Expert Q&A

I have an 8-year-old and a 12-year-old who try to talk over each other constantly. They also keep asking questions after I've already answered them, especially while I'm on the phone. What can I do to stop this behavior?

By rewarding their behavior and giving them an answer, you have unwittingly taught your children to interrupt you. The good news is that you can undo this learning. Set clear rules based on the premise that interrupting is disrespectful and that you will not respond positively to disrespect any more than their teachers would. Make it clear that your children will simply not be heard at the time they interrupt and that they may be excused from the conversation if they continue. Parents must set a firm, consistent boundary for the conditions under which they will listen and respond.

My children learned that interrupting me only resulted in delayed gratification of their needs. Communications in a raised voice or in talking over another person were not acknowledged. I would choose to listen to the child who was being the most patient, calm and respectful, and I would acknowledge my gratitude for that.

Dr. Patti Zomber is a child psychologist based in Marina del Rey, Calif. She has written numerous articles about parenting, and she is a contributing editor on NestleFamily.com as well as the editor of the Los Angeles Psychologist journal.

Please Note: This Expert Q&A feature is intended to impart general child development information and mealtime tips. This is not to take the place of medical consultation and you should consult your doctor for medical advice or services.




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