Your Gifted Child and the Gift of Gab

Loquacious   Storyteller   Chatty   Talkative   Garrulous   Motormouthed

Could a high-verbal output (a.k.a., talking a lot) be a sign of giftedness? Many professionals who study gifted children use the term verbally talented which also includes other advanced language skills such as above-average reading and writing abilities.The article, “Is Your Child Gifted? What to Look for and Why You Should Know…”, by David Palmer, PhD in Psychology Today, lists above-average language skills to be aware of when trying to determine if your child is gifted.2  A few of these skills, which are quoted from the article, refer specifically to the hyper-articulateness of a gifted child:

  • The ability to understand and participate in adult conversations. Gifted children often pick up nuances or double meanings early on—so watch what you say!
  • Continually asking questions about what they see and hear, and wanting to receive thorough responses and explanations.
  • The tendency to speak quickly.

This propensity to be uncommonly verbally fluent is one of quite a few gifted characteristics which demonstrate the dichotomy of giftedness. (see more about this in my book, Educating Your Gifted Child: How One Public School Teacher Embraced Homeschooling). The dichotomy of giftedness—those gifted traits and attributes which can be a good thing and a bad thing, at the same time. While it is enjoyable and admired that your 5 year old loves to actively engage in deep conversations with adults at every chance, being hyper-articulate is not so entertaining to his or her first grade teacher as proven by my experience in, “It’s a Funny Thing: A Gifted Child’s Sense of Humor”.

THE GOOD:  Advanced verbal communication skills are advantageous in interpersonal relationships and in the business world. Nurturing your child’s verbal talent can help him develop strong communication skills which will benefit him throughout his life. To be able to quickly recall and use clear, concise language to effectively communicate is invaluable. It seems that strong verbal communication skills are more often valued before a child enters traditional school, and then after he leaves school.

THE NOT SO GOOD: No matter how valued good communication skills such as verbal acuity and the ability to easily engage in lively conversations are, talking at inappropriate times is unacceptable no matter one’s age. We all know talking in class at inappropriate times is a huge no-no in traditional schools, and those inappropriate times seem to be nearly the entire school day. Easily, talking in class is probably the number one classroom management and discipline issue for teachers. When a gifted child who is verbally gifted and just loves to tell the world or anyone else who will listen, all about her many passionate topics, and you then place her into the traditional learning environment—the classroom—she is going to chatter. As a parent of a verbally gifted child, you don’t want your gifted child’s enthusiasm for learning and knowledge to be dampened when you need to reign in her enthusiastic verbal overflow on her current, most favorite topic. It becomes a tedious balancing act for a parent to manage this behavior.

Personally, in our family of relatively less-verbose individuals, having a talkative child was such an auditory treat—that is, at first. Being verbally gifted—talking a lot— was also a constant, flashing beacon of my youngest son’s giftedness, and it was his trademark trait throughout his childhood, for good and for not so good.

I guess by the time my youngest conversationalist was 4 years old, I had already grown acclimatized to his continuous chattering, so when his new swim teacher made her half-joking—more like one-quarter-joking—comment at pick-up time after his first lesson, I was a bit startled. “He did great…when he wasn’t talking, and the only time he wasn’t talking was when he was underwater.” Of course I completely understood the undeniable message in that one, brief, not-so-subtle comment—that I needed to help my son curb his poolside conversations so his swim instructor can teach. Very much flustered by the situation, I too quickly retorted to the swim teacher, half-joking, and three-quarters serious, “Do you have any duct tape?”

When I think back on my years of teaching, especially in the lower grades when proper school behavior had not yet been perfected by the younger students, the talkers I had in my class all seemed to have one behavior in common—their talking was mostly quelled when they were fully engaged in learning.

Being appropriately challenged and excited to learn usually averted the need for the talkers in my classroom to relieve their boredom by striking up ill-timed conversations. Has this been scientifically proven? Probably not, but most definitely one legendary classroom management strategy every teacher has been taught is to keep her students fully-engaged at all times in order to prevent any discipline problems from popping up. But, that is in the classroom. How can parents help verbally gifted children know when to converse and or not converse outside of the classroom—while on the soccer field during a game, during adult conversations which do not or should not include him, while you are in the bathroom trying to take a shower?

