We had a question from a reader that I think most parents can relate to. Her children often talk over and interrupt each other in an effort to be heard. This dynamic can happen at home and at school, and there are a few approaches to dealing with the situation. We asked our blog Parenting Expert Bill Corbett to provide some advice. Here is the original question:
“Hi Bill. Please help !! I have 3 young kids (7 yr old twin girls and a 4 year old boy). All 3 are very outgoing, outspoken and loud. Everyone constantly talks over each other in an effort to be heard. How can we teach them to stop interrupting and to be respectful of others when they are speaking? I swear my kids totally tune out everyone else and just focus on asking their questions (they are all extremely inquisitive). We constantly remind them to take turns speaking and at dinner we’ve tried having a ball to pass around so that only the one holding the ball is speaking at that time. But nothing seems to work. Are my kids just that inconsiderate? Or are there other things we can try?”
First of all I commend you for trying one thing right; using the ball to provide the power to speak while the others listen. You’re on the right track but dinner time is probably not the best family event to use this type of training. I suggest you begin holding a special family meeting one a week or every other week to conduct this training. To start out, break each meeting into two parts, the first just for discussion as a family and then a fun activity. Because you have a 4 year old, this gives you the out to keep the meetings short because of the youngest child’s short attention span. Implement the talking item and go over the rules. The consequence for not following the rules is that the family meeting ends immediately. Be sure that this consequence is set up in advance and when someone not holding the ball talks, silently end the meeting immediately.
It is normal for children to feel competitive when they are all together, feeling afraid that they won’t be heard. You can help them learn to be more patient by implementing a new rule that when mommy is talking to someone else (in person or on the phone), you are going to behave differently. When the child approaches you to speak to you and you are on the phone or speaking to someone else, do three things immediately:
1. Touch the child in a loving way (rub their back, play with their hair, put them on your lap, pull them close, etc.),
2. DO NOT look at the child, and
3. DO NOT speak to the child.
Role play this new behavior often and be sure to reward the child for waiting by being really excited and loving after you’ve ended your conversation with the other person. Finally, make sure that the adults in the family are not modeling talking over others.
Great advice that I know I’ll try at home and at school! Do you have a tip or experience to share in relation to this question? We’d love to hear from you! You can also ask a question for Bill or any of our experts by using the blue form on the right!