Admittedly, I have a few pet peeves when it comes to children. These are things that aren’t necessarily BAD – they aren’t immoral or disobedient exactly – they just irritate me.
The first is tattletaling, which I have only been marginally successful at eradicating from our household.
The second is interrupting – specifically children interrupting adults. The most irritating thing about this one is that it’s often done under the guise of politeness so many parents don’t seem to know how to (or even that they should) address it.
For example, your child needs help getting a toy off the shelf. They see that you are in the middle of a conversation with your friend so they come up to you and say “Excuse me Mom. Will you please help me get that toy off the shelf?”
Many parents will pat themselves on the back because the child started off with “excuse me” and included the word please, but to me, cutting the friend off mid conversation with an “EXCUSE ME MOM” is still interrupting. It is rude. It is annoying.
Thankfully, there is a better way. There is a solution in which your child can communicate to you that they either need your help or have something to say without interrupting you.
The book On Becoming Preschoolwise introduces this concept as “The Interrupt Courtesy”:
“When your child needs to interrupt you, teach him to place a hand on your side, shoulder, or arm and then wait the few moments it will take for you to acknowledge him… when your child puts his hand on your side, take your hand and place it on his, gently squeezing it. This lets him know that you know he is there.” (pg 36)
“From the child’s perspective, the hand on your side silently means “Mom, I realize you’re talking with someone else, but when you get a moment, may I ask you something?” The child learns that you will indeed find a place in the conversation to politely say “Excuse me” to the person you are speaking to and give the appropriate attention to your child.” (pg 36)
This is how it looks in our family:
The kids are playing in the backyard while I am inside talking to a friend. Vera gets thirsty so she comes inside to ask for a glass of water. Because she sees that my friend is talking and I am listening, she comes up and places her hand on my hand. This lets me know that she has something she’d like to say to me. I then put my hand on her hand to let her know that I know she has something to say to me. I wait for the next logical break in the conversation and I ask Vera what she would like to say. She tells me she is thirsty and I get her down a glass of water.
It is really that simple. The “interrupt courtesy” teaches kids to be aware and considerate of the situation he or she is walking into. It teaches respect, patience, and self-control. And BONUS!, it nearly eliminates one of my biggest pet peeves.