I have heard from many parents of gifted children that they have a gifted child who has a special way with words and can out-talk anyone else they know. I have one of those verbally talented talkers, too, and duct tape is not the answer. But, there seems to be little information about loquacious gifted children for parents to relate to and find wisdom in. If you have a verbally gifted child, you know how tricky this situation can be, right?

Do you have a verbally gifted child? What strategies have worked for you to help your child moderate his or her talking while not dampening their enthusiasm for social engagement and carrying on complex conversations? How do you teach them to respect those times talking is unacceptable, while encouraging their verbal giftedness and communication skills?

Please share what has worked for you!

 

  1. “Nurturing Verbal Talent”, Digest of Gifted Research, August 29,2006
  2. “Is Your Child Gifted? What to Look for and Why You Should Know…” David Palmer, PhD., Psychology Today, May 1, 2011

 

This post is the second in “The Gifted Lagniappe Series.” Be sure to read my first post in the series, “It’s a Funny Thing: A Gifted Child’s Sense of Humor.”

The Gifted Lagniappe Series

 

 

32 Comments on “Your Gifted Child and the Gift of Gab

  1. Ah…talkers! I AM one of them and have always gotten into trouble for talking at school. Luckily, I always understood those children. I wholeheartedly agree that engagement is the reason and the impetus to managing the verbal success stories. I always told the talkers in my class that they needed to find jobs (like mine at the time) where they were allowed to talk.

    And yes, I have had my mouth taped shut. Unfortunately, I found it entertaining!

    • Pardon me, your last sentience had me cracking up. I told my son I was going to duct tape his mouth and he looked at me with a smirk on his face. A few minutes later, he walked past me with duct tape over his mouth. He did it himself and thought it was the funniest thing ever! This boy of mine LOVES to take things to the next level or one up a person.

      He can drive me crazy, but he sure does make me laugh. 😀

      • Yeah, there are many good uses for duct tape 😉 Your son sounds like he is full of wit, humor and a wee bit of sarcasm–those wonderful gifted traits, right?

        Thanks, Julie, for sharing your duct tape story and giving us all a giggle!

  2. Oh my, thank you for this. I am the quiet, introverted parent of a gifted, little non-stop talker with an ENTP personality. He’s almost 3. For the last several years I have been slowly losing my mind. I love him dearly, and I admire his sociability and gift of gab, but I do not know what to do with him. He just started preschool today, but based on the open house where I got to observe him with the other kids in his classroom, he is NOT going to fit in. It’s great to get him out of the house for some social time, but I’m worried that even in preschool his fire will die, because the other kids just simply cannot converse with him at anywhere near his level. For example, he’s already making his own original jokes that are actually funny, but there’s no way the other kids will get it. He’s charming, disarming, gregarious and hilarious! But my heart breaks for his loneliness sometimes. And I really have no idea what to do for him.

    • K,

      I know exactly how you feel! My youngest was just like your son when he was young. You summed it perfectly, “He’s charming, disarming, gregarious and hilarious! But my heart breaks for his loneliness sometimes. And I really have no idea what to do for him.”

      I didn’t know what to do for my youngest son either, but now at 16 years old and with 20/20 hindsight, I would have continued to homeschool him throughout K-12 so he had the freedom to keep his love of life and learning, and never feel ashamed of his vivaciousnes.

      Your little man sounds like he keeps you busy and entertained! It’s a delicate balance raising these gifted gabbers, but the joy and humor they bring makes life just so darn fun!

      • My sister and I were homeschooled, and while it was a wonderful thing for us, I’m not sure I can endure doing it all over again. I am also not sure I can be mentally healthy myself that way. He does need plenty of time to get out of the house and do his thing without any direct involvement from me. When he has kids around who “get” him, I just sit back and let him go! He will go up to kids more than twice his age and effortlessly assimilate into their play. It’s such a wonder to me! I want to get him moved up to the older preschool class, but I don’t know how to go about it.

  3. My verbose one is my youngest (and, sidenote, skipped a grade several years ago with GREAT results. I highly recommend it if you can find a method by which to achieve it. Early kindergarten is one option…)

    I have found that sometimes what she needs is just the time to verbally process — she has to think out loud. I can, at times, get away with noncommittal listening-ish sounds like “mm-hmm” and the like. For times when she just needs to think out loud or just is gabbing about something she’s really interested in and I don’t much care about, this can work. I have to be sensitive to her feeling like she’s being ignored, which is not my intent, but rather aiming for that balance between what she needs and what I can reasonably give.

