By Temitope Rotimi | Updated May 2020


One time I asked my five-year-old daughter who was talking way too much on the bus, to try to be quiet for a minute. The elderly woman sitting next to us looked at me disapprovingly and told me not to shut her up for any reason. She said this was a very important stage of my toddler’s life and it would help with her speech development and her self expression. This stuck and not long after that, I stumbled on a popular quote by Catherine M. Wallace, “Listen earnestly to anything your children want to tell you, no matter what. If you don’t listen eagerly to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff.”

The last part of this quote really gets me every time because even when my toddler is talking about the silliest, most irrelevant thing ever, the look on her face always shows how important that discussion or discovery is to her. So yes, listening and talking with our kids is great parenting. They can tell us what they need or express themselves well if something bothers them. This is a really good thing but when the talking becomes excessive, it can be really annoying to not just you but to others. Some kids may talk at inappropriate times, talk over people or just totally take over the conversation. How do I stop myself from going nuts when she’s constantly babbling, asking 1000 questions in one minute and still make sure I am looking at her every single time?

Keep in mind that while some kids are just natural chatterboxes, sometimes there may be an underlying neurological problem such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) or Aspergers Syndrome. You should pay very good attention; if your child is finding it too hard to understand social cues and always try to monopolize conversations, you might need to talk to a pediatrician.

Be patient with your child. This is very vital especially during this pandemic period. Practice patience, so you don’t end up losing it. It will take time, effort and practice for you to teach your child how to control the way she talks.

Create time for chats. Of course we have more time for that now. But your child cannot hold your undivided attention all the time even if you were confined to a bed because you will definitely sleep off at some point.
So if you need to do some important work on your computer or fix a special dinner and your daughter wants to tell you about a story she created two minutes ago, tell her the story sounds very interesting but you will have to sit down and listen to it attentively after you finish your work or chore. Fix a time and place so your child can look forward to it and leave you alone for sometime. Make sure you have the time for this; no work, no computer, no phones, nothing, just sit, listen and engage your child. They sure love it when they have our full attention and presence.

Teach your child to listen. Practice conversations where you politely instruct your child to stop, look, and listen to you because the most important part of talking with others is listening. Ask questions related to your conversation; not “yes or no” questions but questions that will require her to answer with a sentence or two. Having to listen attentively to your questions so she can answer correctly will boost her listening skills.

Never ignore or shut your kid up rudely. This can affect their self-esteem greately. Avoid making comments such as, “Will you just shut up?” “We’ve heard enough from you”, “Don’t you ever stop talking?” or the common Nigerian phrase, “Please let’s hear word.” A child who hears these comments over and over may end up feeling shunned and even rejected and this could lead to low self esteem and poor self-expression skills. You can say, “Give me a few minutes” or “I need some space.” Explain to them what it means to give someone space, if they don’t get it the first time, they will eventually. Just try not to give in even in the midst of a crazy tantrum.

Remember you need to be patient to be able to work through these strategies. Also remember you need to take a break at all times. No matter how short, always try to have some time yourself and do your own thing for a minute. Being a good parent doesn’t include allowing your toddler to cling to you like tissue paper stuck to your behind. Besides, an emotionally drained mom usually ends up an angry mom. So be a good listener to your child, allow them to express themselves all they want in appropriate manners but also teach them to give you some space everyday and play alone. It will take some time but you can make it happen.

I have a five-year-old who is never afraid to speak her mind, well, we’re still working on control and appropriateness. But my point now is, as an adult I feel extremely inhibited to speak my mind or express myself. Who knows, I might have been as free to express myself as my toddler is right now but maybe I got shunned then and now as an adult I still feel afraid that people would not like it if I expressed my thoughts and feelings.

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