How to Stop Your Kids from Interrupting in Three Easy Steps
by Matthew Gilligan
If you’re having a hard time with a particular chatty child interrupting you all the time, you might want to give these three simple steps a try. Just remember, don’t expect too much too soon. You have to take your child’s level of brain development into consideration.
“Expecting a 3-year-old toddler not to interrupt is a little much,” says Gloria DeGaetano, executive director of the Parent Coaching Institute in Seattle. “They’re going to interrupt. They’re simply not coherent enough to not interrupt, because their brains are going in all different directions.”
1. Take turns speaking and listening.
Kids aren’t born knowing how to carry on a conversation, and for most of their young life, you’re talking to them, not with them. And that’s not likely to change on its own without practice, says DeGaetano.
“The research is quite frightening. A lot of parents are spending maybe 10 minutes per week total in actual conversation with their kids.”
She suggests a very deliberate practice that feels like a game, such as setting a timer and letting one person talk while others listen, then giving a turn to the other/next person to talk. Try it around the dinner table or in the bath – anywhere you have your kids’ attention (mostly) for a ten-minute chunk of time.
The goal is to teach your kids restraint in the moments they want to interrupt.
2. Practice in-the-moment signs.
You can practice all you want, but your kid will inevitably get so excited or intent on something that they’re still going to try to interrupt you.
What you can work on together is hand signals that let you know they want to tell you something, and one in return that lets them know you will address them as soon as you’re able. Keep in mind their short attention spans.
“As soon as they put their pinky up [or whatever signal you’ve agreed on], wrap up your conversation, and really appreciate that they didn’t interrupt,” advises DeGaetano.
3. Don’t expect perfection.
Remember that your child is little, they’re still learning, and they will forget sometimes that they aren’t supposed to just blurt out any and all thoughts as soon as they have them.
“They simply don’t have the self-regulatory pieces within their low brain to control their impulses,” says DeGaetano. “Everything is spontaneous because their low brain is melding so much.”
There’s no point in getting upset; better to practice your own self-control, remind them what you’ve worked on previously, and move on to the next thing.
After all, we’re all still works in progress at middle age – it’s going to take another decade or two of training before your kid is socially ready to take on real-life situations. So try to relax and enjoy them – one day, there won’t be anyone around to interrupt, and that will be nice.
And maybe a little too quiet.
These tips may not fix all of your troubles with interrupting today, but if you stick with them you should see some progress.