Does your child interrupt conversations, whether between adults or kids? Here’s how to stop your child from interrupting others.
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 tae kwan do classes start, the kids cut in.
“I colored and glued butterflies on paper!”
Other times, one child could be in the middle of talking when another will chime in mid-sentence with his own opinions.
And of course, I could be talking to, say, my mom, when they’ll blurt their thoughts in the middle of our conversation.
How to stop your child from interrupting
In most cases, kids don’t know any better about interrupting. They say what’s on their mind at that moment, regardless of timing or opportunity.
Despite their innocent intentions, I wanted to stop my kids before they develop a bad habit or assume that interrupting is acceptable. But I also wanted to address the issue while still respecting their assertiveness and opinions. While interrupting isn’t right, I wanted them to know that their voices still mattered.
How can we balance the two goals? Here’s what I learned about how to stop your child from interrupting:
1. Tell your child to wait
We tend to accommodate kids when they interrupt, stopping our conversations to listen to them. It seems faster that way, especially when all they need is a simple acknowledgment.
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—she’s still learning social etiquette and isn’t interrupting on purpose. Hold up a finger and continue your conversation, indicating to your child that she has to wait.
Then, most importantly, allow her to share her thoughts as soon as you wrap up your conversation with the other person. Don’t tell her to wait her turn only to end up never giving her the chance to speak.
2. Empathize and explain why your child 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 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. We’ll be done soon, then you can tell me all about your airplane.”
Show empathy for her feelings so she knows her stories are as important. You don’t want to belittle the excitement she feels about what she 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.
Then, explain why she has to wait, even sharing what you might feel when you’re interrupted. And let her know that she’ll have your attention as soon as you finish this topic—you’ll have better luck asking her to wait this way.
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3. Include your child in conversations
Sometimes, kids interrupt because they’re not given the chance to join the conversation. When speaking to other adults, include your child as well. If you feel like the topic isn’t something she’d understand, make eye contact with her so she knows she’s still welcome to listen and participate.
You can also ask her for her opinion, or give her a chance to share what she would do in your situation.
This is especially important when you’re talking about her. Imagine having others talk about you with you in the room. We need to be respectful to our kids just as we would other adults.
4. Tell others to wait when your child is talking
Interrupting isn’t a bad habit that only kids have. We also interrupt them when they’re talking. Sure, they may ramble on and on, or their topics may seem insignificant (to us), but they deserve just as much respect, time and attention as we do.
If your child is telling you about her day or even why yellow is better than orange, give her your attention. When others—whether adult or child—interrupts, ask them to wait until she’s finished.
Holding others accountable tells your child that interrupting isn’t right for anyone to do. And more importantly, she deserves the same respect and time as other adults.
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Interrupting conversations, even if done unintentionally, isn’t a healthy habit to have.
Instead, tell your child to wait while acknowledging and empathizing with her 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.
Since then, my kids have had to learn to wait their turn to share their stories—from gluing butterfly pictures on paper to eating broccoli at dinner.
p.s. Read My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook, a story about why kids interrupt and useful ways they can stop.
Get more tips:
- One Unusual Way to Stop Kids Whining
- How Teaching Kids about Emotions Reduces Misbehavior
- Why Every Parent Needs to Show Empathy
- Set Boundaries — Kids Actually Want Them
- One Technique to Finally Stop Yelling at Your Kids
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