This past week, I have heard of about 10 great tips to teach kids to stop interrupting and I want to share them with you.
Maybe you are a mom working from home and you have an important work call or maybe you are talking to your child’s teacher. Whatever the reason for the call, it can be frustrating to be interrupted.
“MOM! MOM! I just built the coolest fort in my room! I want to make it outside. Oh! If it is outside, we can have a slide and a swing and even a little place for a chimney! Can I go out now and start? Mom?”
Great conversation… love his imagination. However, when I am on the phone and this is what I hear in one ear while I am trying to hear the time of an appointment in my other ear, it isn’t so ‘great.’ I lose my temper when I don’t want to and I am not as excited as I should be.
Don’t get me wrong. I want to hear what they have to say, but I want our kids to be respectful enough of adults to know that they can’t just start talking while I am on the phone or in mid-conversation. I don’t want to raise kids that will become adults doing the same thing. Plus, I don’t want to be giving them just half of my attention when they deserve all of it.
So… I asked some friends of mine for their best advice about how to teach kids to stop interrupting and here it is:
Before you try any of the ideas, below, be sure to go over these two things:
- Tell your kids that above all, if they need you, they can get you. If someone is hurt or sick, you want to be interrupted. They will not be in any sort of trouble for interrupting you if someone truly needs you.
- Teach your child that with these next ideas (below), although you will not stop talking RIGHT AWAY, you will give them the attention that they want, as soon as you find a breaking point in your conversation.
How to Teach Kids to Stop Interrupting
1. Use an Excuse Me card. When I taught second grade, I had an “excuse me” card in my classroom. I actually had four cards in my classroom (one per table) and I laminated them. I left out dry erase markers in a basket at each table, so my students could grab one if they needed to write on the card. Each time that they needed me while I was testing a child or talking to another teacher, they could slip me an excuse me card. The card said “excuse me” on the top, with 3 lines on the bottom for them to write what they needed.
Example: “Excuse me… Can I have a drink of water?” It was easy for me to answer with a head nod. It works well in our home, as well, especially if I am on the phone.
2. If your child interrupts you anyway, by talking to you, take his/her hand and lead him straight into his room, where he will sit until he is ready to come out and wait or until you are finished on your call.
3. Teach your child to place his hand on your arm when he needs you. Show him that you notice by placing your hand back on his hand. Have him wait until you find a breaking point in your conversation to help him. When you have a stopping point, turn to your child and give him your full attention and ask him what he needs. (This one has worked wonders for our kids!)
4. If you teach your child to say “excuse me,” you may want to teach them that by touching them on the shoulder, you are acknowledging that they are there and will help them in a minute. If they say it again, you will take them to their room or to a time-out spot. (One time of this and they will not do it again.)
5. “I taught my kids to say excuse me, then we would say ‘Just a moment,’ or we would say ‘Yes, Honey.’ If he kept doing the ‘Mom, mom, mom, mom,’ I ignored him until my sanity caved. At that point, I would say, ‘You forgot to say excuse me’ and I would go right back to ignoring him. He caught onto the idea to say ‘Excuse me just one time.” ~ Becky Cunningham
6. Hold up one finger to let your child know that you will get to them in a moment. This shows that you acknowledged the fact that they need you, and you will give them your full attention shortly.
7. If your child is young, give him/her something to keep him occupied until you are finished on the phone. I used to keep a plastic bin in my pantry with color wonder markers and paper that I used only when I had to make a phone call. I knew that regular markers were a wonderful thing, but messy, so these were perfect and our kids all loved them.
8. Have empathy. I know what it is like to want to tell someone something right away. Your kids are no different. Remind them that you understand. “I know that it is hard when I am on the phone, but I am usually not on for very long and I will be with you as soon as I finish.”
9. Use a timer. With young children, it can be good to have a timer near you. When they come to you and place their hand on your arm, put up your hourglass timer, letting them know that when the timer runs out, you are going to listen to them. This will give you about two minutes to wrap up your conversation.
10. Read books about it. A great one is “My Mouth Is a Volcano,” by Julia Cook.
The truth is that your child is probably interrupting to tell you something that they think is important, so let them know that you want to hear it as soon as you have a free second. When it is their turn, give them 100% of your attention and model good listening skills. Make them know that it was worth the wait!
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