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constantly interrupting adult conversations ...

(26 Posts)
Countingthegreyhairs Sun 21-Sep-08 20:22:06

I could do with some advice please

I'm obviously not of the 'children should be seen and not heard school' but equally, I'm keen on children learning a few manners and allowing adults to converse once in a while between themselves without being constantly interrupted ....

how do you strike the balance please???

Example: I recently had a very close friend visit (she turned up unexpectedly - she has moved countries - and we had 35 minutes to chat) and my dd 5 yrs kept interrupting our conversation every 2 or 3 minutes ..either wanting to talk or demanding attention . to the extent that I was quite embarrassed ...

at first we watched her dance, then we included her in the conversation, then I set her up with a drawing activity, then when that didn't work I asked her not to please interrupt, when that didn't work I asked her a bit more firmly .... (I didn't want to embarrass dd or my friend by having a loud confrontation about it) ...nothing worked and I ended up quite frustrated and upset ...

I probably should have put the telly on but we are in the middle of a "turn off the telly month" and I didn't want to break our agreement ....

she's a child who gets lots of attention normally and I don't thinking asking her to play by herself for 35 minutes occasionally is asking too much is it??? Or is it???

how would you have handled this situation in particular and how do you handle this issue in general please??

Dropdeadfred Sun 21-Sep-08 20:29:47

is she used to you having friends round? perhaps she really doesn't understand that she is 'interrupting' and thinks she is just joining in

Tortington Sun 21-Sep-08 20:32:27

"excuse me i am talking" in flat tone with raised eyebrows.

i do this with all children not ust my own.

the key is to remember to come back to them

finish what you are curently talking about and then say " right tilly, what was it you wanted to show me.....that's great well done"

and keep on. there are natural 'paragraphs to conversations, we know this whilst conversing with each other - when to speak and when to listen - children know this also.

jellyforbrains Sun 21-Sep-08 20:34:46

My DS (4) does this at the moment so I will be following with interest. I feel the same way as you about it - he should be able to entertain himself for a little while. I do try and say "wait a minute, mummy/mummy's friend is in the middle of saying something". Am hoping it will sink in eventually!

notnowbernard Sun 21-Sep-08 20:39:16

Totally OK to send off and play in room or whatever

I do this - I have a nosy DD1 who wants to know who and what I'm talking about

I tell her I don't hang around interuppting her playtime and games when she is playing with her friends wink

Joolyjoolyjoo Sun 21-Sep-08 20:43:37

I'm not a children-should-be-seen-and-not-heard person either, but I HATE children interrupting. My 4 yo dd would much prefer to sit in on the adult conversation than play with her peers, which frustrates me, as the whole point of these "play dates" is that the mums get to chat while the kids get to play. I do the "Excuse me, mummy/ friend is speaking, please do not interrupt!" and then I ask them when there is a gap what it is they want they say.

I also really hate when other people's children interrupt me or their mum, and we all have to stop and listen to whatever they have to say (fair enough if it is an urgent request, or even an "excuse me, mum, but"). It makes me feel like their mum thinks whatever I was saying was uninteresting and less important than the whatever thing their child had to say, and it therefore makes me feel self-concious and embarrassed, and reluctant to resume that particular conversation. I think if you don't address the issue and ask your child to wait, it is rude to your guest/ friend, and it's something I am very concious of.

FILLYJONKhasayarnshopASBO Sun 21-Sep-08 20:46:08

well...its going to be tricky if she is used to being included in conversation to suddenly not include her.

If I'd known someone was coming round, I'd have explained the situation beforehand ("x is coming round, we really want to chat as we don't see much of each other. I need you to let us do that") and given her lots and lots of attention before the guest turned up.

If possible, I'd also have primed the guest to chat to her for a bit at the start, as thats often what they want. then they usually wander off and play ime.

I don't know if it teaches them manners or not, but I do find that this works and means I get to chat. Though my kids will play happily for a long time alone normally, so it is more curiosity than attention seeeking with them, I think.

When someone turns up unexpectdly, its hard, isn't it? if she gets lots of attention normally she probably would be a bit taken aback if you suddenly tried not to give her so much-I wonder if it all started spiralling as she tried to do more stuff to grab your attention?

Hassled Sun 21-Sep-08 20:49:24

I have absolutely no patience with children who interrupt constantly. As far as I'm concerned learning to wait to talk and not butting into a conversation is just as important a skill as table manners or sharing toys or saying please and thank you etc, etc.

It has baffled me for years why good, caring parents to whom manner obviously matter are quite happy to let their children interrupt. It is rude. It is on a par with snatching toys and other "selfish" behaviour and it is a big deal. As long as the child gets a lot of attention at more appropriate times and isn't constantly ignored I have no problem with making it very clear that you don't interrupt unless it is urgent.

