Boy interrupting

By Amanda Morin

My story

I’m a mother of three kids and always on the lookout for good parenting tips. My younger son is 4 and has attention challenges and movement issues. Both cause him to be impulsive.

What’s happening

Like a lot of preschoolers, he has a lot to say and wants to say it immediately. What’s different is he can’t put on the mental brakes when he’s asked to wait his turn. Some of this is related to attention issues and some to verbal tics that cause him to repeat words and phrases. The doctor says our son has “synapses gone wild” — which would be the perfect name for a reality show should our family ever star in one!

All joking aside, I’ve been really worried about how this is going to play out as he starts school.

The tip: End interruptions with a signal

When I looked for parenting tips to help with this, one popped out at me: “End interruptions with a signal.” I liked that the simplicity of this tip, so we tried it.

How it’s worked

It’s taken some time for our family to find the right signal. We tried holding up an index finger, but when our son is zooming around like The Flash, he doesn’t always see it.

We tried putting a gentle hand on our son’s shoulder, thinking the physical touch would help. It was better, but it confused him because that’s also how we remind him that his movements might put himself in danger.

Finally, we settled on a combination of the two — the sign for the letter W (for “wait”) pressed lightly on his arm or shoulder. Our son is still interrupting, but he’s learning to stop and wait when we use the signal.

I think it’s going well. The other day I interrupted him while he was talking to his brother and his little hand made the W sign on my arm. I’m counting that as a behavior tip win.

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    About the author

    About the author

    Amanda Morin is the author of “The Everything Parent’s Guide to Special Education” and the former director of thought leadership at Understood. As an expert and writer, she helped build Understood from its earliest days.