If you have a preschooler, then you
probably definitely know the feeling of having nearly every adult conversation interrupted by her urgent need to tell you RIGHT NOW that she saw a plane fly overhead. Or that she likes goldfish. Or that Elsa is her favorite princess. It’s nearly impossible to talk over my daughter’s little voice (her voice is actually not so little when she tries to get my attention). I sound like a broken record, repeatedly saying “hold on” and reminding her that it is rude to interrupt, all of which reinforces her behavior because she gets exactly what she wants – my attention. It also makes me feel kind of rude myself, which sets a bad example. By the time I am able to turn back to my grown-up conversation, I have pretty much forgotten where we left off anyway.
Recently, I made it my mission to tackle this problem. I did research on the Montessori method for handling interruptions. Here is what I have taken away:
A gentle touch – When my daughter wants my attention while I’m in the middle of something, I have encouraged her to place her hand on my wrist. In turn, without stopping my conversation or whatever it is I am doing, I place my hand over her hand to silently acknowledge her. When I find a natural break, I turn my attention to her. I have found that this has really worked, so long as I give her hand a squeeze so she knows I haven’t forgotten about her and I don’t wait too long to turn my attention to her.
Teach to interrupt only when it is necessary – There are, of course, times when interruptions are inevitable and necessary, such as needing a trip to the potty. Remind your little one to use the phrase “Excuse me” when whatever it is cannot wait.
Don’t acknowledge an interruption – Sometimes it’s just easier to answer your child’s question rather than fight with her about interrupting, but I have found that answering my daughter’s question just reinforces her habit. Restraint is key! I place my daughter’s hand on my wrist so she remembers how to get my attention.
Plan ahead – If I know I have an important phone call to make, I let my daughter know beforehand that I will need some mommy time, and find an activity to keep her occupied, whether it be Play-doh or an episode of Doc McStuffins. If she’s busy, she is less likely to seek my attention when I can’t give it to her.
Your Turn: How do you curb interruptions and reinforce polite behavior?
Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net.