    She’s also almost 12, and I have been able to start teaching her about introverts and extroverts (she’s mostly an introvert, but definitely leans more extro than her mom, but also then just has this verbal NEED. And it is a NEED, I can clearly tell. When I frame it as something she needs just like good food and fresh air and a comfortable place to sleep, it doesn’t seem quite as arduous…) So I can share with her that sometimes *I* need quiet because my head is full. Or I apologize to her for the fact that I cannot give her my full attention right now and then do my very best to make time for her to have my full attention later. Sometimes once she gets my FULL attention for a few minutes, it’s enough to fill up her tank and I get fewer random interruptions for a while after. Then again, sometimes not. 😉

    This year we did switch schools to a school with a larger student body, which is helping her, I think, as she just has more people to talk to (although it also leads to more content to verbally process.)

    • Karen,

      I agree! These verbally gifted children do have a need to verbally process information–it helps them understand the information and commit it to memory.

      And I’m sure you, just like me and every mom with a verbally gifted child, have had years of intensive training in becoming a “good listener”! 😉

      Thank you for your insight and sharing your experience, Karen!

  4. A very tiny suggestion, that may help both those who talk too much, and those who talk too little:
    Compare a conversation to a game where a ball is tossed or rolled from one player to another. If the mental image isn’t enough to get the point across, do some practice conversations with an actual ball being used to indicate who next gets a turn to talk. (In some cases, the listener can politely reach for the ball if they feel they need a turn to chime in. But, be aware this can start a fuss if both talker and listener have not yet grasped the concept of taking turns.)
    A classroom variation is called “Snowball fight.” A person starts a story while holding a big crumpled paper wad. A person seated with their back to the group randomly calls, “Snowball fight!” Then the speaker stops talking, and tosses the “snowball” to someone else, who can then continue the story any way they like.
    Option: A secretary, (another student or the teacher) writes down the story as it proceeds, and reads it back to the group at the end. Editing it into polished form can be an extra activity, if desired. (Write on a white board, flip Post-Its, notebook, or whatever seems best.)
    Helps teach that there is a time to talk, and a time to listen.

    • Both excellent suggestions, Mary! The concept of taking turns to talk and to listen is important for all children to learn, especially verbally gifted kids. I know many adults who have not learned that skill yet, lol.

      Thank you so much for both of these!

  5. Thanks for this article. I am, indeed, at the point of identifying the issues (thank you for referring to them as a gift) but am stumped at the solutions. As you know, I eagerly awaited this post as my 10 yo son’s school has had it up to here (figurative line drawn at the eyebrows) with incessant talking. He reins it in for Mass (he’s in a Catholic school), which proves he can do it. He just has so many ideas milling about his head. He wants to share and be heard. Letting him share his ideas works very well at home but when he’s constantly “shushed” at school, he’s taking it personally and interpreting it as “your ideas and thoughts are not valued and, therefore you are not valued”. I’ve told his teachers, you just need to listen to him, you don’t have to agree with him, but JUST listen. From experience, I know that goes a LONG way with him. Poor guy, I feel like he can’t catch a break.

    • Oh Erica, I do know exactly how you feel. Even at 16 years old, my gifted talker still feels that not being heard means his ideas are unacceptable. I hope his teacher understands that talking is not disobedience, but his way of processing information, especially the topics that interest him.

      There is another comment on this post with a couple of good suggestions for helping children moderate their talking. It is a balancing act–a slow and deliberate process to help them moderate without losing their gift. I never wanted my son to know his gift of gab was a bad behavior.

      When I researched information for this article, sadly I read a few articles which stated that verbally gifted children seem to have the most difficulty being understood in school.

      Good luck and keep us posted on how you and your son are managing the gift of gab! <3

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  7. This is so pertinent to me right now. I was in tears last night because I was distraught about my kiddo and his talking. He never stops and if you give him an invitation to talk, you’ll never get him to stop. I need strategies for quelling this, without sending the message that this skill is bad. I should read your new book, huh? :). Thank you for this perfectly timed article.

    • Oh, you are very welcome, Melanie!

      There is an older comment on this post with a couple of good suggestions on how to help our talkers moderate their chattering. But, it is such a slow and tricky process to help them learn when talking is appropriate and when it isn’t–and none of us want our little talkers to ever feel ashamed of such a beneficial talent.

