To many parents, the words “please don’t interrupt” feel like a mantra. Small children sometimes have difficulty understanding that interrupting is rude. The reasons for interrupting can vary — impulsiveness, self-absorption or simply bad manners. Whatever the case may be, it’s important for children to learn a polite way to get your attention.
Most children understand they should use the words “excuse me” if they need to interrupt, but learning not to interrupt whenever they wish takes some work. The following suggestions may be helpful in teaching your child to be respectful and minimize their interrupting.
Be a good role model
Children frequently mimic what they observe. This includes how your family communicates with one another. It’s sometimes useful to have a house policy that interrupting is not allowed. Carefully watch how your children interact with other people. Teach them that it’s okay to politely say, “You are interrupting; please wait until I’m finished.”
Use non-verbal communication
Sometimes it’s useful to have a non-verbal signal with your children that signals you recognize that they want your attention. It could be a certain look, a silly gesture, or possibly placing your hand on their shoulder.
Give notice when you should not be interrupted. If possible, tell your children that you need to do some work and should only be interrupted for an emergency. Define what an emergency is beforehand — in terms they will understand. Give them some suggestions for things they can do while you are working.
Acknowledge polite behavior
Thank children for their polite behavior in advance. Show how much you appreciate their good behavior. Instead of saying “please try not to be annoying and bother me while I’m on the phone,” you might say, “Thank you so much for playing quietly while I speak to Aunt Jodi.”
We all make mistakes, and depending on a child’s age, they can only be patient for so long. Patience is a virtue, regardless of one’s age.
Your reaction to interruptions largely determines whether they will continue. Ask yourself if the way you are dealing with the interruptions is working, or if it is enabling more interrupting.