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Interrupting Others

Demanding Constant Entertainment and Attention

Some children demand that their parents play with them all the time. When a parent is reading, watching TV, fixing her hair, or thinking, the child complains of boredom or sadness, or wants to be picked up. This is an example of invasion of parents’ rights, assuming the parent talks to the child and plays with the child at other times. Even parents of children age 1 to 2 can reasonably insist on several 15-minute blocks of personal time each day while the child is awake.

  • The Rule

    “Don’t interrupt me when I’m busy.”

  • Discipline Technique

    First, redirect your child by stating, “I’m going to read the newspaper now. What are you going to do?” Suggest some toys. If your child keeps talking say, “I can’t listen now. We’ll play when I’m done with the newspaper.” If your child continues to talk or make demands, either ignore the child or make temporary use of time-out.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for entertaining himself or herself.

Interrupting a Parent on the Telephone

  • The Rule

    “Don’t interrupt me when I’m on the telephone, because I can’t hear what the other person is saying.”

  • Discipline Technique

    Redirect your child by giving him or her special toys to play with which you have saved for this situation and keep near the telephone. If your child continues to be disruptive, put the caller on hold (or hang up) and place your child in time-out. Then return to the telephone.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for being quiet and waiting while you are on the telephone. Smile at your child while you are on the telephone.

  • Prevention

    Place most of your telephone calls during your child’s nap or after bedtime. Limit calls to less than 5 minutes when your child is awake.

Interrupting Guests

When your child has friends over, you don’t interrupt them. Children don’t have the right to interrupt their parents’ friends. After an initial greeting and some brief attention, your child should not be allowed to crawl on guests or interrupt conversations.

  • The Rule

    “Don’t interrupt me when I’m talking to my friend, because it makes it hard for us to talk.”

  • Discipline Technique

    For a younger child, distract him with special toys or games. For an older child, tell her she has to find something to do. If your child persists in interrupting, don’t feel guilty about sending her to her room or, if it’s near bedtime, to bed. Children should be able to take a back seat to guests. Other adults will approve of your insisting on this.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for good behavior when guests are over.

Interrupting Family Conversations with Incessant Talking and Questioning

  • The Rule

    “Don’t talk when other people are talking. Don’t change the topic.” Although we like children to talk, they need to wait their turn if someone else is talking.

  • Discipline Technique

    Ignore the child who is interrupting and continue your conversation with the other person. If the interruption continues, tell the child that you will be glad to talk with him when you are finished talking with the other person. Suggest he do something else for now. If he continues to be disruptive, send him to time-out.

  • Praise

    Praise your child for not interrupting and for waiting.

  • Model

    Don’t interrupt other people, and listen carefully when they speak.

Written by Barton D. Schmitt, MD, author of “My Child Is Sick,” American Academy of Pediatrics Books.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 1995-11-07
Last reviewed: 2014-06-10
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 Barton D. Schmitt, MD. All rights reserved.

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