Interrupting: Why it happens and what to do about it (ages 3 to 4)

Interrupting: Why it happens and what to do about it (ages 3 to 4)

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Why preschoolers interrupt

You're on the phone with a colleague when your preschooler tugs on your sleeve and bleats, "Mommy...Mommy!...MOMMY!!"

Why doesn't she know that it's rude to interrupt? Because at this age, your preschooler's just beginning to realize that the world doesn't revolve around her. Not only that, her short-term memory isn't well developed, which means her impulse to say things right now, before she forgets, actually has a physiological basis. What's more, your preschooler's still figuring out that sometimes you have to finish tasks and talk to people without her involvement.

The good news is that as her short-term memory improves and she becomes less impulsive, she will be more capable of holding onto a thought (though not for very long) while she waits for you to wrap up what you're doing. It's easy for adults to take for granted, but deciding when it's okay to cut in requires fairly high-level critical thinking. Among the things your child has to ponder when she wants to get a word in: Is it okay to interrupt when I'm hungry? When I need a tissue? When the sink is about to overflow? When the house is on fire? Understandably, these skills take time to develop, so try not to expect miracles.

Of course, dealing with a preschooler who cuts in every time you're chatting with a friend or scheduling an appointment is exasperating. But if you keep her worldview in mind, it'll be easier to understand that she's not purposefully trying to irritate you. In the meantime, help your youngster form habits that will someday allow you to complete a sentence without stopping to admire the dead cricket shoved under your nose.

What you can do about interrupting

Show her how it's done. Preschoolers are notorious copycats – take advantage of this by setting a good example. If you and your partner tend to cut each other off, work on ending that habit. You should also try not to interrupt your preschooler when she's talking to you. If you forget and step on her lines (or anyone else's), stop and say, "Sorry. I interrupted you. Go on." With a little luck, your child will not only absorb your good manners but your ease in graciously admitting to a mistake. You'll also make your job easier down the road if she frequently hears you say, "pardon me," "please," "thank you," "you're welcome," and "excuse me." Although she may not completely understand why manners are important, she'll sense that they're something of value because you do.

Make a game of it. At play groups, daycare, or preschool, your child has probably learned how to take turns. Draw on this newfound skill to teach her to wait until the other person has finished talking to speak her peace. This simple game will introduce your preschooler to the stop-and-go pattern of conversation: Kneel or sit so you can make eye contact with her. Ask an open-ended question, one that invites a longish reply, such as, "What's your favorite thing to do on Saturday morning?" Listen carefully as she answers. Prompt her gently if necessary: "Are you finished? Okay, now it's your turn to ask me a question." If she interrupts your answer, touch your finger to her lips and finish what you were saying. Then say, "It's your turn now," and let her continue the conversation. If she stalls, ask another question. She may still be a long way from making polite dinner-party conversation, but at least she'll grasp the basics of conversational give-and-take.

Get phone-smart. Your preschooler acts up when you're on the telephone because she sees the phone as a threat – it takes away your attention, which she wants for herself. She might feel less threatened if you invite her to pick her own activity while you chat. Ask, "Would you like to get a book or a toy and sit close to me while I'm on the phone? Or would you rather sit at the table and have some milk?" Offering her a choice makes her feel that she has some control and makes it clear that you haven't forgotten her. Keep the choices simple, though. If you ask, "What would you like to do while I'm on the phone?" you might be setting yourself up for a no-win negotiation.

If that ploy doesn't work, try redirecting her attention. You might want to keep a box or drawer of special toys or art supplies that she can use only during phone calls. Other ideas are to fill a sink with water and plastic cups for her to play with (as long as you can watch), let her watch a video, or stack cans from the pantry.

Read and teach. Reading books together and talking about them is always a good way to get an idea across. Try these: The Berenstain Bears Forget Their Manners by Stan and Jan Berenstain, The Bad Good Manners Book by Babette Cole, Manners by Aliki, It's a Spoon, Not a Shovel by Caralyn and Mark Buehner, What Do You Say, Dear? by Sesyle Joslin and Maurice Sendak, and – a great choice for irrepressible girls – Lilly's Purple Plastic Purse by Kevin Henkes.

Hang in there. It'll probably be a few years before your child prefaces her interruptions with a demure, "Excuse me, I have a question." Even so, remind yourself that she's doing well to learn that interrupting is generally frowned upon – and that when people do need to cut in, there's a polite way to do it. If she can put these principles into action most or even some of the time, you have reason to heap on the praise. In the meantime, try to remember that you're introducing a principle rather than achieving a goal. Most important, take a deep breath when you're in the middle of an intense phone conversation with your boss and your preschooler screams, "Mom, I have to pee!"

Swap stories and advice about behavior and discipline with other parents in the our site Community.

Watch the video: 2-Year-Old Steals the Show Interrupting Moms TV News Interview (June 2022).


  1. Howland

    Don't turn the attention!

  2. Raleigh

    Can't you explain it in more detail?

  3. Sying

    Wow, my sweets !!!!

  4. Robb

    Sorry, but I need something completely different. Who else can suggest?

  5. Machum

    Congratulations, what the words ..., great idea

  6. Jazzmyn

    Yes, the satisfactory option

  7. Malajar

    I know nothing about it

  8. Jennelle

    Great post - no words. Thanks.

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