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Teaching children not to INTERRUPT

All children thrive off of and need attention from their parents. However, sometimes parents may need time to themselves, such as when on the phone, doing something that requires concentration, or talking to another adult. It is reasonable to want children not to interrupt during these times and so we have a few tips to help teach children to gain your attention in an acceptable way.

  • Children are hardwired to want attention from their parents and often struggle if someone or something else is receiving that attention.
  • Sometimes children struggle with having to wait to speak as they may forget what they want to say or feel what they have to say is more important.
  • Children may also learn that if they do not receive attention when they interrupt politely they have to become louder in order to gain the attention.
  • Parents may also expect too much and be busy for longer than their child can remain occupied.

Prepare your child

If there are times when you know you will be busy, prepare your child ahead of time. Let them know when and why you will be busy, for how long, and what you would like them to do whilst you are busy.

Plan Ahead

If you know you are going to be busy plan activities that you can set your child up with to keep them occupied. You may need to help your child get started with the activity before you can leave them, it may also be useful to have some backup activities nearby. For telephone calls it may be useful to keep a selection of activities/toys nearby, if they are only used whilst you are on the phone they will remain interesting for your child and can be used for unexpected calls.


Set a few simple rules with your child to remind them of what behaviour is expected whilst you are busy. For example, play quietly until I am finished or if I am on the phone say excuse me and wait for me to finish.. Think of a consequence for misbehaviour ahead of time and remind your child what this will be if they misbehave whilst you are busy.


Consequences could involve removal of a privilege, such as reduced TV time, or simply not receiving the reward. Make sure you act as soon as there is misbehaviour, tell your child what to stop doing and remind them what they should be doing instead.


You may wish to offer a reward if your child follows the rules, such as extra attention once you are finished. Remember to check in with your child and praise them for playing nicely/following the rules every so often, if you are on the phone this could be non verbal praise such as a smile or thumbs up. This will give your child short bursts of attention for acceptable behaviour.


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