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Teaching Our Kids to Not Interrupt
Is it healthy for children to believe that they can interrupt adults?
Ironically, we reinforce this bad behavior when we repeatedly tell them to stop interrupting. In effect, we are encouraging them to interrupt. To make matters worse, there are few things more rewarding to a child than being able to control the color of our faces, the volume of our voices, or the number of words produced by our tongues.
Teach Them How to Get Your Attention and Wait for Your Reply
Children as young as two or three can learn how to ask for attention in healthy ways. This involves showing them how to approach you silently and wait for your reply quietly. This takes a lot of work, patience, and practice, but it is doable.
One Love and Logic mom commented, “We have five kids under ten. That’s why we can’t afford to let them think that they can mob us for what they want anytime they want it. My husband and I taught each of them what we call the ‛sneaky statue’ routine. When we’re talking, they know to sneak up and stand like statues. We gradually taught each of them to wait longer by celebrating their success in being ‛sneaky as spies’ and ‛silent like statues.’
Use the “Stop Sign” Signal
Wise parents understand that responding to interruptions with words usually makes it worse. Instead, they continue talking while signaling with their hand that the child must stop talking and wait. Parents must maintain eye contact with the adult they are talking with. If they are on the phone, they should look away from their child.
Give Your Signal Special Meaning by Following Through
When our kids insist on interrupting, it’s essential that they see this does not pay off. With children young enough to be carried safely, parents can silently place them in a highchair, playpen, or some other safe spot, and then immediately resume their conversation. Older kids should be expected to replace the energy they have drained from their parents. This may involve doing extra chores, allowing their parents to rest instead of expecting them to drive them somewhere, paying for their own babysitter so that their parents can go on a date with each other, etc.
When kids learn that it’s okay to interrupt adults, they begin to think that they are on the same level as adults. This isn’t good for them… or for us. The happiest kids are the ones who learn early on that the world does not revolve around them.
Thanks for reading! Our goal is to help as many families as possible. If this is a benefit, forward it to a friend.
Dr. Charles Fay