How to Stop Your Preschooler From Interrupting
Ask a parent what tries patience most in raising a preschooler and you'll find that being constantly interrupted tops the list. With a preschooler in the house, it's very difficult to have an adult conversation, talk on the phone, or even do a simple task like paying the bills without being interrupted.
But your child is not trying to annoy you or be rude. According to neuroscientist Lise Eliot, Ph.D., author of "What's Going on in There: How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life," young children have very immature frontal lobes (and actually resemble adults with frontal-lobe brain damage!), which is the slowest part of a child's brain to develop.
This means that physiologically preschoolers have a poor understanding of time, a very short attention span, and a lack of self-control. Unlike adults, their short-term memory is underdeveloped and they might not be capable of holding onto a thought while waiting for an adult to finish what he is doing.
Does this mean you should allow a preschooler to interrupt? No. But it should help to know that as their frontal lobes develop and they gain social experience and maturity, children will interrupt much less frequently.
Tips to Get a Word in Edgewise
- It's Mommy's Turn: When your child starts to interrupt, stop him and say: "It's Mommy's turn to talk now. Then it will be your turn." While it's hard for preschoolers to understand interrupting, they're usually pretty good at turn taking and this technique will get them to let you finish your thought.
- Ignore the Interruption: For example, if someone asks you for directions and your child starts screaming from his car seat, trying to interrupt you, simply ignore it. The less attention he gets for interrupting, the less likely it is he'll do it.
- Plan Ahead: If you know you need a certain amount of time to make a phone call or balance the check book, give your preschooler an activity that will take the same amount of time. Have him listen to a book on tape, or do an easy craft project (one that doesn't need adult help) so you can have your 15 minutes of uninterrupted peace.
- Catch Him Doing Something Right: When your child waits patiently without interrupting, be sure to notice and praise him for it! We all like to be caught acting good.