Excuse Me — When Kids Interrupt


“Are you going to be doing a workshop that is open to the public?” “Do you have a new book coming out?” “Will you speak at our convention, professional development event, parent conference?”

You have asked and the response is, “yes.” At the bottom of this newsletter is the answer to your questions.

But first, do you sometimes feel that you never, ever get to finish a sentence before your child interrupts?  Well, read on.

”Excuse Me” 

Janine and Terry have been friends since elementary school. They are now both parents and are having coffee while their children play with blocks. It’s a lovely scene. They each have two children who get along wonderfully. It’s a great chance for the adults to visit.

On the way home, Terry realizes she is feeling frustrated and anxious. That doesn’t make any sense. She’s going home after a relaxing visit, a good chat and a break in her routine. So what’s the matter?

Then she figures it out. The visit was constantly punctuated by interruptions. It seemed that neither she, nor her friend Janine finished a complete sentence.

A few weeks ago she and her friend had spoken about their kids and their manners and taught them to say, ”Excuse me” when they wanted to talk to a parent. So now, they do excuse themselves but still manage to interrupt constantly. And their parents feel compelled to respond quickly. After all, the kids said ”Excuse me” and their good manners need to be recognized.

Now what?

Let’s take a look at what happens when kids interrupt. Generally, we admonish them for doing so but then go ahead and respond. So the kids learn it works.

We teach them to say, ”Excuse me”, and they learn that works even better. The answer is to teach kids to wait for a pause in the conversation and then say, “Excuse me.” But they should only do so when it’s important.

So if they interrupt using the magic phrase but it’s just not that important you can say so. “We can talk about that after my visit,” and then simply continue the conversation. They will eventually learn what merits an interruption and what should wait.

Teach your child that when she wants your attention she should come and quietly stand beside you and gently touch your arm. Without stopping your conversation, give her a warm hug. Then when there is a natural break, turn to her and pay attention. If your child is very young, such as a toddler or young preschooler, don’t make them wait long and maintain the hug while they wait.

When they are a bit older, you can have them wait longer. You might wait for an appropriate break in your conversation, pause, look at the child and say “I’ll be with you in a few minutes,” and continue your conversation. If she continues to try to engage you, signal your friend and both of you can move away.

This is a tough one to teach. For starters, parents of young children are so used to the hubbub of play that they barely notice the interruptions. It just becomes part of the typical day-to-day activity of family life. And yet, if we don’t teach our children how and when to interrupt a conversation, they will be missing a valuable life lesson.

When they do remember to behave with courtesy, notice it and let them know how much you appreciate their good manners.

I once watched a Mom handle her three-year-old with dignity and understanding. She was in a business meeting and due to a breakdown of childcare, had to bring her son with her. She had brought some quiet toys and he played happily while she had her meeting. Then, at one point he got up and went to stand beside her. She put her arm around him and he waited. In a minute, when there was a natural break she excused herself to her client, bent down to her son and gave him her total attention. His needs were met and the meeting continued. She and her client were also careful to get right to task so the meeting could conclude as quickly as possible.

In our busy lives, it sometimes just seems easier to respond to our kids and keep moving. But teaching them when and how to interrupt will make your lives more pleasant and that will expand to include anyone your child meets.

 Bringing Parenting Today to your event.


Parenting Today is keen to speak as part of your professional development event, parenting workshop or workplace wellness support program. I offer keynotes and workshops, have written books and have ongoing newspaper columns, books, blogs and newsletters. And, no matter what the actual topic, they all share a basic value that I call:

P.U.R.E. Parenting.

P — is a parenting plan

U — is unconditional love

R — is respect for your child as he is right now

E — is encouragement

These make up the framework of any resources that will come from Parenting Today. These four pillars are the essential ingredients for raising healthy children who will develop into capable young men and women.

A New E-Book

 Why is it that Jeremy and Olivia who are siblings are so different? Every child is unique and usually shows their particular temperament right from birth. What’s a parent to do?

Watch for a new e-book due out in July called Vive la Difference; Raising Children with Different Temperaments.

You’ll find out in this newsletter the minute it is available.

Save the Date

For those of you in the Lower Mainland, you will have the opportunity to attend a workshop in Burnaby on September 11, 2013.

Details will follow, but I can tell you that it will start at 6:30 pm and the topic is “I Like Me!”

Child self-esteem is a topic of growing importance in our society as we see our young people struggling to develop a positive self-image. Children and adults who feel good about themselves are happier and more successful.

In this workshop you will learn:

• why simply loving our kids us not enough

• why some common parenting practices are backfiring on us

• practical ways you can help your children to develop high self-esteem

The presentation deals with the difficult and abstract concept of self-esteem and will offer a blueprint for success. It is appropriate for parents of children of all ages.

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2 Responses to Excuse Me — When Kids Interrupt

  1. Linda Hees says:

    I love this hug technique, especially for children age 3 and younger, but for older children I have worked out another approach. I told them that when they are trying to get my attention, if I hold up one finger (as in “just a minute.”) that means that I have heard them and will respond shortly. When I do respond to them quickly, with the same undivided attention that I just gave the previous person, they learn that it is tolerable to wait, as long as they know that their turn is coming. I have even used this method from across a crowded room and often without even making eye contact!

  2. kathy says:

    Fabulous! Thank you for sharing this.

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