Understanding & Stopping Unwanted Behaviors

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

Copyright 1999

Dear Annette,

Our son the oldest is 11. He loves other people and has never been shy, never.  No matter how people treat him they are always his friends and he forgets and forgives easier then anyone I've ever known, but... He'll get around other kids and instead of having fun he'll start annoying them by singing or just babbling over and over.  Even the kids he normally gets along with after a while grow tired of him and he just won't stop. It never was a big deal, but its getting worse and to the point I don't want to take him anywhere and its embarrassing.

His father says he was the same way until about 14.  Any hints or idea's on how to stop this or what might be causing it?

Just this last week he is on a bowling team and had everyone on the other team about ready to hang him we talked with him at length about it and then went to meet his scout troop for bowling and he started right in again even though we reminded him of our talk he still kept it up.  What do you suggest?


Dear Embarrassed,

1.      What changes took place to stop his father's babbling at age 14?  Puberty?

a.       Often chemically imbalances that exist before puberty are eradicated because of the change in brain chemicals brought on by puberty.

2.      Have a physical checkup to see if there is anything physical which is causing it.

3.      Check the mental disorders listed below to see if they fit your son.  If it seems to            be a mental disorder get him mental help!

If the behavior is neither medical or mental then...

4.      Point out that babbling or annoyance is not Socially Appropriate and will make him a Social Leaper.

a.       Use Family Home Evening - Act out socially appropriate scenarios together and critique, kindly and helpfully.  You are always telling him what not to do.  This lesson should tell him what he can do.  This is very important!  Make sure there is lots of practice.

b.      Continue to point out socially inappropriate behavior as it appears.

c.       Tell him you love him, but his misbehavior has become serious to the point that   it embarrasses you to take him with you.

5.      When in public and the behavior begins, take him aside and tell him he is being socially inappropriate and give him a time out in the car, in an out of the way corner, or out of way place.  While in time out ask him to come up with the socially appropriate way to handle the problem, and then he can come out of time out.  If it happens again then he stays in time-out for a set time and must again tell how to handle the problem.  His explanation should not be just what he should do but also what he can do instead of the unwanted behavior.  Perhaps this could be something innocuous like fold his arms.  Think of a song and recite the words in his head until the urge to do the unwanted behavior passes.

See:  Time-Out


6.      Babies babble because it soothes or comforts them.  This may be a throwback from that.  What is he doing before he starts this behavior.  Is it a stress provoking situation?  Does he revert into himself and become unaware of the outside world when he does this?  If it is a coping skill train him to use other more appropriate coping skills.

See:  Coping Skills



7.      Unless there are mental or medical reasons, a behavior exists because it gets the individual what s/he wants.  Most behaviors can be changed by making the positive reinforcer into a negative one.

See:  Helping Our Children Overcome Bad Behaviors


8.      Most importantly, whether the problem is physical, mental, or behavioral...give your son a Father's Blessing.  Remember your son in family and personal prayers.

Let your son know that he is important to you and that you love him no matter what.  It is the behavior that you dislike.

Mental Disorders

There is only types of mental disorder that even start to fit your son's problems.  one is:

Schizotypal Personality Disorder

As you can see from the symptoms, your son does not really fit it at this time.


A pervasive pattern of social and interpersonal deficits marked by acute discomfort with, and reduced capacity for, close relationships as well as by cognitive or perceptual distortions and eccentricities of behavior, beginning by early adulthood (age 20-40) and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:


The other type of mental disorder is:

Autistic Disorder

This might be something like what you son is going through... Check the symptoms below.  I don't have enough information to make an educated guess.  This can be a disorder of any age.


A total of six (or more) items from (a), (b), and (c), with at least two from (a), and one each from (b) and (c):

A.  qualitative impairment in social interaction, as manifested by at least two of the following:

B.  qualitative impairments in communication as manifested by at least one of the following:

C.  restricted repetitive and stereotyped patterns of behavior, interests, and activities, as manifested by at least one of the following:

Criteria summarized from:

American Psychiatric Association. (1994). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders, fourth edition. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Association.

*  *  *  *

Best wishes in your endeavors,

Annette Nay, Ph.D.

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