      Good communication skills and being a genuine conversationalist are coveted skills in the workplace–our kids are just ahead of the game 😉

  8. Writing can be an alternative to talking. For many years I kept a basket at hand for dropping in notes with the various “crazy ideas” I came up with, and nobody wanted to hear about. Every now and then, I’d go through them, and agree some were truly “crazy” (useless, unworkable, etc.) and decided that others needed a little more flesh on their bones before introducing them to anyone else.
    Keep a journal or diary. I have a record of what really happened on one of those days “everyone remembers.” Surprise! Reality and memory are close, but do not completely agree. I have 2 or 3 days of memories condensed into one.
    Write a letter to your older self. I wrote one in my senior year of high school, to be opened 20 years later. I learned I am not the world’s greatest prophet.
    And sometimes I told my gabby kids, “My ears are full of words right now. Give me a chance to use a few before you give me more.”
    Experiment I tried: Just stop talking in mid-sentence, to see if anyone notices. If no one is listening, I stop talking. Sometimes what the others are discussing is actually more interesting than what I was babbling. If not, their loss.

    • Mary,

      Those are all really excellent suggestions. The writing ideas made me wish I had been doing this myself all along. Love the writing idea!

      I am so appreciative for you sharing these great ideas!!

  9. Thanks so much for this post. My chatty little kindergartener is already known as a “talker” and we are only weeks into the school year.

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  11. Ha! this article brings back many memories. One that particularly stands out is when the dentist bemusedly told me that my son (then aged about 7 or 8) was the only patient he had ever had who kept talking, even while getting an injection in the mouth!

    This kind of verbal ability is a tremendous strength that should be nurtured. Look for opportunities for your child to capitalise on their strength for talking. Things like Tournament of Minds or Destination Imagination provide a great outlet, as do all kinds of drama and theatre sports, which has the advantage of also teaching about the discipline of only speaking when it’s your turn. Later on, get these gifted speakers involved in Model United Nations or debating.

    Above all, make the most of your loquacious child and savour every moment. Believe it or not, there will come a time when they are not quite so verbose. Every teenager goes through a relatively uncommunicative phase, and you may find yourself wishing for that non-stop talker back!

    • Selena,

      Thank you so much for all of your excellent suggestions on how to nurture and strengthen our children’s verbal talent. You are so right, this is a tremendous strength which should be nurtured.

      And you are exactly right here also —> “Every teenager goes through a relatively uncommunicative phase, and you may find yourself wishing for that non-stop talker back!” My talker is 16 and the talking has slowed quite a bit and I do miss it!

      Thank you, Selena, for your all of your great tips on nurturing the gift of gab!

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  14. My eldest daughter is a gifted talker. I always remember her 12 mth assessment. I was asked if she’d said any words yet, I replied yes about 25! She had been using 2 word sentences already, things like “dada gone” . By her 2 year check she was a fluent speaker.
    On her first day at school she spent the whole day saying”Excuse me, what is this for?” Or “Excuse me, how does this work?”etc,etc.. Always trying to be polite but unaware of the taboo of not speaking over others, especially teachers. On her first parent teacher meeting her teacher told me that on that first day she was worried that my daughter was going to be a handful, but it turned out she wasn’t. She said she was a joy to teach, keen, eager to learn and she was never going to be an average child. Obviously she had a good teacher at the time. But as she moved up years she encountered teachers who couldn’t handle her questioning, and this resulted in them using humiliation tactics to control her .
    She has left school crying, after telling a teacher they had something wrong and then being told that it was her that was wrong (even though she was right) and all of the other children telling her to get over it and also telling her she was wrong. It turned out that a week later a substitute teacher corrected the rest of the class and told them all to do it like my daughter! She came out of school on that day beaming with satisfaction.
    I have come to recognise how intolerant other adults can be with these children, often using mentally abusive techniques to one up them. They seem to forget they are still innocent children.

    • Michelle,

      Reading your story broke my heart because I understand–I have a talker and the exact same thing happened to him to the point one of his teachers bullied him and called him Mr. Zero in class. The sad reality is that our children’s precociousness is adorable when they are young and they receive lots of positive attention for it. As they get older, their precocious behavior–talking and questioning–is no longer adorable, and no longer tolerated.

      It is stories like yours that show us why all teachers should understand the common behaviors of gifted children!

      Thank you for sharing your story!

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