Are children allowed to interrupt?

Jul, 16, 2020

Twenty years ago this question would seem ludicrous. Of course children would have to wait their turn while the adults were talking. Today it is not quite so straightforward. As our generation of parents try hard to validate feelings, boost self-worth and ensure our children feel happy and good about themselves, saying no and denying our children our 100% attention can feel like it negates this very aim.

Consequently, many of us loving and well meaning parents find that even in our own friendship group children interrupt – and in some cases a lot! I’m sure you will agree that when you are child free and with a friend who constantly respond to their child’s every comment or request – it can feel frustrating. To say the least. After you leave – you wonder what you even talked about because everything blurred into one big disruption.

As with anything parenting related – there is no right or wrong here. There’s only cause and effect. And a couple of things we might want to consider are;

  • what is your long term parenting goal?
  • what do you fear?
  • How do you want to show up when with other people?

Let’s address these one by one.

What’s your long term parenting goal?

Rarely do we consider the long-term ramifications of the way we live right now. On a daily basis. Few of us give second thought to the trajectory that our current lifestyle, relationship habits and parenting style predicts – and concern ourselves way more with the day to day firefighting of family life. Living in response to what’s thrown at us – as opposed to living more intentionally.

It need not be as lofty and complex as it sounds – but it pays off to adopt a meta view of our parenting style from time to time and ask ourselves if we are happy with the consequences of allowing what we allow. And responding the way we respond.

Here’s what I mean:

You might aim to raise a child who has a good sense of self – in relation to others. A child who doesn’t question his worth and doesn’t need to work to receive your love – but who is able to balance this against a sense that he’s not the most important person in this family or in a given social setting.

If that is the case – it would make good sense to use moments when your child interrupts to teach this lesson.

What do you fear?

What is holding you back from telling your child to not interrupt in social situations? Many of the parents I work with say that they don’t want their child to feel overlooked and unimportant. In a bid to be a ‘good parent’ many of us might therefore allow interruptions some days – and other days not.

The trouble is that when we’ve then had enough and feel overwhelmed by the incessant interruptions and requests – we eventually snap. And set our boundary in a hurtful and shaming way – one that communicates the exact opposite to our child than what we actually want to say.

Therefore – it is kind to be clear – and be consistent.

“I’ll hear you out when there’s a pause”

“I’d like you to wait until we’re done talking”

“I know you have something you’d like to say – and I’ll hear you out in a minute”

These are ways that we both acknowledge our child, while at the same time letting them know what we’d like. When we set our boundaries respectfully it is easier for them to comply with our instructions. Of course the younger the child, the more our attention is required. However, young children soon learn the etiquette that we subscribe to if we keep to it with consistency and teach with patience and respect.

What do you want to model?

Our kids are our little shadows. And while they don’t always listen to us – they seem to become like us. Which is both good and bad news. Far more important than what we say – is HOW we say things, what we do and how we live in terms of role modelling who to be in the world.

Really allowing this to sink in begs the question; am I happy with what I role model? I for one can tell when my tone has been a bit harsh for a period of time – and can see my little shadows speaking to each other or responding to me in the same harsh tone. If I set my boundaries through the use of threats – I will soon see my daughter say: “If you don’t give it to me – I don’t want to ever play with you”.

There is power in knowing that we are a powerful role model – because a lot of unwanted behaviours can be straightened out by being willing to take a good hard look at ourselves.

  • Am I interrupting my children? – With no regard for what they are doing or who they are talking to?
  • Am I respectful of their boundaries – and willing to listen even if I don’t want to change my own agenda?

Most of us will find that we could do with being more mindful of what we model. Our level of self-awareness really is our parenting super power! And when we are willing raise our own game – while raising our kids – parenting becomes an opportunity for growth and connection.

Louise Brooks

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