or in his handwriting] that reminds him not to talk out of turn. Continue to encourage him to come up with more solutions, if he doesn't offer some on his own. You may want to record these as they are discussed.
He is the one with the problem, therefore he needs to be the one to choose a solution. He can pick one of the suggested solutions and try it for a day or so. Check with him, at an agreed upon time, to see if his solution is working. If his solution is working for him, support his ability to resolve his own problems by offering encouraging statements such as: "You should be so proud of yourself," "How does that make you feel?" If his choice of solutions is not working for him, encourage him to choose another possible solution (you recorded) and try it for the next day or two. Repeat these steps until he finds a solution that will work for him.
2) Your relationship with your son's teacher is critical in resolving this behavior. After your son decides on a solution, ask him if he is willing to go with you to meet with his teacher to create a signal (one that is only between the two of them, nothing humiliating) she can use whenever his talkative behavior is a problem. Also, let his teacher know what plan he came up with to remind himself not to talk out of turn. His teacher will be more eager to work with your son in a positive manner when she sees your efforts to work with him at home.
It sounds like you have a very bright son. Involving him in problem solving will help him develop a sense of responsibility, encourage him to feel capable, and teach him to do things because he knows its the right thing to do, rather than because of what fears will happen to him if he continues to misbehave.
Deborah Cashen, Certified Positive Discipline Associate
For more information on a positive approach to misbehavior, I would suggest reading Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen, as well as other books from her collection. If you would like to attend a parenting workshop, check our Events Page to see if there are any in your area. If your son's teacher is not familiar with Positive Discipline in the Classroom or Positive Discipline: A Teachers A – Z Guide, you may want to suggest those books to her, when she sees the results of your son's solutions!