Wait a Minute! How to stop your child from interrupting

By April Tisher

You can just feel her excitement. She simply cannot control herself, and she has to tell you what she is thinking right now!

If you have children, or have ever met one, you know just how impatient they can sometimes be. It can be so hard for them to wait their turn to speak, whether in a classroom, at the dinner table or just in casual conversation. It is not uncommon for my own children to have full blown arguments over whose turn it is to talk to mom! If you often hear the words “I was talking first!” or find yourself in sticky social interactions where your child interrupts you or other adults talking, you may be looking for suggestions on how to squash that behavior.

Amber Tucker, a licensed marriage and family therapist in Gainesville explained that children who interrupt are typically expressing their need or desire to be heard immediately! She has four steps to diminish the frequency of interrupting.

Step 1

Have realistic expectations. When children are interrupting, they are typically thinking “I need your attention now!” Whether they want mom to give them a cookie, or they want dad to watch them do a cool new trick, they believe that their needs are the most important thing in that moment. Your child is most likely not trying to disrespect you, but rather seeking your attention.

Step 2

Set boundaries. When your child interrupts, tell her that you will give her your undivided attention in a moment. It is important to actually follow through with this; continue your conversation to a stopping point and then return your attention to your child. Depending on your child’s age, she may be able to only handle 30 seconds of waiting. If they are older they may be able to wait 5 minutes.

Step 3

Explain. When you return your attention to your child, this is a good time to briefly explain that when people are talking, it is important not to interrupt. Tell your child why it is important for her to respect this boundary. Keep this brief, as she has already been waiting to be heard.

Step 4

Now you listen. By following through with your earlier promise to give her your attention, you teach her that her needs are important. Try to be fully present for her in those minutes.

Tucker expressed the importance of being patient, both with ourselves and our children. We know that being interrupted is rude and impolite, but also remember that the need for our children to tell us everything may be short lived. So even if your child cannot wait her turn to blurt out what happened on her favorite TV show now, one day you may feel like you are prying teeth to get more than a grunt when asking about her day.

The same respect you ask from your child when others are speaking should be shown to her in return when it is her turn to speak. Listen to her and acknowledge that you are paying attention. If she feels like she is getting your full attention after waiting her turn to speak, it reinforces the behavior. If she still feels like she has to compete with another person, phone or task, she may not think it was worth the wait.