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My three-year old is being very rude lately. She is interrupting me while I'm talking to people and/or on the phone, and seems to demand attention when I'm busy even after I've spent one on one time playing with her. I would like to correct this behavior before she demonstrates it at nursery school. What is the best way to handle it?


Barbara Gilmour Replied: I commend you for recognizing this and for wanting to correct these behaviors before she goes to preschool. All children come into the world as totally self-centered beings. They want to be fed when hungry, changed when wet, put to bed when sleepy, and have a great amount of love, affection, and nurturing. It is our responsibility as the parents, caregivers, and educators to help them learn to be "other-centered." This is not something that is inborn, or will happen overnight. They have to be taught to be empathetic, to care about others, and to be kind and respectful. The earlier we begin this training, the better for the child, and for the adults who have to be around them.

Interrupting is something all children do. It is cute for a two year-old to intererupt, but much less appealing in an older child. When an adult does it, we wonder why they weren't taught basic manners. So you are on the right track to tackle this problem now.

I have 4 tips for teaching children manners, no matter what the social skill you want to teach them:
1. Training is introducing and demonstrating the skill.
2. Correcting is making sure the child understands the concept
and repeating the steps until he does it with ease. This
step includes modeling the behavior you want.
3. Disciplining is gently correcting and enforcing the use of
the new behavior.
4. Encouraging is offering lavish praise every time the new
skill is demonstrated.

Children want to do the right thing and please us. For them to be able to do that, we have to let them know the behaviors we want and how they can achieve it. Children the age of your daughter love play acting. I would suggest using some dolls, puppets, or action figures to role-play the following skills to help her learn to not interrupt.

1. Let her know ahead of time, that when you are talking, whether to someone on the phone or in person, that you will raise your index finger and/or place it over your mouth, to let her know she is to wait until you are finished talking.
2. You may also train her to place a finger on your arm to let you know she wants to speak. You can add the Magic Word "excuse me" to this action. She should get either the response in #1 from you, or your telling her you will speak to her when you are done.
3. With toy phones, practice what she should do when she wants your attention while you're on the phone. You can also have her get her toy phone when you are getting or making a call, and role-play a conversation with her doll or puppet.
4. The rule for interrupting is "only in an emergency." However, an emergency to us is the house being on fire. To a 3 year-old, it might be a boo boo or a toy taken by an older sibling. She can't make that distinction.
5. When the time for your one on one ends, and you need to do something else, set her up to play act with the dolls and puppets. The mommy in this case might be working or cleaning, etc.
6. As you approach the time when she will go to preschool, change the play acting to include the teacher as the adult and include other children.

A great reward for a new skill learned is a new doll or puppet (from the dollar store works fine) that are used exclusively for these social skills role-play activities. You are doing a great thing for your daughter by preparing her for new social situations. Recent research is supporting the need for social competence training to help kids reject bullying. One such study of preschool age children showed that those with social skills training at this age performed better throughout their school years.

Posted On 2010-07-29 17:20:37
Gary Pritchard Replied: As a parent of 3 boys I appreciate your concernS
You might try getting a little feedback from your daughter…

You might want to try a questioning approach:
What does it mean to interrupt someone?
Would she like to be interrupted when she is speaking?
What do you think is the right thing to do when Mom is on the phone and you need to speak to her?

By asking questions and getting her to tell you ….now you have empowered your daughter and got her in the decision making process. If she interrupts you in the future you can then can ask ….
"Excuse me, aren't you the one that said you would not like this ? "
" What is the right thing for you to do?"

Now, at three years old this is a little more work. Your daughter is at a development stage where the world revolves around her. It will require repetition and patience. In the end hopefully your daughter will learn a very important skill… choose the right action .
"Life is a bowl of choices"
Try to remain positive in correcting. We used the "sandwich principal" a lot.
1 positive thought- correction in the middle- end with another positive,(easier for them to swallow)…
remember kids need at least 8 hugs a day (smile) Good luck

Posted On 2009-10-17 15:41:07
Christine Bradley Replied: As a Montessori teacher, grace and courtesy is a large part of educating a child. They need to know the acceptable ways in which society interacts in order to be successful and happy. We cannot be offended if children come in not knowing how to interrupt an adult, or ask a child to join them in a game. If they don't know it is simply because they have not had a formal opportunity to learn. We give a short, brief lesson ie. "When mommy, or any other adult is on the phone and we want their attention sometimes we have to wait until their conversation is finished. Sometimes we can let them know we'd like their attention if we gently tap them on the shoulder." Then, of course, the adult would need to respond by either asking the person to hold or letting their child know its not time yet. Do a little lesson and make it fun. Show them how to interact and you may be surprised at how quickly they respond in a new manner.
Posted On 2009-10-14 22:20:00
Peter Hanfileti, MD Replied: Your three year old sounds like she is doing what I would expect from a child who is uncomfortable and unsure of herself when your attention is diverted away from her. This takes practice to get used to (on her part) and I would give her plenty of opportunity to get better at it before starting nursery school. Her rudeness is an age appropriate way of trying to get her needs met. I suggest you practice diverting your attention from her for a few seconds and then come back, giving her reassurance that those momentary lapses when she feels your attention is on something else are short in duration and tolerable. Then make these sessions longer in duration and even with you out of her sight for short periods. Of course, with a three year old you cannot explain this to her, she just has to experience it. This will give her practice at being in that transition zone between having your undivided attention and not having you there in her environment at all. Have confidence that she will recognize her security is not dependent on you paying attention to her 24 hours a day, but as I said, it will take practice and time.
Posted On 2009-10-12 17:13:15
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