One of the most important jobs of parenting is teaching your child social skills. (See recent article for 20 Ideas to Improve Your Sociability.) An often ignored skill is teaching a child how to interrupt politely. Whether you have been cut off mid-sentence or just completely shut down, you might remember a time that a child has abruptly interrupted the flow of conversation.
In an effort to avoid the rude cutoff that occurs from a child desperately trying to secure attention, practice the proper way to come into ongoing communication between two people. Practicing this social skill with your child will undoubtedly offer numerous opportunities for practice.
Start by creating a scenario and then practicing the proper way to interject. Children often need the attention of a parent when the parent is intensely engaged in conversation with other adults. Discuss boundaries on when to disrupt and when to save their information for later.
Here are three practical ideas to practice with your child that give him the skill to interrupt politely:
- Invite your child to practice coming to your side and quietly grabbing your hand as they wait for you to acknowledge her.
- Suggest your child tug slightly on your clothing when they need to speak to you and then wait to be heard.
- Propose that your child simply stand quietly next to you while they wait for you to acknowledge them and pause the flow of conversation.
These non-verbal clues are friendly and alert the parent that their child needs to speak to them. Let your child know that you will pause in the conversation as soon as the time is right. Most adults are not annoyed if their child grabs their hand, tugs on their shirt or stands quietly beside them. This allows your child to practice patience and take turns. Whether at home, school or anywhere, respect for others and self-control confirm a positive self image. Learning when to interrupt politely trains your child with an important interpersonal savvy that might just aid in his future social adjustment and success.
This next section addresses the need to teach a child to interrupt with his/her peers.
Pose the need to interrupt a peer as well as an adult. If a child would like to join a group of other children in conversation, he might enter the group physically and then wait for an opportunity to speak. Coming into a flow of conversation always means waiting. Not waiting is often rude. Usually an abrupt interruption is not received well. Entering a conversation might mean restating what is being discussed. This communicates that the present speaker is being heard. Always wait until the speaker finishes talking and completes his thought. Jumping in when the speaker takes a moment to breath is not usually well received.
Remember to praise your child enthusiastically when they do this correctly. Giving children three times as many positive words as corrective words is so important to their development. Imagine you have learned something new in your job environment or in your skills. When someone verbally praises you or speaks highly of you to others, doesn’t this make you feel amazing? Sincerely complimenting children or adults should be a consistent social skill that we practice. For more ideas on doing just this, check out our extremely popular Life-Giving Words on this blog or on our podcast. Also, pertinent to a successful living is the skill of listening. All these habits are important to master.
Training a child not to interrupt takes just that…training. Instead of scolding when interrupting occurs, practice possible scenarios with your child when they need to interject in a conversation. Role play situations with you as well as with their peers. Teach them to do this politely. Most adults respond when child grabs their hand, tugs on their shirt or stands quietly beside them. Teaching your child these polite, non-verbal, patient responses will greatly increase his or her social skills.
Join the conversation on Embrace Your Everyday podcast.
More inspiration and practical ideas about HOME and FAMILY in these books: