I know it drives you nuts. The very second you get on the phone, every kid in the house needs something. While they are spewing their needs at you, you are secretly hoping you can crawl in a hole. It’s embarrassing when a child interrupts. It’s rude and obnoxious. Plus, it renders your conversation ineffective. I mean, who wants to talk to someone who is constantly saying, “I’m sorry. Now, where were we?”
But don’t worry, my friend. You won’t have to crawl in that hole. There is a simple and effective solution to this problem. In fact, in 9 years of teaching public school, I never found a child who didn’t respond to this rule!
How to Teach Your Child Not to Interrupt
It’s not magical or complex. In fact, it’s just one little thing. But I promise you’ll be amazed. What is the interrupt rule? When your child wants to say something to you, they simply need to place their hand on you. They can put their hand on your leg, hand, or arm. It kinda depends on how old the child is and whether or not you are sitting or standing. Then, they must wait for you to respond.
Why do this? Allowing your child to put their hand on you gives them the chance to give you a non-verbal cue that they need something, yet still not interrupt the conversation. This is a vital skill to develop.
It also helps mom to focus. Maybe you are like me and sometimes tune out the voices of the kids when you are trying to focus on something. If they place their hand on you, the physical sensation will make you immediately aware.
How Do You Train Them
If you just tell your child the rule, there isn’t much chance they are going to just do it. Remember, it’s not a magic pill. Like anything in parenting, we will need training. Practice this with siblings and phone conversations first. I even make fake phone calls sometimes!
If they interrupt you, put your hand on them–near their mouth if need be. Or you can hold up your hand offering a “stop” sign. Whatever you do, DO NOT talk to the child until he/she has properly placed their hand on you and waited for you to respond. With little ones, you might even need to place their hand on your leg for them. Then place your finger to their mouth to remind them.
I promise that with a little bit of practice, your kids will shock and amaze you. When I was a teacher, most of the class had this down within a few days of school starting! The key is to never give in.
Now don’t worry. If you haven’t started this with your kids, it’s not too late. Remember, I trained brand-new kids in the classroom every year. I would suggest that you sit your child down and say something like this, “I realize that I have been letting you interrupt, and that is not polite. I am going to teach you a way to get my attention without interrupting.” The thing I love about kids is that most are so resilient and willing to change. If you talk to them about things, they are very likely to jump on board to make your home a better place.
What If You Have a Chronic Offender
A reader wrote me a few weeks ago and asked what I might suggest for her 12-year-old son who is a chronic interrupter. Bear in mind, this child is 12. I probably wouldn’t offer the same advice to someone with a 6-year-old. In fact, I would say to follow the simple steps above and keep being consistent. But at 12, the issue is much larger, and his cooperation will play into this. Here is the suggestion I gave her:
“I would consider making it a priority with the highest consequence. Sit him down and explain why it is important to you and to his effectiveness as an adult. Then tell him that you want to work with him to remind him. Perhaps a monetary thing would work with his age. Maybe a jar with $20 in it at the beginning of the month, then each time he interrupts he has to pay $1 for a rudeness penalty. If he can stop interrupting, he will have $20 at the end of the month. That ought to motivate him to try and correct the problem. You may need to adjust the money and penalty fee or time frame based on how often this really happens. If it’s super bad, you might need to start with 1 week at a time. You want him to succeed. You also want the penalty to hurt.”
So now it’s your turn. Have you tried this trick? What suggestions do you have?