Interrupting is a natural behavior for toddlers and preschoolers. By interrupting, they send a clear message – “I want to be the center of your attention”, “I want to be a part of your conversation.”
Kids, especially young kids, have a hard time grasping the concept of delayed gratification. They want your attention immediately, especially when you are busy interacting with others.
Model and show them how it’s done. Teaching kids not to interrupt is a long process and it starts with modeling. It means that parents do not interrupt each other in front of kids and model this behavior to them.
When the child interrupts, the adults should be gentle, yet firm, “Daddy is telling us a story. Let’s wait ‘till he is done. Then, we will listen to you.”
Don’t ignore. When the grownups are on the phone or talk to each other, it is important to attend to the child’s interruption by turning to him, lowering to his eye level and stating, “You need to wait for your turn,” and then go back to your conversation.
Ignoring the child would only increase his frustration and push him to be more persistent.
Try using a timer. It helps to give your young child a 2-minute hourglass or a timer and reassure that she will have her turn when the time is up. It is important to follow-through with the timeline and to give her the turn to speak. When it’s her turn to speak, remember to give her undivided attention, by modeling good listening skills.
Try using stickers. A helpful strategy in modifying behavior is utilizing a behavior rewards chart. Once you and your child set a goal, such as NOT INTERRUPTING, you can also agree on a reward, such as a sticker in addition to your specific verbal praise.
Example of a specific verbal praise is (“You did such a great job not interrupting our conversation! I am so proud of you! Now it’s your turn to speak”). Every time your child does not interrupt conversation he can get a sticker. At the end of the week, based on a number of stickers the child collected, you can do a fun family activity together as a reward.
Discuss when it’s ok to interrupt. Also, it is important to assure your child that she can interrupt if there is an emergency. We need to be specific and describe the emergency: “If somebody is hurt, if you need assistance with bathroom needs (for toddlers), if there is a fire or flood.”
Make sure, you give you child her turn to speak in a fairly short time (a minute or two). If she has waited patiently, remember to thank her for not interrupting.
Model this behavior to other caregivers and grandparents. It is helpful to model these approaches for relatives and other caregivers. You should say that you are proud that your child is learning not to interrupt and describe the strategies you are currently using to teach your child these skills.
You are in luck if the grandparents and relatives are good listeners and follow through with your suggestions. Yet, let’s have realistic expectations – not all caregivers might be ready to support you – as with any other childrearing issues.
It is important to avoid power struggles with relatives who are not on the same page with you. Just continue educating your child not to interrupt along with those who are accepting your parenting principles.
Reading a book together with your child to reinforce the message is always a good idea. Try My Mouth Is a Volcano by Julia Cook.
Taking turns in a conversation is a crucial skill for developing child’s social skills. By listening to child’s story with patience and empathy, we teach her not only to not interrupt, but also to develop healthy listening skills – the most needed quality for successful social-emotional development.
Written by Madlena Rozenblyum, LCSW-R. Madlena is a licensed psychotherapist and a parenting expert. She is also a published author, speaker and a passionate believer in the power of positive parenting. Madlena is a principal expert and an author of a new parenting program “Parenting Solutions: Reducing Child’s Anger and Aggression” at Everyday Parenting. This program is based on the principals of positive parenting and will help you achieve successful results in as little as 4 weeks! Get the results you’ve been looking for, START you risk-free trial now!Back to blog list