A Simple way to Encourage Children to Stop Interrupting

It doesn’t matter if I’m on the phone, catching up with my husband when he finishes work or talking to my friends, my 3 and 5 year old seem to always be pulling my clothes begging for my attention and shouting ‘mama….mama….mama…MAMA!!!’. I love it that they have so much to say and want my attention but sometimes I just need to do something else for 5 minutes.

I know they don’t do it to deliberately irritate me but I can’t help but be irritated by it! So I’ve put my teacher cap on and had a think. What would Mrs Pettitt do if this was happening in her classroom? (It’s so much easier to be a teacher than a mother!). The following is what I came up with and have been trialling.

A Simple way to Encourage Children to Stop Interrupting

  • Model the desired behaviour;
  • Give them a simple signal they can use to let us know they want to participate/attention.

So, we have been putting this into practice in a very simple way. Every time one of my kids interrupts, I ask them ‘is it your turn yet?’ to which they either reply ‘NO’ or ‘I don’t know’. Then I explain that it isn’t because I was already talking or doing something and tell them that when I finish what I was saying/doing then it will be their turn.

Now, sometimes this works just fine but others all hell breaks loose because they just cannot understand why they have to be the ones waiting for a turn!

The signal we have been using is either a squeeze on my leg or arm. I then need to acknowledge this by holding their hand and look at them.

This seems to be working ok so far and I think that they enjoy having some control over the situation. Sometimes though, they still have a huge melt down because they just cannot wait a second longer for mama’s attention. I suppose that’s ok since they is still young and learning that the world doesn’t revolve around them and their needs all the time. This is however something they need to learn and will ease their future social interactions.

I should add here that sometimes children just need to tell us something there and then and are not able to wait because it really is urgent e.g when they need the toilet, they are hurt, they did something that requires your immediate attention. At the end of the day you are their parent and you know your own child. You should be able to tell when this is the case.

Give it a try and let me know if it worked for you. Do you have other strategies you use to encourage your little ones to stop interrupting and wait their turn?

Love, P


Simple tip to encourage children to stop interrupting

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  1. I struggle a lot with this and my youngest. Totally typical behavior for any child but she has severe autism and has patience the size of a mustard seed! These tips may not work for my little one right now but I’ll tuck them in the back of my head for later!

    1. I completely understand that. Before I became a sahm I was a special needs teacher in a secondary Sen school in London. You probably quite well equipped with strategies for your little one but if you ever need other ideas of anything else. Let me know privately and I will be happy to help in whichever way I can X

  2. I am currently trying to teach my 8 month old to say Mama, as he just says Dada at the moment, but I’m sure when he is old enough, I will wish he didn’t know how to say it! This sounds like a great way to handle interruptions though, and shall store this advice for the future when I need to use it #twinklytuesday

  3. That signal idea is great. I’ve tried it a couple of times when our boy was younger, and he is generally pretty patient for a three-year-old, even when there is something urgent about dinosaurs he has to tell us. 🙂

  4. I have a 6 year old who sometimes still acts like she’s 3. She’s so tall but she always wants “Uppie!” or to be in my lap. Interrupting is something we are still working on. I tried this strategy for a bit, but I didn’t keep it up. We will go back to trying this – thanks for the reminder!

  5. This is a really helpful post as I am really bad at getting stressed out and snappy when my daughter wants my attention and I am busy (like when I was buying airline tickets online and she distracted me so I ended up mistyping her father’s name and had to pay a correction fee!). I really need to take the time to plan a technique like this – pause, take a deep breath, look her in the eye and ask for just a little time. I think your plan sounds great. Although I do remember my mother hating us tapping her on the shoulder for her attention and begging us not to use jabs when we wanted to talk to her. #stayclassymama

  6. I’ve found this has got much easier with Amelia recently. We’ve been practising waiting your (conversational) turn for a few months now, and she pretty much always knows when to pitch in. She forgets sometimes, but we just remind her “so-and-so was already speaking, remember to wait your turn please.” #stayclassymama

  7. Oh we have had so many discussions with our kids about this – they just jump in in the middle of a conversation and if you ignore them because you’re trying to do something important, they just nag louder and start pulling on you. We try to explain about taking turns but it isn’t going in. I might try the hand squeezing to see if that helps #stayclassymama

  8. This sounds like such a good alternative to my yelling ‘wait a minute’. I shall try it. x

  9. Excellent tips! Fortunately for me, my kids are through the phone call interruption stage of life. I don’t even remember how we made it through those days! #stayclassymama

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