Parenting Coach

Practical ideas for social, emotional and behavioral challenges

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End interruptions with a signal.

What you can do

Develop a secret signal with your child that you can use to let him know he’s hogging a conversation. Work out ahead of time what hand signal or other subtle gesture you’ll use to let him know he needs to stop blurting things out. Be sure to praise your child when he has a conversation that is free of interruptions—or when he picks up on your cue and waits his turn to speak.

What you can say

“Jacob, I noticed that when you’re excited and have something important to say, you have a hard time waiting your turn to talk. That gets your brothers and your friends mad, and then your feelings get hurt, right? I know that you’re just really excited about sharing your ideas or asking a question. But you need to listen and wait your turn too.”

“How about you and I come up with a secret code so I can help remind you to wait your turn? I’ll put my hand on my chin like this, OK? Then, a little bit later, I’ll ask you what it was you wanted to add or ask. That way, you can be part of the discussion but give everyone else at the table a chance to talk too. Do you think that would help? Let’s try it out now, and then we can do it at dinner tonight.”

Why this will help

Some children speak out of turn because they have trouble controlling their impulses. This is often true for kids with attention issues. They may feel the need to share a thought or ask a question as soon as it comes into their head because they’re afraid they will lose the train of thought.

These outbursts may come across as aggressive or even rude. Acting like this can make it hard for your child to interact positively with classmates, siblings or adults.

Because children with ADHD often have very fragile self-esteem, calling attention to problematic behavior in front of family members won’t help matters. It might even make things worse. That’s the nice thing about using a secret signal. It can help cut down on interruptions and do this in a way won’t hurt your child’s ego.

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