Fourth-Grader Talking in Class

Our expert suggests steps a mother can take to solve her son's problem of talking in class.
My son is having difficulty in his 4th grade class. He has received an "N" in citizenship. The teacher has said that it is due to talking in class and disturbing others. My son has said that others are talking to him and he is just responding to their questions. I have tried restriction and long talks to no avail. He is not mean to others, he just doesn't know when to keep his mouth shut.

How can I help him understand how serious this is? The teacher is very concerned and has not allowed him to go on the class field trip.

I remember when Ms. Peterson, my third grade teacher, gave me a check mark on my report card for talking too much in class. I was seated next to a group of kids who liked to talk and were lots of fun. Once removed from their influence, my check marks stopped (although classtime was far less interesting).

Punishing him is not a healthy response and I am stunned that his teacher did not allow him to go on a class field trip because of his classroom talking. That was neither a logical or a natural consequence to his behavior. She should read The Parent's Handbook for appropriate ways to discipline children.

I would be most concerned that his talking in class might cause him to miss some lessons that might be crucial to his understanding of some academic concepts. I would ask that the teacher(s) consider a seating arrangement that would lead to less socialization and I would ask your son to participate in some discussions with you concerning a plan to solve this problem. He is old enough that he may respond to being the key person to solve his own problem, rather than being punished by you and the teacher and being told to shape up. Encourage his attempts to change -- they may take a while but keep saying you believe in him and really appreciate his efforts. If he can discipline himself, then he can own the accomplishment.

Carleton Kendrick has been in private practice as a family therapist and has worked as a consultant for more than 20 years. He has conducted parenting seminars on topics ranging from how to discipline toddlers to how to stay connected with teenagers. Kendrick has appeared as an expert on national broadcast media such as CBS, Fox Television Network, Cable News Network, CNBC, PBS, and National Public Radio. In addition, he's been quoted in the New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, USA Today, Reader's Digest, BusinessWeek, Good Housekeeping, Woman's Day, and many other publications.

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