Works for Me Wednesday: Backwards Edition

October 3, 2007

Well, Shannon at Rocks in My Dryer is mixing things up a bit this week and doing a backwards sort of Works for Me Wednesday. We are supposed to post things that we need to RECEIVE tips for.

My request for tips is relatively simple, but for a problem that has plagued me for… oh, about 12 years.

Please, oh please, if any of you know how to make children stop interrupting, TELL ME HOW!! I just cannot seem to get it through my two darlings’ heads that if I am already speaking to someone (or someone is speaking to me) — whether in person or on the phone — it is not an invitation for them to come bounding over and start a second, wholly unrelated conversation with me. Moreover, if I am kind enough to subtly acknowledge their request with a discreet nod or shake of my head, it is not a signal for them to ask more questions.

It seems like such a simple concept… why can’t my kids grasp it?



  1. I give them THE LOOK and say you’re interrupting. The next time they do it I hold up my finger and give them the LOOK. Works for me.

  2. This is what we are trying, based on having seen it work for another mom.

    I sat our children down (now ages 4 and 9) and explained to them about interrupting. Then I told them from now on if I am speaking and they need to tell me something they need to put their hand on my arm. I will then put my hand on their hand to acknowledge that I know they want to tell me something. Then they wait. I get to the point in the conversation where I can excuse myself and then I speak to them to let them know they can go ahead with what they wanted to say. (Man, this sounds so technical when I type it out.) I also explained to them that if it is an emergency (aka someone is hurt / might get hurt immediately) they are to simply say “excuse me” and I will listen to them.

    Hope this helps.

  3. We have a signal for things that just can’t wait (which is everything for littles. Sigh.)
    They put their hand on my forearm, to let me know they are waiting for a turn to speak. Iput my hand over theirs, to let them know that *I* know they need to tell me something. Then at the next natural lull (end of sentence or whatever) I’ll let them tell me what they need to .
    Also, we have a rule that if they interrupt me in the potty with a question through the door, the answer is automatically NO.

  4. I’m not a parent, so my viewpoint might be different, but I wouldn’t acknowledge it until I’m finished with the other person. Maybe giving them little cues you’re listening to them reinforces the kids’ belief that they can come up to you again and interrupt and will be acknowledged. Once you’re at a logical pause in the conversation you can say, “Now, what did you need, Kid X?” lol

    Seems like how people will treat them as adults. *shrug*


  5. Oh my goodness! I came here just to read the comments as I have the same problem with our 4yr old and absolutely no suggestions! Lol. Great question!
    (Any suggestions for a 1st birthday party? Please visit me!)

  6. What Tina said. We do it and it really works!

  7. The best way is to shape their behavior by praising them for not interrupting!

    Before beginning an activity where you do not want to be interrupted, get your child involved in a high interest activity and tell your child that you are not to be interrupted. For example, before you make a phone call, instruct your child to play with his Legos and remind him not to interrupt you while you are on the phone.

    INTERRUPT YOURSELF. Praise your child AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, before your child has a chance to interrupt you. Continue to interrupt yourself every several minutes to praise your child’s continuing good behavior.

  8. I love the “hand on the forearm” deal. I know a couple families that do this and it works great. I will definately do this when my kiddos are bigger.
    One of the moms always says to her kids “Thank you for waiting, now what can I help you with” or something like that, and I think it’s great to awknowledge and praise them for the way they waited and didn’t interupt. It will take a little practice, but this is a great technique (I think it is, anyway)

  9. Great advice from everyone. I am learning too though that sometimes they are interuppting me so often because I am listening so rarely. I’m ALWAYS busy talking to someone else or doing something else, but am I giving them a full portion of my ear too? When I am making an important call, I spend 5 minutes getting drinks, snacks, talking with the kids, etc. before the call and I explain the no interuppting rule again. It helps.

  10. Let them know they’re interrupting, then ignore them. It works for us.

    Get back to them soon, though, or they get increasingly impatient.

    Praise patience! That always works for me.

  11. We do the hand on the forearm thing too and it is marvelous. A few add-ons. If they forget the hand trick, they have to go back to where they came from for a start over. If they forget twice in one interlude they get to go sit on their bottom somewhere and wait for me to come have the “I notice that you are having a hard time remembering to be polite . . .” chat with them. They may have to wait a long time.

    In addition, if they interrupt me or make disruptive noise when I am on the phone it is straight to the little sitting chair, no warnings. When I am off the phone (which could be awhile), I ask them which is more fun, playing quietly in the house, or waiting in the little chair.

    And, as another poster mentioned, questions shouted through the bathroom door get grouchy answers.

    The hand on the arm thing gets lots of praise from strangers when done in public. It’s a nice affirmation for all of us.

  12. We do the same thing as Milehimama. It works wonders!

    Mrs. Brownstone @ XBOX Wife

  13. Thanks everyone for your suggestions! We’re going to give it a try!

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