As to how I would have handled the situation - I would have given clear warnings that the DD should not interrupt, told them when I would be able to look at the drawing/listen to the song/whatever, explained why I couldn't do that now, and if the interruptions persisted I would have sent the child to their bedroom. But then it's Tough Love around these parts .

Countingthegreyhairs Sun 21-Sep-08 21:24:22

Thanks for all yr replies ...they've given me the confidence to tackle this a bit more 'head on'.

I don't know why I wasn't stricter at the time really ... I suppose I was slightly ambivalent about the situation (i) because although my friend has definite boundaries with her children she is quite a "permissive" parent (in a good way) and I allowed myself to be influenced by that
(ii) I was aware we only had limited time and I didn't want half of that taken up with a tantrum (weak mother emoticon!) and (iii) I think children model what they experience, so if I'm polite and listen to dd and treat her respectfully I'm hoping ... one day ... that this will be reciprocated ...although I'm obviously going to have to be clearer/stricter until we reach that magical moment ....!!

I have tried to teach her to wait for a natural pause in the conversation and then say "excuse me" but the lesson just isn't sinking in. Listening is not always her best skill ...

stephla Sun 21-Sep-08 21:31:42

My son (4) also has a LOT to say and constantly interrupts when I speak with anyone. I have tried it all and you are right, nothing works for that long. We keep telling him and he is improving but it's a very slow process.

These are the strategies I use (other than constant "please don't interrupt's"):
1) Give the child something time consuming to eat. For example, a huge apple (uncut)and a big carrot would take at least 10 mins. Add another 2 minutes for a drink and you can have a reasonable chat.

2) The other good thing to do is not to stay indoors - I go for a walk in the woods or park with my friends. You can talk as you go and they generally aren't so interested when there are sticks and mud around. Even the cafe in the park is better than home.

3) CBeebies website. Last ditch attempt and guaranteed silence for hours and could have been the loophole you needed in your "no TV" ban. Of course, you might lose Competitive Parenting points for this one though...

Hope this helps anyway.

Countingthegreyhairs Sun 21-Sep-08 21:33:54

Sorry forgot to say;

Yes Dropdeadfred - she does have friends over regularly and so I think I'll use NotNowBernard's line about not interrupting them!

Thanks for the that tip Custardo - I'll try and do just that - we've got a lunch party thing coming up next weekend when I can practice

...and I think we'll do a little role play/priming in advance Filly Jonk - thank you.!...

(and this time, rest assured, I will follow through Hassled!!)

Joolyjoolyjoo - point taken about making one's friends feel unimportant - I'm really conscious of that too. It's a difficult balance though sometimes isn't it? Do adults always have priority just because they are adults? (genuine question).

allgonebellyup Sun 21-Sep-08 21:37:06

oooooooooh this one really gets my goat.

i totally agree with what Joolyjoolujoo said.

i have lots of friends who i only see occasionally, then when i get to see them i have so much to tell them, and its a good chance for our dcs to play together.
so whilst i am mid sentence, the little buggers always will run up to their mums and interrupt. Then their mum will turn her attention to the child/go off to get toy/drink.. then eventually come back to me.
By which point the topic of the conversation has been lost.

Drives me fucking mad.

Especially when i am giving lifts to friends as they dont have cars, and i am chatting, and the kids lean forward from the back and interrupt really loudly. Then the mum starts a conversation with them and totally ignore whatever i was talking about.


it does make me feel like my conversation is so unimportant.

Countingthegreyhairs Sun 21-Sep-08 21:38:30

Those are really good practical tips Stephla - thank you - the only time dd was quiet for longer than 2 minutes on this particular occasion was while she was tackling a rather substantial piece of apple cake grin

allgonebellyup Sun 21-Sep-08 21:39:06

no, adults do not automatically have priority because they are adults, but because they were speaking first .

Paddlechick666 Sun 21-Sep-08 21:46:16

My dd is 3yrs next month and interrupts constantly. She understands she must say "excuse me" but is struggling with the concept that just saying "excuse me" doesn't guarantee all activity stops in order for her to have centre stage!

I generally respond with "I'm just speaking to X, I'll be with you in one moment". She just continues with "Mummy, Mummy, Mummy, Mummy" and when she finally succeeds and ask her what she wants to say she ums and ahs and finally trots out something so clearly fabricated!

It drives me nuts! We have just spent the weekend with friends and it's been very very frustrating.

I am currently trying to teach her that respect means being kind and gentle to objects and people which includes not interrupting!!!!!

Getting out is a really good idea as there is plenty for her to enjoy and be distracted by. We had a lovely converstaion whilst playing hide and seek today LOL. I am very lucky with my friends too as they automatically do a kind of tag thing with one entertaining dd whilst I get to chat to the other.

