Research has shown that one of the main parenting issues raised by parents of 3-4 year olds is the problem of children interrupting adult conversations.
We have all witnessed the scenario: adults are mid conversation when 3 year old runs up to his mum “mummy, mummy guess what?….”. The child is obviously completely oblivious to social expectations and ‘politeness’. So, how do we as parents deal with this?
Firstly we need to understand that children of age 3 or 4 have a short-term memory that isn’t particularly well developed. This means that they have a strong impulse to say something before they forget what they were going to say. This impulse is made even more urgent when whatever they want to tell you is at that moment in time so important to them.
Furthermore, until a child reaches age 3 or 4, they really have no idea that world does not in fact revolve around them. It is only when they reach this age that they begin to realise that other people have their own agendas, which may vary from their own. Therefore, in their minds, if they are the most important person in the world, why shouldn’t people want to stop to listen to them?
If you try to enforce rules with a child who is too young to understand, you may well end up giving that child the message that you are just not interested. It is important to wait until you feel your child is old enough to comprehend the reason why you are asking them to wait before you start to set expectations and rules.
The last thing we want to do is destroy our little ones spirits by telling them to be quiet when they are so excited to share something with us, but at the same time it is important that when they reach the right age we start to introduce a basic concept that it is rude to interrupt. As long as we accept that they will not always get it right, and are patient when hey make mistakes, to teach them this lesson now is to equip them with better social skills for the future.
So, when they reach an appropriate age, and I would like to stress that only you as parents will know when this is as all children vary so much, what is the best way to go about teaching them not to interrupt?
This quote describes what is possibly one of the most effective methods to teach your child:
“I was chatting with a friend one day when her 3-year-old son wanted to say something. Instead of interrupting though, he simply placed his hand on her wrist and waited. My friend placed her hand over his to acknowledge him and we continued chatting.
After she had finished what she was saying, she turned to him. I was in awe! So simple. So gentle. So respectful of both the child and the adult. Her son only needed to wait a few seconds for my friend to finish her sentence. Then she gave him her complete attention.”
The key to making this method a success is ensuring that your child trusts that you will give them your full attention as soon as you possibly can. If you leave them hanging on for so long that they lose interest and wander off, you have lost their trust in the method working. Research has shown that children are actually able to wait for longer if they trust they will given what they require at the end of their wait.
Children need to feel valued, so when you are able to stop talking and listen, make sure you do give them your full attention, be enthusiastic about what they have to tell you, after all it was clearly important to them. If you can do this, and the child walks away from the interaction positively, they are much more likely to try it again next time.
True success with this method is if we can get our kids playing by our rules, and therefore teaching them a valuable social lesson, but at the same time giving them a positive, confidence boosting experience and making them feel good about themselves.
However, don’t expect to achieve this instantly, it may take a lot of patience and hard work, especially with younger children.