I’m of the belief that one of the hardest parts of parenting is the constant interruptions. It could be interruptions while you’re talking, or just the idea that a parent’s life is often broken down into two to three hour windows – it’s a luxury to have a whole afternoon to just be able to focus on what you want, without being distracted or having to put what you’re doing aside to help a little person. The continual shifting of mental gears can really start to chip away at you!
That isn’t to say that an interrupting kid isn’t a normal kid. Impulsivity and egocentricism go hand-in-hand with childhood, and that often leads to interrupting Mom or Dad when they’re in the middle of something. We can still coach our children into more socially appropriate behaviour, though, making our lives at home a little more stress-free, and the social lives of our kids a little more pleasant (no one wants to be friends with a constant interrupter or conversation hog).
When kids are just starting school, they’re at a good age to be coached into a less disruptive behaviour. Train them to recognize when you are available for conversation, and when you’re not which means they’ll have to be patient. You can make this waiting easier for them by acknowledging them; even something as simple as a hand pat or eye contact and a nod, let’s them know that you know they’re there, and that their turn will come.
As kids get just a little older, self-control develops enough that they absolutely have the ability to resist some of that impulsivity and wait for their moment. It’s not asking too much of a seven year old to catch your eye but still wait until you’re ready to talk, or to ask, “When you’re done with what you’re doing, can I talk to you?”. If they forget and jump right in, a simple, “It’s not polite to interrupt” or “I was still speaking” can be enough of a cue for most kids to be patient. It generally works better in relationships if we tell others what we will do (not what they must do), so try telling your kids how you will handle their interruptions, without focusing on what they need to do: “When you interrupt me, I lose my train of thought, so I’m going to have to go back to the beginning,” or “When someone talks when I’m talking, I get confused or frustrated, so I’ll just stop talking until it’s my turn again.” Actions speak louder than words, so don’t focus on lectures of how rude it is to interrupt. Instead, lead by example and model for your kids how you would like for them to behave in those moments.
No matter how frustrating those interruptions are, take a deep breath and remind yourself that your kids aren’t trying to test your patience. They aren’t suggesting that your thoughts or conversation are less important than theirs, it’s just that they haven’t developed the skill of balancing both people’s needs in a conversation, and while it might be irritating in the moment, this is a great opportunity to help them flex that muscle.