Toddler Won't Let Us Talk!

Archived Q&A and Reviews

26-month-old tells us to stop talking

March 2006

My 26 month old has given to saying No talking! (or, when he's in a polite mood, No talking please!) whenever adults in his presence start talking to one another. We have tried to negotiate (Daddy and I will talk for one more minute and then we'll talk to you.), a method which ordinarily works well with him (he's very verbal and open to negotation) but he resists - he wants us to stop talking then and there. And on top of the fact that it is draining to never be able to talk to another adult in his presence, there are times when my husband and I simply need to talk to one another (driving directions, etc.). I understand my son's frustration: he doesn't want to be left out of the conversation. When I think about it, for my husband and I to talk quickly and use words/concepts he can't understand (which is what we do when we talk to one another) is like switching to a foreign language all of a sudden, and if anyone did that to me I would think it very rude! On the other hand, I don't want to give him the idea that (a) it's ok for him to order us around and (b) that it's not ok for adults to talk to one another. What have others done in this situation? silenced mommy

I've gone through this with every one of my four children and have simply and firmly told them that Mommy and Daddy often talk to each other, and we do not tolerate being told, effectively, to shut up. When the child has a question, I tell them I'll answer it in a minute. When the order is simply to assert control, I don't tolerate it.

I do this because I don't want my children to become unpleasant and dictatorial. I do this because I value my conversations with my husband. And I do this because in our family we are the bosses. End of story. We revel in our children's conversations, but we do not allow them to limit ours. Ayelet

My kids have tried this at various times. We let them know, first, that they are not in charge, the parents are. Insisting that others stop talking for one's own selfish desires is far more rude than discussing matters that not everybody wants to talk about. Parents may have items to discuss that will benefit the whole family. Everybody needs to learn that they are not the center of attention of the world (or they will be very unhappy when they grow up) and that sometimes they need to be quiet and listen when others are talking, even if it is not relevant or understandable to them. I know a couple of awful (adult) bores who never learned this lesson. I would make it clear to your child that this is unacceptable behavior, now, while you still have the opportunity to help your child change!

I too have wondered the right thing to do in this situation. :) I read somewhere that children aren't developmentally able to understand that they cannot interrupt (because they are not the center of the universe) until they are about 5 or 6. So I use a mixture of interrupting the adult flow, when possible, to listen to the child, or sometimes telling the child to wait and continuing the adult conversation (essentially ignoring him). I look forward to other responses! anon

Don't stop talking when your child makes the request. Continue talking as you would normally. He'll fret, as with any other thing kids may not like, but will learn soon enough that adults talking is just one more thing in the world he cannot control as a kid. Just ensure of course that when he asks to be heard that you listen.

Oh, boy. Our son is the same way. Though now, at 3.5, he's much better about it. He used to tell us not to talk whenever we would start talking to each other... especially when my husband would start talking to me. It's really frustrating. We figured that it was mostly about wanting me all to himself, and not wanting to share me with Daddy.

One thing we did was explain that he could say ''Excuse me'' when he had something to say... now we're at the place of trying to explain that he still needs to let someone finish talking, and interrupting with ''excuse me'' is still rude. My mother-in-law, who is a genius with little kids, always says very respectfully to him, ''Just a minute - I want to finish what I am saying to Mama, but then I want to hear what you have to say,'' and then continues talking as if she just expects to be obeyed. She always checks back with him right away, regardless of whether we have finished the conversation. Usually, he has to make up something to say, because he didn't really want to say anything to begin with; he just didn't want us to be talking without him. Part of having little kids is having fragmented conversation - but you do need to be able to talk. Good luck! sometimes silenced also

I had this problem for a very short period of time. On my sister's advice I told my tot that he did not get to decide when other people got to talk. He could only decide when he talked and that each person got to decide that for themselves. Every time he tried to silence us, I repeated the same thing and ignored his protests. I also told him he could go to his room if he didn't want to hear us talk. It worked, just be matter of fact. It also came in very handy a short while later when he tried to decide where everyone would sit at the table, and then in the car and then who got to go out the door first. It's best if it is your first reaction, but works even if you've given in to his demand before.

Try not to over empathise and find reasons to justify his behavior. It's not like a speaking a foreign language in front of him, its like modeling communcation he will have to learn. Let him find out what he needs to do to understand, not try to control other's to suit himself. When you feel weak and like giving in, remember, you are preparing him to go out in the world and get along and he's not going to have a good time if he goes out there thinking he gets to tell everyone else how to behave.

It's best if you can handle it with humor - I wasn't very good at that, but my daughter did this: ''Hah! (laugh) are you trying to tell mommy what to do?'' tickle tickle ''you don't get to tell mommy what to do'' tickle tickle ''mommy gets to tell you what to do, that's my job'' tickle tickle. It worked really well. Good luck. Not bossed around anymore.