To teach your toddler not to interrupt, firstly teach your toddler to put their hand on your arm when they want to interrupt.
Explain to your toddler that it’s ok to want your attention, but it’s polite to let you finish what you were saying, and then you’ll be happy to listen to them. So you’re going to teach them a new way – the polite way to get your attention if you’re talking to someone else. And that’s to put their hand on your arm like this. And to show you’ve understood, they’re waiting to tell you something, you tell them you’ll put your hand on their hand.
Although if you’re on the phone you may just like to put up your little finger to show that you know they’re there. And as soon as you’ve finished what you were saying you turn to them to check what they want.

Secondly, get them to practice.
You pretend to talk on the phone or talk at the table with your partner and get them to practice coming up and putting a hand on your arm. Put your hand on theirs or raise your little finger, but don’t make eye contact. And then in a few seconds say to the person you were talking to: ‘Hang on just a sec. Then turn to your child and say:
“That was very polite, thank you for waiting. Now, what was it you wanted to say?’
Let them say what they want, and tell them when you’ll deal with it.

Finally, Use a signal if they forget. Like wiggling your finger.
Sometimes your toddler will be so excited to tell you something or want your attention they’ll forget to put their hand on your arm. So warn them if they forget that you’ll wiggle your finger in the air. To remind them that if they want to interrupt they need to put their hand on your arm. And hopefully, they’ll remember to do that when they realise.
Try to be really consistent in ignoring your toddler when they try to interrupt, and wiggling your finger rather than getting annoyed. Just be consistent in expecting your toddler to put their hand on your arm. And gradually you’ll find the “mummy, mummy, mummy!” will disappear.
Oh and if your toddler interrupts you on the phone a lot, have some telephone toys – which your toddler can only play with when you’re on the phone. And have to be put away when you’ve finished. That can sometimes help too.

So the 3 tips to teach your toddler not to interrupt when you’re talking are:

  1. Teach your toddler to put their hand on your arm when they want to interrupt.
  2. Get them to practice.
  3. And use a signal if they forget. Like wiggling your finger.

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Helping your angry toddler.

child behavioural expert
The author:

Elizabeth O’Shea is a parenting specialist child behaviour expert and one of the leading parenting experts in the UK.

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