If you’ve had enough of “Mom, mom, mom, mom, mooooom!” this little trick is for you.
We’ve all been there: You’re at the playground trying to chat with a fellow parent, when your kid unceremoniously interrupts the conversation because he wants to tell you something urgent about squirrels. Or superheroes. Or whatever else he’s thinking about. You discuss the rules of conversation, and he agrees to wait patiently for his turn to speak next time, but the excitement of his thoughts is overwhelming and he’s soon interrupting again.
I’ve been in this boat for years. No matter how much we discussed it, my seven-year-old son just couldn’t help himself. It was like Pavlov’s dogs—the moment I got on a phone call, he needed to talk to me. So I asked my friend Cheryl Butler, a mother of 8 (eight!!) well-behaved, polite children and host of the Mighty Mommy podcast, for her advice.
Cheryl suggested this simple trick: “Teach your child to place his hand on your wrist if he wants something while you’re busy talking to another adult. Then you put your hand over his to acknowledge him and continue your conversation without stopping to ask what he wants. After you finish, turn to your child and give him your full attention. This way you reinforce two critical life skills: good manners and patience.”
It’s a technique that avoids lengthy lectures and is based on cognitive behavioral therapy: After training your child to wait for you to finish what you’re doing, you’re rewarding him with your undivided attention.
It seemed almost too simple to work, but I decided to try: The first few times, my son chafed against having to wait, bouncing up and down excitedly saying “Mom, Mom, Mom, but Mom, I need to tell you something.” I did my best to ignore him, even taking a few steps away to put some distance between us. Then after I was done, I turned toward him, crouched down to his level, and gave him my undivided attention, making sure to commend his patience.
It took a few tries—Cheryl warned me that I'd have to stick with it—but within a few weeks there was almost no interruption. For the first time, I can actually finish an entire conversation with a friend before learning that fascinating fact about squirrels.