I'm Talking! Stop Interrupting!

By Terry Carson

Kids are impatient. When they want something, they want it now! Which often translates into interrupting a parent's conversation or activity.

Many parents tell me they have tried to get their kids to not interrupt. Take a look at some of the methods they've used. Do any of these describe you?

The parent will scold... "Stop interrupting me! Can't you see I'm talking here?"

The parent takes a gentle approach... "Please don't interrupt me. I'll be finished in a minute."

The parent makes excuses... ,"Oh, she doesn't mean to be rude. She's having a bad day."

The parent lectures... "How many times have we talked about interrupting me in the middle of a conversation. It's not polite to keep pestering me like this. I'll be done in a minute and you just need to wait young man."

The parent explains... "Now we've talked about interrupting me when I'm busy talking to someone else. It's not polite to keep saying "Mommy, Mommy" over and over again. I'd be happy to attend to you after I've finished talking to the doctor. And then it will be your turn. OK?"

The parent punishes... "I've told you a dozen times not to interrupt me. They'll be no cookies for you when we get home."

The parent threatens... "If you don't stop interrupting me I'll have to take you home and you'll no longer be able to stay at the playground."

The parent bribes... "If you just let me finish my conversation I will let you watch Barney as soon as we get home."

Perhaps you use some or all of these strategies. But are they working? Have you been successful at breaking your child's bad habit?

Parents Are A Child's Primary Teachers

It's not news that a parent is a child's primary teacher but since most parents are not professional educators they need to have an understanding of how kids learn.

Kids learn in small steps. Their learning is more successful when a parent can chunk down lessons into manageable pieces. Each step must be mastered before the next step is taught. And it's not up to the parent to decide when the learning should be mastered. It's up to the child.

Parents need to be patient and allow their child to go at his own pace. This could take a few days or a few weeks. Avoid making comments such as "How many times do I have to tell you?" Don't crush a child's spirit by putting them down. Watch your child for readiness before you move onto the next training lesson.

Five Steps for Helping Your Child to Interrupt Politely

1. Teach your child to be polite. Be clear your child knows what 'polite' or 'rude' behaviour means. Give specific examples of good and rude language and then teach the correct way to interrupt a conversation. Say, "Excuse me."

2. Acknowledge your child. 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."

3. Take notice immediately. In order to reinforce the good manners lesson, you need to stop your conversation immediately. In other words once she's said those magic words you turn and attend to her. Your quick response is important for her to know that she's making progress.

4. Teach waiting. Once your child consistently remembers to use the correct words for polite interruptions, she must now learn how to wait until it's convenient for you to stop your conversation. Say, "Thank you for being polite and I'll be with you in a minute." Have her wait only a few seconds (5-10) and then acknowledge her waiting. Say something like, "Thank you for waiting for me to finish."

5. Stretch waiting. Eventually you will want to teach her to wait for longer periods of time. Incrementally and slowly, add more time to each waiting period. Building up her skills to about two to three minutes. Again, the key here is to teach her over a long stretch of time.

Learning takes time

The speed with which a child learns depends on many factors including personality type, learning style, distractions, emotional readiness and the patience level of the parent. Do not get discouraged if it takes your little one a bit longer to master each step. This is not a contest. This is not a race. I promise you that your investment in time will pay off.

Are you tired of kids who don't listen, cooperate, go to bed, complain or whine? Terry Carson, M.Ed. is a certified Parenting Coach and educator who helps her clients get back their control without spanking or shouting. Whether she's delivering a seminar, Lunch'n'Learn or doing a media tour, she's one of Canada's experts when it comes to disciplining kids. Get Terry's free handout "The #1 Mistake Good Parents Make" by signing up for her newsletter now.


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