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Excuse Me for Interrupting: Teaching & Improving Children Basic Manners

It does not matter if you are talking over the backyard fence with the neighbor, having a conversation on the telephone, or are asking the clerk in the bank a question, your child appears to be completely unaware that your mouth is open, words are coming out, and someone else is listening. Instead, he walks right up and demands to get something – right now.

Sure, you may try to convince your child to please be patient but depending on his age this will only keep him calm for about a minute or less. Before long you find yourself drawn into a conversation about why he needs to wait, why he does not want to, how you want to just finish the conversation, and before long, the other adult moves on and lets you know that they will catch up with you later.

This scenario is more common than you think and while some parents succeed and diverting their children’s attention and getting them to calm down so that they may finish their conversations, the vast majority find that they will have to simply suspend their adult conversation in order to cater to their child’s wishes. Interruptions such as these are high on the list of annoying habits parents wish their kids would unlearn, and there are actually some ways that you can help them kick this habit once and for all!

The Problem: Bad Conversion Manners

You child interrupts you during any kind of adult interaction. This might take place while you are on the telephone, in the store, at the bank, or simply at home with your spouse or a friend. Even when asked to stop the interruption, your child is not deterred but seems to become even more determined.

The Reason: For Improper Speaking Manners

It works! After all, when your child interrupts you, the first you do to get the interruption to stop is catering to his wishes. Why should he stop a behavior that so obviously yields the desired results? Since during the time of the interruption you are least likely to discipline him, there is the added incentive of being able to get away with the behavior without fear of repercussions.

The Solution: To Improving Your Child’s Interrupting

Help your child understand the difference between a want and a need. Needing your attention because the house is on fire is a bona fide reason for an interruption, wanting your attention so that he can get a cookie is not a good reason to make you interrupt your telephone conversation.

Assist your child in finding polite ways to getting your attention. Help him identify pauses in the conversation where he may say the polite words “excuse me” and then get your attention. Reinforce the behavior by responding to his polite interruption. If needed, instruct him to wait until you are finished with your conversation before fulfilling his need.

When communicating with your child in this manner, it is important that you completely turn to him and look him in the eyes, so he knows he has your full attention. When you have responded to him, you need to turn away from him and turn your attention visible back to the person with whom you were conversing to signal to your child that your conversation is over.

In the alternative, you may instruct your child to gently squeeze your hand or arm. To let you know that you acknowledge his presence, you may squeeze him back gently. This puts him on notice that you will get to him as soon as you can extricate yourself from the conversation.

Read the next parenting article on child arguing and back talking >>
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