Teaching Young Children Not to Interrupt: Five Key Tips

Teaching Young Children Not to Interrupt: Five Key Tips

You and your partner are trying to catch up after a long day, at the dinner table, but it’s impossible. Your young child is at this table, too, and she has a lot to say! Interruptions every few minutes have you giving up on the conversation. Your mother calls to chat, but you know that the second you begin to talk on the phone, your little one will be clamoring for your attention. How can you dial back the constant interruptions of your young child?

  1. Use positive reinforcement. Explain to your child that he needs to wait for a pause in the conversation before speaking up. When he remembers to do this, give him praise for being patient enough to wait.
  2. On the other hand, if your child has been told to wait for a pause in the conversation, but can’t refrain from interrupting, do not answer her question or fulfill her request in that moment. Tell your child that if she wants an answer to a question or has a request, she needs to wait for the right time to ask.
  3. Of course, if your little one has an urgent need, he needs to know that he can interrupt you. Help him determine the difference between urgent needs and non-urgent requests. For instance, if he, or a friend or sibling is hurt, that is an urgent need. If it is a hot day, and he needs more water while playing outside, that is worthy of an interruption. And if he needs to use the toilet and needs assistance, he should, of course, get your attention.
  4. There are non-verbal ways for you and your child to interact while you’re in conversation, of course. Let her know that if she feels a need for closeness while you’re talking with a friend on the couch, it’s OK for her to touch your arm for a hug, or curl up with you. Talk about ways that you can physically touch base even if your attention is turned toward someone else.
  5. Modeling polite behavior is a great way to teach your child. If you and your partner interrupt each other, or your children, your children will learn that interrupting is just how conversation works. But if you make a point of it to not interrupt, or to ask people to wait for a moment when they’ve interrupted, your child will receive that message.

Are interruptions a problem in your home? How are you handling the needs of young children while still talking with friends and family? Let us know in the comments section!

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