Does your child interrupt conversations, whether between adults or children? Learn how to stop your child from interrupting, all without a meltdown.
I was sitting across from my husband during family dinner time discussing the next day’s schedule. Just as I was trying to get my head straight on what to pack for lunch or what time swim classes start, the kids cut in.
“I colored and glued butterflies on paper!”
In most cases, my kids don’t know any better about interrupting. They say what’s on their mind at that moment, regardless of timing or opportunity.
How to stop your child from interrupting
Though innocent the intentions, I wanted to stop and correct them before they develop a bad habit. Or worse, they think interrupting conversations is all right.
But I also wanted to address the issue without inciting a fuss. And here’s what I learned…
Tell your child to wait.
We’re tempted to accommodate kids when they interrupt. We’ll stop our conversation and listen to their stories. It’s faster that way, it seems.
But doing this enables the habit to continue forming. Instead, explain to your child, “Daddy and I are talking right now. When we’re done, then it’ll be your turn.” Say it respectfully and kindly—he’s still learning social etiquette and isn’t interrupting on purpose. Or hold up a finger and continue your conversation, indicating to your child that he has to wait.
Then, address your child and let him have his turn after you wrap up your conversation. Don’t tell your kids to wait their turn and end up never giving it to them.
At the same time, praise your child when he uses good manners. As Terry Carson says:
“Each time the magic words ‘excuse me’ are used and be sure to let your child know how pleased you are. Say something like, “I’m glad your remembered your good manners.”
Empathize and explain why he needs to wait.
Let’s say your child wasn’t so keen on having to wait and starts to fuss or get upset. Pause your conversation and explain to him the reason while still using empathy: “Looks like you want to show me that airplane. But Grandma is telling me something right now. It doesn’t feel good to have to keep stopping our story. She’ll be done soon, then you can tell me all about your airplane.”
It’s important to empathize with your child’s feelings. You don’t want him to feel like his stories aren’t as important. Or to belittle the excitement he feels about what he wants to say. That’s usually why kids whine in the first place. They feel like they’re not important enough to inject their own stories into the mix. Acknowledge his stories and feelings. Explain why he has to wait, but let him know he’ll have your attention soon. You’ll have better luck asking him to wait this way.
Include your child in conversations.
Sometimes, kids interrupt because they’re not given the chance to hop into the conversation. When speaking to other adults, include your child in the conversation as well. Ask him his opinions. When talking about your day, include your child while still speaking to his level.
This is especially important when you’re talking about him. Imagine having others talk about you with you in the room—doesn’t feel right, does it? We need to be respectful to our kids just as we would other adults.
Tell others to wait when your child is talking.
Interrupting isn’t a bad habit only kids have. We also interrupt kids when they’re talking. Sure, they may ramble or their topics may seem insignificant (to you!). But they deserve just as much respect, time and attention as we do.
So whether he’s telling you about his day or even why yellow is better than orange, give him your attention. When another person—whether adult or child—interrupts, ask them to wait until he’s finished.
Holding others accountable tells your child that interrupting isn’t right for anyone to do. And more importantly, he deserves the same respect and time as other adults.
Interrupting conversations, even if done unintentionally, isn’t a habit I want to encourage.
Tell your child to wait while acknowledging and empathizing with his feelings. Include her in conversations so she feels like she belongs.And give her the same attention you would other adults and tell others to wait when she’s talking.
My kids have had to learn to wait their turn and share their stories—from butterflies to broccoli.
Get more tips:
- Why You Should Definitely Intervene when Adults Overwhelm Your Kids
- Parent Child Connection: Why You Need to Be Your Child’s Biggest Influence
- 4 Things You Definitely Shouldn’t Say about Other People’s Children
- Warning: 5 Things You Tell Your Kids but Probably Shouldn’t
- Why Sharing Funny Stories about Your Kids Can End Up Being Hurtful
And read My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook with your child. The story talks about why kids interrupt and ways to stop.
Your turn: What are your tips on how to stop your child from interrupting?
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