Just as your friend gets to the good part of the story, you hear that little voice echoing, "Mom!" It's as if kids know exactly when to interrupt. When it's someone else's child who keeps breaking into your conversation, it can be annoying. When it's your own child, it's downright embarrassing. Teaching kids to wait their turn in conversation seems like an uphill battle, but it's well worth the effort. It gives them a lifelong lesson in communication and allows you to enjoy some adult conversation peacefully.
Provide Positive Attention
Offer your child plenty of positive attention as a preemptive strike. If you provide him with a dose of your undivided attention each day, he'll be less likely to exhibit attention-seeking behaviors, such as interrupting. Also, give him attention for positive behavior, such as waiting patiently. For example, if your child is playing quietly while you are talking to another adult, provide frequent praise for this often overlooked behavior. Say, "Thanks for waiting quietly and patiently today while we are talking." This will encourage your child to continue playing quietly instead of wandering over to interrupt your conversation.
When you know you'll be talking to someone for any length of time, plan ahead to keep your child occupied. If you're going to be on the phone for a few minutes, give him something to do and tell him the rules. Explain, "I'm going to be on the phone for a few minutes. While I'm talking, I want you to practice building a tower with these blocks." Offer him an incentive to keep playing quietly. Tell him, "If you play quietly the whole time I'm on the phone, when I'm done, I'll play with you." This can help him to stay motivated to play quietly instead of interrupting.
Kids learn a lot about social skills by watching others, so it is essential that you model good manners in conversation. No matter how long and drawn out your child's story is, don't interrupt him. Instead, wait until he's done before you start talking. Show him how to wait for his turn in a conversation when you're talking with others as well, and model the polite way to enter into a conversation when others are talking.
Teach Conversation Skills
Knowing how to enter into a conversation appropriately can be tough for adults, let alone little ones. Teach your child to say "Excuse me" if he needs to ask a question or has something to say. Also, teach him to wait for a pause in the conversation so he doesn't interrupt someone who is in mid-sentence. Create a signal that he can give to you when you are on the phone that says he needs to talk to you for a minute. A thumbs-up or a squeeze on your hand can let you know he needs your attention and give you the opportunity to find an appropriate time to pause the conversation.
Practicing new skills can help kids learn how to wait for their turn in a conversation. Invite a friend or family member over who won't mind helping you practice. Then enter into a conversation and have your child practice finding a pause in the dialogue so he can say "Excuse me" and then speak his piece. Provide him with feedback by praising him when he is doing well and helping him to practice again when he makes a mistake. Role-playing and practicing his skills in a safe setting will help him to be prepared for real-life situations.
Don't answer his question when he interrupts or tend to what he is saying. If you do, you'll reinforce that interrupting is a great way to get his needs met. Instead, pause your conversation for a moment and say, "Interrupting is rude. You need to wait until we are done talking." When there is a pause in the conversation, praise him for waiting patiently and give him your full attention.
Don't tell kids to "Never interrupt." The last thing you want is for your child to wait patiently to tell you the house is on fire. Instead, teach him about times that it is important to interrupt, such as if he's injured or there's a knock at the door. Practice identifying times that he needs to get your attention, even if you are talking to someone else.