Question: My husband and I haven’t finished a complete sentence since last July! Our children interrupt our conversations constantly. Even while I’m asking them to wait until we’re done talking, they’re busy interrupting my request! How do I get them to stop interrupting us?
Elizabeth Pantley replies: Many parents admonish kids for interrupting, but in the same breath, they respond to the child’s interrupted request! Interrupting is habit forming. Like many annoying behaviors, once kids figure out that they can “get away with it,” the behavior will continue.
• Teach. Teach your child how to determine if something warrants an interruption. Children often are so focused on their own needs that they don’t really absorb the fact that they’re being rude. Teach your child to wait for a pause in the conversation and to say, “Excuse me.” When she does this, respond positively. If the interruption is of a nature that it can and should wait, politely inform your child of this and then continue talking.
• Use “The Squeeze.” Tell your child that if she wants something when you are talking to another adult, she should walk up to you and gently squeeze your arm. You will then squeeze her hand to indicate that you know she is there and will be with her in a minute. At first, respond rather quickly so your child can see the success of this method. Over time you can wait longer, just give a gentle squeeze every few minutes to remind your child that you remember the request.
• Give clear messages. Pause, look your child in the eye and say, “I’ll be with you in a minute.” Then turn your face, body and attention away from your child. Do not engage your child with repeated pleas for her to stop. If your child continues to interrupt, motion to the person you’re talking with to walk away with you.
• Praise good manners. Praise your child for using good manners, remembering to say “excuse me” and for interrupting only for a valid reason.
© Elizabeth Pantley; excerpted from Perfect Parenting, The Dictionary of 1,000 Parenting Tips
Parenting educator Elizabeth Pantley is the author of numerous parenting books, including the widely cited The No-Cry Sleep Solution: Gentle Ways to Help Your Baby Sleep Through the Night. Buy her books at Powells.com. She is a regular radio show guest and is quoted frequently on the web and in national family and women’s publications. Elizabeth lives in Washington state with her husband, their four children and her mother. Visit her at www.pantley.com/elizabeth.