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How Can I Get My Kid to Stop Interrupting?

How Can I Get My Kid to Stop Interrupting? | Parent Like a Professional

Do you remember the days before you were a parent?  I know, it may seem like a lifetime ago!

Remember having conversations with friends of yours that already had kids, and how frustrating it was when the kids would come up and interrupt the conversation, like, every 5 minutes?

And then you became a parent and you realized that allowing your kid to interrupt was the only way to keep your child from repeating, “Dad” a thousand times until you responded.

What if I told you that, on top of it being frustrating to hear “Dad” a thousand times, and on top of it being frustrating to your kid-less friend trying to have a conversation with you, you’re actually teaching your kid how to be an adult who overtalks, butts into conversations, cuts people off, and is generally rude.

Small problems at age three can become much bigger problems as our kids get older and move into adulthood. 

We talk a lot about how the child rearing year set the stage for the adults that our children will eventually become (Read: How to Raise a Good Kid to Become a Good Adult) – and this seemingly small issue of interrupting is no different. 

Small problems at age three can become much bigger problems as our kids get older and move into adulthood. 

We all know that person – the one that loudly overtalks during a group conversation; that interrupts you before you can finish your sentence; or worse, the one that butts into your conversation with someone else and just takes it over. 

You don’t want your kid to be that adult – so address the issue now!

How Can I Get My Kid to Stop Interrupting | Parent Like a Professional

Why does my kid interrupt?

As we have discussed frequently at Parent Like a Professional, behavior happens because it is being reinforced (Read: What is a Reinforcer?).  If a behavior isn’t reinforced, then it eventually stops happening. 

So, your kid continues to interrupt because it is paying off for him. For example, you stop your conversation to give your attention to your child.  (← Your attention is the reinforcer.) 

Maybe your child wants to ask a question... If you answer it, that's the reinforcer. 

Maybe your child wants something to eat... If you get it for him, that's the reinforcer.

Whatever the case, every time you stop your ongoing conversation to attend to your child in the moment after he interrupts you, you are strengthening his behavior. Rest assured, your child is going to continue to interrupt.

Help teach your children to not interrupt by working on these three proactive skills:

  1. Identifying when a person is not available
  2. Appropriately/politely gaining attention (e.g., say “Excuse me.”)
  3. Delaying gratification (or, waiting until attention is received before speaking)

And though some might think it seems a bit old fashioned (the old “Children should be seen and not heard”), that is not why I made this a priority with my three children.

In addition to being a behavior analyst and a dad, I am also a business owner. I’ve run my own company for almost 20 years, and I’ve sat through hundreds of interviews with prospective employees. 

  • I've conducted interviews that ended with my gut saying, “This isn't going to be a good fit.”
  • There were also interviews where I immediately felt confident about the candidate, knowing that they would be a good fit for our organization. 

As a behavior analyst, I have spent a lot of time thinking about why.  What are the qualities that made me feel one way or the other about candidates?

I often find that I am drawn to people who are polite, make good eye contact, smile during our conversation, and don’t overtalk or interrupt. 

I know that I am not unique in my perspective.  I think that most people are drawn toward the same qualities in people.  So, in attempting to best prepare my children to go into the world to be successful adults, I knew that interrupting was one issue that I definitely wanted to make a priority. 

Not to mention that I can now have a nice conversation with my wife without hearing, “Dad” a thousand times!

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