Ever wonder where the acronym STFU came from? (If you don’t know what it means, look it up in an urban dictionary!)
It was probably devised from a bunch of moms and dads who were sitting in their living room trying to have a grown up conversation, when suddenly a bunch of rug rats burst through the door and completely interrupted the conversation. And this probably happened so many times during the course of the evening, that one parent came up with an acronym that he or she could actually say out loud to express his or her extreme annoyance at being constantly interrupted by bratty kids who just don’t seem to get what the more pleasant version, “I’m talking, so zip it,” means.
Or, maybe the acronym came from a mother who noticed that every single time she was talking on the phone – she would find herself interrupted mid-sentence before she could finish what she was saying, or hear what the person on the other end of the line was saying. Truth is, you know you have a problem with your kid’s behavior when it comes to interrupting you if most people you know don’t even try to hold a conversation with you anymore. Because in case you haven’t heard, children who interrupt parents – or other adults on a constant basis are really annoying. And really RUDE!
But how do you get your kids to understand the message of not interrupting you while you are talking or doing something? After all, they honestly believe that they are the center of the entire universe, and that the Yoo-hoo they want you to get down from the top shelf of the fridge truly is a major, life altering priority (even if you are on the phone with your boss or doctor).
The first rule of thumb when it comes to your children interrupting you, is to be patient and to continue to teach them that this is NOT the way to behave. Remember, they don’t realize that their excitement and enthusiasm for having to tell you something is not the most important thing in the world. All they are doing, is reacting from how they feel in the moment. Which is totally how kids operate. Kids think of themselves first and foremost. As it is with all manners that you teach children – parents have to be constantly perseverant and constantly reinforcing the behavior, they want to see.
One practice that is used very often in Montessori pre-schools and is recommended by parenting experts is to first go over the rule. Tell your kids, that if you are talking they need to wait their turn. Make sure they understand the rules. The next step is to remind them the next time they interrupt you that they will need to wait. You can use a simple hand gesture, such as putting your hand to your lip, or holding up your hand. If you acknowledge them, and their presence – and have a quick and easy way to tell them to hold on, kids will be naturally be more patience. If they continue to try and interrupt, hold fast to your lesson. Many parents simply get so agitated that they are being interrupted and that the kids aren’t listening that they cave in and turn to the child with a hasty, “What do you want,” type of response. Unfortunately, the child wont ‘get’ the fact that you are irritated and will only ‘get’ that their approach worked. It got your attention, and you replied to them. (Doesn’t matter if the response was undesirable).
As your child gets older, you can instruct your child to approach you when you are busy by putting their arm on your hand, or leg or shoulder. This is a quiet way that they can let you know they need your attention for something. And, you can respond by placing your hand on them – which lets them know they have been acknowledged. The acknowledgement is important because it keeps kids from acting hysterically or dancing around saying, “Mama, mama, mama, mama,” and tapping you incessantly.
Again, you will have to engage in this method many times. And still, there will be times when your child will think that whatever they have to say – or need, will be more important than what you are in the middle of. Persevere.
One of the keys that child development experts remind parents is that you should NOT stop talking, or make eye contact with your child when they interrupt. If your child is very young and interrupts you or other adults when they are talking – use the same steps as above. And, since other people in your extended family may not enforce the same rules as you do – make sure that YOU do.
Not interrupting people is a mutual lesson of respect and manners. Not only is it rude to interrupt people when they are talking, but it is also disrespectful. If your child can learn to wait their turn before they speak – and feels satisfied that their needs will be met in due time, they will likely learn the lesson easily. Plus, this will enable them to be better listeners and understand generalized rules of communication among people.
Plus, you have to admit – teaching your child NOT to interrupt, and following through on the lessons that keep them from interrupting you and other adults is much better than losing your cool, feeling anxious, and getting upset that your child is being rude. (And much better than the STFU alternative!)