Communication Skills/to communicate or not



My son is 10.  For the last couple of months he has been coming up to me, and others, and reciting long parts of Sponge Bob or the other shows he watches.  I cannot follow what he is saying, what character said what, or why it is funny. He doesn't pause between sentences.  He talks on and on.  I'm to the point where I am unable to act interested anymore or even laugh, but he doesn't notice and isn't fazed.

Besides that, he will demand the attention of whoever is walking by, by saying, "hey so-and-so, watch this..." or "look!  hey so-and-so, look!  Watch this!"  

He is an only child.

I don't know what to do, or what to say to him.  He is sensitive, and I don't want to hurt his feelings.  At the same time, I don't know how much longer I can force myself to try to listen without losing my patience.

I feel like the more attention he gets, the more he wants.  He used to interrupt me (still does, but to a lesser degree after I addressed the problem) whenever I had a conversation with another adult.  At one point, he would pretend to trip to get attention.  During long adult conversation lulls, however, he would play happily by himself.

What do I say to limit his attention demands?  It's getting worse...

Hi A.M. - a definition of "effective communication" is "each person gets their current needs meet well enough, in a way each person feels good about." A place to start in resolving this problem is to ask yourself "Who's needs are most important - my son's, or mine?"

The best answer is "Both of our needs are equally important, unless one of us is having an emergency." In any conversation, each of you need to feel respected .

If you accept this, then it will be a lifelong gift if you teach and model this to your son. From this point of view, I suggest you teach him what "boredom" is. Then when he starts to recite, you can use a respectful "I-message" with him. That might sound like

"[Name], when you talk on and on, I get bored and I stop listening to you."

Another option is to declare a respectful boundary: "Honey, you can tell me your story for  [some short time period]. Then I need to get back to work [or whatever]." If you do this, expect him to test you. Make a "T" with your hands [meaning "time's up"], interrupt him, and say calmly "I have to do _____ now." If he does the normal "But Mom, wait! Blah blah blah", Stop him with a smile and ask "Who's needs are more important - yours or mine?"

A related opportunity is to teach him what empathy is Then if he monologs, put your hand up "Stop"] and ask something like "Do you know what I'm feeling right now?" [bored, frustrated, impatient, etc.] I respectfully suggest you let go of the rule "I can't hurt my son's feelings." He needs you adults to teach him he can't impose his needs on others. Learning that will probably hurt! See if you find ideas in these:  

If you have other questions, please ask! - Pete

Communication Skills

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Peter Gerlach, MSW


I can answer questions about how to significantly improve your thinking and communication effectiveness, and your relations with adults and kids. I cannot answer legal, medical, grammar, punctuation, spelling, or spiritual questions.


I have studied and taught communication and relationship skills for 40 years, and have been a professional family-systems therapist (MSW) since 1981.


I am a past Board member of (a) a large suburban community mental-health center and (b) the Stepfamily Association of America, and I am a current member of the National Stepfamily Resource Center (NSRC) Experts Council

I have published 6 books, including one on communication skills: Satisfactions ( 2nd ed., 2010); and over 150 articles in the nonprofit educational Website Break the Cycle! -

I have also published articles for and over 150 educational YouTube videos.

BSME, Stanford University, 1959 MSW, George Williams College 1981 Clinical internship U. of Illinois Institute for Juvenile Reasearch (IJR) 1981 Over 100 post-grad courses on a wide range of human-relationship topics

Past/Present Clients
over 1,000 self-referred Midwestern-U.S. adults, kids, couples, and families

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