Yes, you can get too much of a good thing, and so can your kids. Some children get swept up by their interests or consumed by the need to know something. They talk about dinosaurs (or horses or the latest video game or what they are going to be for Halloween) ALL THE TIME. They ask questions, deliver monologues, follow you, bring up their topic again … and again … and again. UGH!
It turns out that it is not only annoying but also unhealthy for children to get stuck in this way. Some parents worry it is a sign of OCD, and occasionally it is, but more often it is a matter of perseveration (see earlier post) – the cognitive equivalent of a broken record driving everyone (except your child) crazy. Equally important, if left unchecked, it prevents your child from talking about, playing with, and doing the range of activities associated with healthy development.
Rather than ignoring your child’s perseveration or yelling, “Enough!” each time it occurs, teach your child to harness her passion or tame her need to know. Create a specific window of time each day during which your child is allowed to talk about her latest passion or ask questions about the upcoming activity dogging him. Call it something (“Let’s do our dinosaur time” or “Let’s have our talk about our camping trip time”), and remain interested and involved during this 15-or-so minute period. If the passion is activity-based, set up both a limited talking-time and a longer (solo) doing-time.
If your child brings up her passion (or question) at any time other than the designated talk-time, remind her that you’ll talk about that during talk time. Do not engage/answer questions about this particular topic unless it is talk-time.
For particularly stuck children, it can be helpful to add an incentive system. Give your child 3 tokens of some sort. Each time he brings up his topic apart from the talk-time, calmly state, “That will cost a token.” If your child immediately drops it, nothing happens. If he persists in any way, take one of his tokens (important: even if your child has relinquished a token, do not engage further about the topic). Don’t forget to do the daily (sanctioned) talk-time as it provides your child with a needed outlet.
Keep the talk-time predictable (e.g., every day after dinner) and do not host a talk-time immediately after your child has brought the topic up (which would reinforce unsanctioned talk).
At the end of the day, have your child count his remaining tokens. Allow him to post a tally point on a designated sheet for each token he has managed to save. The tallies can be traded in for something of interest to you child, an outing or privilege or small item preferably not related to the special interest.