You’re having a serious chat with your best friend about the ins and outs of finding the right preschool, when you hear, “Mommy.” You continue to talk, hoping your toddler will remember you asked her not to interrupt, but there it is again, “Mommy!” Yet, you continue talking – she’ll remember sometime, right? “MOMMY!” She obviously doesn’t remember she’s not supposed to interrupt during a conversation, so how do you teach her this valuable social skill?
1 Set an example. If you have a habit of cutting others off during a conversation, your little one will think nothing of doing the same.
2 Touch your daughter’s back or arm when she’s interrupting to let her know you recognize she’s there, but you need to finish talking.
3 Explain to your daughter before starting a conversation that it’s an important conversation and she needs to remember not to interrupt.
4 Invite a friend over for some practice. Explain to your daughter that you’re going to talk to your friend for a few minutes and then you’ll talk to her for a few minutes. Give her an activity to do, remind her not to interrupt, set a timer and start talking to your friend. When the timer goes off, switch all your attention to your daughter while your friend does their own thing.
5 Offer your child a bin with toys that only come out on special occasions, a special book or two, or a fun activity to do while you’re involved in conversation.
6 Play a question game with your daughter to practice not interrupting. Ask her an open ended question, such as “Why do you like animals so much?” Ask her if she's finished when you think she’s done speaking. When she is, say to her, “Now, it’s your turn to ask me a question.” If she interrupts during your answer, gently touch her lips and finish your answer. Then, tell her it’s her turn.
7 Create a signal and response you and your daughter can use that lets you know she wants your attention. For example, she can place her hand on your arm when she wants your attention and you can touch her hand to let her know you noticed the signal.
8 Practice the signal either in real conversations or just pretend you’re on the phone with someone. Initially, respond to your daughter quickly, but as she learns to wait, extend the length of time between you touching her hand and actually turning to talk to her.
9 Encourage and remind her when there are opportunities to practice the signal instead of interrupting. Before starting a conversation, say to her, “Remember, if you need my attention you can place your hand on my arm and I’ll speak to you as soon as I get a chance.” Praise her when she doesn’t interrupt.
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- Set realistic expectations. Toddlers and preschoolers don’t have an unlimited amount of patience. They aren’t going to sit there playing happily for 30 minutes while you finish a conversation. If you need to have a lengthy conversation where you don’t want to be interrupted, find a time when someone else can entertain your little one.
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