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Manners Matter: Interruptions
By Anne Leedom

Kids are prone to wanting your attention the moment something occurs to them. That is natural, but kids must learn that other people's feelings and agendas must be respected. Respect for others is the basic building block of good manners, which, in turn, form the foundation for a functioning society.

Teach Your Child about Priorities

Wanting a cookie is not a good reason to interrupt. However, if your child or a playmate is hurt, it's good to get Mom or Dad's attention right away.

Prepare Your Child for Your Being Unavailable

Let your child know when you will be unavailable and that the time to ask for anything is before, for example, your important phone call. Explain that, once the phone call has begun, your child will need to wait until the call is over, unless it is an emergency.

Provide a Distraction

Rather than leaving your child to his or her own devices, it can be helpful to provide a distraction that is, of course, safe, and that is hopefully fun and of some educational or developmental value. Even watching a children's movie can have more than mere "babysitting" value if you discuss the movie before and after your child views it, in order to encourage the development of memory and critical thinking skills. You can empower your child by telling him or her, before the movie begins, that you can't watch the movie because of your phone call, but you'd like to hear your child tell you the story of the movie after it's over. Be sure to follow through on that idea, however: Failing to do so will make your child feel tricked, and the effectiveness of future distractions will be compromised.

Help Your Child Understand Why Interruptions Are Not Welcome

The more a child understands how their behavior affects others in a negative way, the more the child will naturally make the right choice. Kids have a natural desire to be liked and loved. Emphasize that refraining from interrupting is a kind of power your child has, and offer praise when he or she exhibits that restraint.

Pay Attention When You Say You're Paying Attention

One of the biggest reasons children interrupt is that parents, juggling so many things, often only "half-listen" when their kids are talking to them. Set aside some time each day when your child has your undivided attention.

Consider a Tool

Qwesty makes a product that children can use to get their parents' (or other caregivers') attention. These are colorful items that kids like to use. Using a tool, rather than merely shouting or crying, places a hurdle between the child's impulse and his or her action. This creates, so to speak, a "stopping point" where children can learn not only to employ the tool, but more importantly to exercise their own judgment about when it is and when it is not appropriate to interrupt.

Editorial Note: Anne Leedom is a staff writer for Qwesty, about which you can read more at www.Qwesty.com. Whether or not you choose to use a tool, or find a tool like Qwesty useful, teaching your child not to unnecessarily interrupt is a key basic step in the development of good manners.

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