Raise your hand if this scenario sounds familiar. You’ve just picked up your kid from school and are chatting to her teacher about what her plans are for the weekend…except you can’t hear a single thing Mrs. Campbell is saying because your child keeps interrupting you. (“Mom! Mom! I want to gooooooo!”)
Or maybe you’re trying to have a serious discussion with your spouse but can’t make any progress because, yet again, your child feels the need to interject every 10 seconds.
The good news is that this behavior is entirely normal and even developmentally appropriate for young kids, says child counselor Katie Lear. “From roughly age 2 to age 7, children are naturally egocentric, meaning that it’s hard for them to think about points of view different from their own, or to separate their thoughts and feelings from other people’s,” she explains.
OK, but just because it’s normal doesn’t mean that it’s not incredibly annoying. Fortunately, there are a few tried-and-true tactics to keep your kid from constantly interrupting you and learning the art of patience. Our favorite technique? “The squeeze.”
Loved by child experts and in-the-know parents alike, here’s how it works: Tell your child that if she wants something while you are talking to another adult, she should gently squeeze your hand or arm. You then squeeze her hand back to let her know that you know that she is there and will be with her shortly.
The first few times that she does this, you should respond quickly (think: immediately wrap up your conversation and give her your undivided attention) so that she can see how effective this method can be. But the idea is that over time you can wait longer, eventually even able to give a gentle squeeze back every few minutes.
Why does this work? The squeeze tells your child that she is seen and lets her know that you will give her your complete focus as soon as you can. (Again, make sure to follow through here—it’s no good if your child attempts the squeeze and you spend another 10 minutes chatting to your neighbor.)
Your child feels acknowledged while flexing her patience muscles and you get to wrap up your conversation with Mrs. Campbell in peace. Win-win.