Macaroni Kid Reader Asks:My daughter interrupts constantly. How do I get her to stop hijacking the conversation?"Noel Janis-Norton
There probably isn’t a parent out there who can’t relate to this problem! The good news is that within a short space of time, your child can learn to wait patiently and respectfully while you finish conversations.
I’m going to give you four strategies to significantly reduce the amount of interrupting. You’ll notice a difference even if you only use one or two of these strategies, but if you practice all four, you’ll see a transformation within a week or two.
First let’s look at what might be happening now when your daughter interrupts you. Many times when our children interrupt us, we turn to them and say, “Don’t interrupt. Now what is it?” So we’re telling them not to interrupt but then answering them anyway. We’re giving our kids very mixed messages.
1. So the first thing you’ll want to do is to Prepare for Success
to make it easier for your child to do the right thing. Start by making a rule about what she needs to do when you are talking and she wants to talk to you. Your rule could be:
‘When mommy’s talking to someone and you want to talk to me, you have to wait until I’m finished talking. I’ll put my index finger up silently and that will be a signal for you to wait.’
2. Then at a neutral time, do what I call a think-through
about this rule with your child to maximize the likelihood that she’ll remember and follow the new rule. First tell her the new rule and then ask her to tell you back in her own words what the new rule is. When she tells you, be sure to give her Descriptive Praise
. "That’s right, if mommy’s talking to someone, even if it’s just on the phone, you have to wait until I’m finished talking before you can talk." It’s also helpful to inject empathy into your think-through, Reflectively Listening
to how your daughter might feel about this new rule. "And that might be frustrating because you may feel like you have something really important to tell me, but when can you tell me?"
3. After your daughter knows the new interrupting rule, make sure to catch her doing it right and give her Descriptive Praise. Whenever you are talking with someone and she isn’t interrupting, you can say, "I’ve been talking for two minutes, and you haven’t interrupted me once; you’re remembering the rule and being very respectful." Don’t worry that you’ve interrupted yourself to give her Descriptive Praise! We’ve got to catch these glimpses of cooperation and mention them.
4. For many kids, interrupting is all about seeking attention. Kids crave the attention of their parents, even if it’s negative attention. So another way to vastly reduce interrupting is to give our kids positive attention by carving out regular “Special Time” to spend with them. I define Special Time as one parent with one child, doing something you both enjoy that doesn’t cost money and isn’t in front of a screen. When we spend one-on-one time with our kids it shows them that we not only love them but that we also like them and want to spend time with them. Kids do not vie for our attention nearly so much when they are getting the positive individual attention that they need and deserve. Even just 10 – 15 minutes will make a difference!
So what do you do if you’ve been putting these strategies into practice and she still interrupts? Just put a finger up, signaling for her to wait and continue your conversation. The second she stops interrupting, give her Descriptive Praise for waiting and being respectful. Repeat this as much as necessary. If you stay firm and follow through on your rule, your daughter will soon stop interrupting you because it no longer gets her what she wants.
Descriptive Praise, Preparing for Success and Reflective Listening are three of the five core skills of the Calmer, Easier, Happier Parenting program. The more you practice these positive and effective strategies, the calmer, easier and happier family life will become.
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