Your Child is Interrupting…AGAIN

“Mommy? Mommy? Mommy?” Christi’s four-year-old daughter tugs on her skirt as she tries to give her neighbour a recipe for veggie fajitas. “Mommy? Mommy?” More skirt tugging.

“WHAT?!” Christi snaps. Her daughter reels backward and shyly says, “My dolly can do the splits.”

Definitely we’ve all either been in this situation, or witnessed it. Kids just want to be heard. But when is it time to teach them boundaries? They need to understand when it’s an important interruption, of course, and when it can wait.

Parenting expert and best-selling author, Ann Douglas suggests teaching that conversations are about taking turns. “Refuse to listen to your child when she’s interrupting. Explain, briefly, that she’ll get a chance to speak as soon as you’re finished.

If you stop what you’re doing, irritated, and deal with your pre-schooler, chances are you’ve just given in to the attention she was seeking. You’ve set a precedence for an annoying habit.


  • Teach your child how conversation works. Taking turns: one person talking while other person listens.
  • Teach the proper manners when interrupting a conversation. To wait until a pause and to say, “Excuse me,” not “MOMMY!” over and over. Let your child know that if she interrupts in that manner she won’t be listened to.
  • Teach what is a valid reason for interrupting (such as her brother locked himself in the bathroom again) and reasons that will require patience (such as, really wanting a cookie).
  • Teach patience. Start by asking your child to wait only for a few moments (ten seconds or so). If she is quiet until you tell her time is up, make sure you praise her for waiting. Extend the length of time you practise waiting, but in gradual increments.
  • Teach a signal. With your child, choose an appropriate, discreet way that your child can let you know she needs your attention. Touching your arm, works well. When she ‘interrupts’ touch her back. Keep your hand on her shoulder, arm, top of her head, until you are ready to pay attention to her. Keeping in contact let’s your child know you haven’t ‘forgotten’ them, but you are still busy.


  • Recognize that the younger a child is the longer waiting will seem to her. Don’t be unreasonable in your expectations of how long the patience of a four-year-old is.
  • Practise what you preach. If you interrupt others (especially your child), you’re not setting the right example. Next time you desperately need to ask if she’s remembered to go potty, but she’s in a deep conversation with her teddy bear, remember to say, “Pardon me, but…”
  • Always praise good manners. Acknowledge your child’s remembering to say “Excuse me” or that she waited for you to finish your phone call.

Finding a way to be available to your child, while enforcing some boundaries will keep you from missing that update on your girlfriend’s ongoing work saga the next time you’re on the phone! PC

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