Have you ever heard the joke about the interrupting cow? It’s hilarious. It goes someth — MOOOO!
Okay. So maybe it’s not hilarious to you, but it will be hilarious to your toddler. That’s likely due to one of a couple reasons: Your toddler simply likes it when someone says moo really loud. Or, your toddler is totally down with interrupting you whenever they damn well feel like it, so they identify with that jerk of a cow. Yeah. It’s probably that second reason.
But guess what? Your kid eventually reaches an age when they figure out that you don’t need to be informed about their every feeling. Here’s how to get them to stop cutting in so much.
Why They’re Wired To Interrupt
Asking why a toddler interrupts is like asking why a cheetah eats gazelles. They’re just kind of made for it.
First, they are firmly planted in the center of the universe. They kind of have to be in order to ultimately find out how they fit in it (which is something even some adults haven’t accomplished). Second, they have no concept of time, manners, basic decency or any hierarchical concept of the importance of things. Third, did they mention they saw a bug?
How To Cope
Most toddler behavioral issues begin with the basic step of communication. Your kid is never going to get this stuff unless you explain it to them. Here’s what they need to know:
- Interrupting is when you talk or yell over someone who’s already talking. Have you told them about that cow?
- It’s very impolite to interrupt and it makes people upset or frustrated.
- There are times when interrupting is okay. Like when you have to go potty. Or the house is on fire. Or, very rarely, both.
Handsome Boy Modeling School
Your kid is looking at your drop dead handsome face trying to figure out how the heck to live in this world. That gives you a ton of power to model the behavior you’re expecting from them.
That means that when they do interrupt you’re not lashing out with your own rude nonsense. Instead, stay calm and ask them to please wait until you’re finished. And for the love of all that is holy, don’t answer their question.
It also means that you don’t allow the world to interrupt the time that you’re sharing together. It’s alright to stop your partner if they bust in while you and your kid are having some good times. Just do it politely, with a smile (and maybe agree with your partner ahead of time that this is the new anti-interruption policy).
Try A Squeeze Play
If your kid is having trouble figuring out the interruption situation, teach the squeeze technique. When they feel the need to chime in, they can gently squeeze your arm. Your response is to squeeze their hand back to let them know you got the message.
At first, you’ll have to get to them quickly after your response squeeze, but soon enough you’ll be able to keep them waiting after your response squeeze until you’ve found a pause in the conversation.
Allowing them to have a hand on your arm also helps your kid feel that they’re still connected to you — even when your attention is deep in a conversation that’s way less important. It was a really cool bug, man.
Bust Out A Busy Bag
Of course, you can mitigate the interruptions altogether by providing your kid with a bag of toys that they dig. Give it to them before company arrives, or before you make the phone call. Be sure and switch the toys out every once in awhile. That way your kid won’t feel bored … and interrupt you to tell you so.
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