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Why Kids Change the Subject

For Melody Townsel of Dallas, a chat with her daughter, Sadie, 8, inevitably turns into a meandering game of 20 Questions: Why does medicine always taste bad? What does it mean when the weatherman says it's humid? Why are some grapes red and some grapes green?

Curiosity is a given with kids, but at this age their inability to stick to one subject can make them seem more manic than curious. What they're really doing, though, is learning the cognitive part of carrying on a conversation, says Jenn Berman, author of The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids. For them, just saying whatever comes into their minds is very normal. "They've gotten over the awkward stage of trying to master speech," says Berman, "and now they're able to verbalize their thoughts as they happen."

How to deal:

Point it out when she changes the subject. If you're trying to have a conversation and your child asks a totally unrelated question, acknowledge what she said so she knows that you heard her. But get her back on track by saying, "We can talk about dinosaurs next, but let's finish talking about your school project."

Let her take the lead sometimes. Children this age are impulsive. Follow her train of thought to find out what's on her mind -- and how it works.

Trust your gut. If you think your child just can't ever focus or carry on a conversation, you might consider having her evaluated; these could be signs of a learning disability.

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