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Teaching Children Not to Interrupt

Your little ones are so excited to say what they want to say that they sometimes interrupt others.  They often think their worlds revolve around them, and brief wait times can feel like eternities to them. They don’t intend to be rude:  instead, they seem completely oblivious to the common courtesies of discourse and their own ability to delay their impulses.  How can you help your little ones, ranging from toddlers through elementary-aged kids, learn how not to interrupt?

  • 1. Lead by example. You yourself should not interrupt others.
  • 2. Speak with your kids about the courtesies of discourse. These courtesies include not interrupting, use of appropriate topics and words, proper speaking volume, etc.
  • 3. When you observe your kids interrupting, discreetly pull them aside and remind them of the lessons you covered in step #2 above. Also, you may ask your kids how it must feel to be in the shoes of the person who was just interrupted. If your kids are themselves interrupted, you can visit with them, after the incident, about how it felt to be interrupted. Did it make them feel like the person who interrupted them wasn’t really listening to them? Like that person didn’t really care what they had to say? Did they feel minimized or overlooked?
  • 4. Use these opportunities to teach empathy and proper handling of impulses.
  • 5. If your kids are concerned that they may forget an idea if it is not immediately expressed, teach them memory techniques that will help them remember to express their idea when it is proper to do so rather than when creating an interruption. Such techniques include jotting a quick note, touching or holding an item that will serve as a reminder (i.e., holding a dolly dress as a reminder to ask a friend to come over to play dolls), silently repeating the idea in their heads several times to increase likelihood of memory retention, etc.
  • 6. Read your kids age-appropriate books about manners.
  • 7. Enroll your kids in social skills/values classes at their school, civic center, church, or other organization.
  • 8. Exhibit patience and perseverance. Toddlers are just beginning to develop the capacities necessary to learn not to interrupt. Your elementary-aged kids, however, should be capable of mastering the lessons. So, your toddlers may interrupt time and time again while in the learning process, but if you have patience and perseverance, your kids will master the lesson by or during their elementary years.

By following these eight steps, you will help your kids learn how not to interrupt.  The process will not be easily or quickly accomplished, but the lesson well learned is a life skill that will be essential as your kids become adults.

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