They said some wonderful things about dd's social skills and how she obviously delights in social interaction etc. But at the end of the day, it's so so tempting to lose your rag and yell "BE QUIET, I AM SPEAKING NOW" LOL grin

I'm hoping things will improve as she gets older but I do think it'll be a tough one to master longterm due to her own personality!

notnowbernard Sun 21-Sep-08 21:46:22

Allgonebellyup, My MIL does this

Drives me NUTS

I could be in the middle of telling her a devastatingly tragic tale of epic proportions and one of the dds will butt in with a COMPLETELY inane statement "Look, I've got blue socks on" and I will be converstionally cut dead

Never to finish the tale

fruitbowl Sun 21-Sep-08 21:47:48

Yep, I agree, it makes me feel mad and humiliated when "friends" constantly stop listening to what you're saying in favour of their kids. Sometimes, the kid isn't even interupting, the mum is just more absorbed in them. I must be bleedin boring!

I thought I would be more tolerant of this when I had my own kids but NO still bloody annoys me too!

Makes me so aware of doing it to others aswell. Esp. when my friends with no kids visit. I have to give both sides a bit of coaching and apologise in advance for interuptions.

Eating an apple is a great tip!

I guess it's just another stage in development that they need help to master. I feel sorry for my DD though sometimes when I know she's just trying to join in and hasn't understood it's rude.

squeaver Sun 21-Sep-08 21:52:32

Just wanted to say what a useful thread this has been for me, another one who has spawned an ardent butter-inner.


Countingthegreyhairs Sun 21-Sep-08 22:03:34

definitely agree Allbellyup once a conversation has begun - it's definitely not polite to interrupt

... I suppose I meant more generally, say around the table at Sunday lunch for example, when everyone wants to have their say ....

Also, although I know EXACTLY what you mean about meeting friends and children interrupting, I don't think I've ever experienced an occasion like that when there were dc (5 yrs or under) present and we weren't interrupted ... I think that's only natural isn't, particularly when they are small, however unwelcome ...? I sometimes think if I want quality time with my friends we would be better off meeting up without dc over a glass of wine in the evening ...

Glad to know I'm not the only one Paddlechick!

Fruitbowl - yr post gave me pause for thought when you used the word "humiliated". I'd never considered it in those terms tbh despite being upset on my friend's behalf. If I'm honest, I suppose I don't really mind that much when it happens to me and I never considered that others might find it humiliating. Oh and I think "feeling sorry" for my dd was another reason why I didn't handle this situation at all well...

LaundryFairy Sun 21-Sep-08 22:04:13

Can I also make a plea for all of the annoyed people who can't stand children interrupting to not talk over children who have already started a sentence or question?

The manners of many adults who wouldn't dream of treating another adult so rudely often go out the window when it comes to children.

And yes, my DS buts in and yes, I have to remind him of that I would like to be treated the way I treat him - with respect and patience.

chunkychips Sun 21-Sep-08 22:11:22

my ds does this all the time. ask him not to interrupt and two seconds later he's doing it again. Really annoying. I think I would have turned the telly on, especially if this was the only opportunity you would be getting with your friend. Not sure about long term though. I just end up shouting I'm afraid.

Elibean Sun 21-Sep-08 22:13:03

'don't interrupt unless its urgent' is the obvious rule, as someone said, but what is 'urgent' to a 4 yr old is very different to what is 'urgent' to an adult.

And I do think, no matter what I teach my dds, there is a question of developmental age involved. dd is 4.9 and is learning - but she forgets all the time, and the lesson has to be repeated ad nauseam just like 'please' and 'thank you' had to be repeated.

The important thing for me is saying something to her, when she interrupts, and not just letting it go/responding for sake of peace etc.

One MNer, very recently, said she asked her dd to put her hand on her arm when she wanted to interrupt - she would then respond by putting her hand over her dd's, to let her know she'd heard her and would attend to her asap. I tried it with dd, who understood and liked it - its helping a lot. Cant' remember who said it, but thanks!

Countingthegreyhairs Sun 21-Sep-08 22:29:56

Thanks for yr posts Squeaver and Chunkychips ....much appreciated smile

I couldn't agree more Laundry Fairy!!

Elibean - agree it's definitely something that's going to take a while to sink in ...and thanks a million for 'hand on arm' tip ... I'm definitely going to use that and see how it goes ...

BroccoliSpears Sun 21-Sep-08 22:38:34

Interesting thread.

My 2.4 year old is a relentless interupter. Obviously they're never too young to start learning about being polite and good manners, but when can I realistically expect her to start to have some understanding of when / how / why to wait your turn in conversations?

Countingthegreyhairs Mon 22-Sep-08 09:38:28

Hi Broccoli Spears

I'm not sure tbh - I think perhaps around 4yrs they should be gleaning some understanding of not interrupting, or is that too old to start? Dunno!

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