How to teach your kid to stop interrupting and other rules of conversation

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Last year, you may have been worried that your child didn't talk enough. Today, you're probably worried he talks too much!

Now, his vocabulary is so good, he uses lots of different words, talks in long sentences and has plenty to say.

It's great to know that your kid's language skills are developing well.

Yet, there's more to communication than simply talking. Your child still has to learn conversation etiquette.

Here are some key skills to teach him:

How to listen

Explain that a conversation is a two-way process, that it involves taking turns. Just as he wants the other person to listen to him when he talks, the other person expects the same from him.

Practise this with your boy at home. When he talks, show that you are listening by making eye contact when he speaks, by nodding your head appropriately, and by matching your facial expression to his mood.

Then encourage him to do the same when you speak.

Why interrupting is rude

Your child expects you to let him have his say without any interruption, and he'll even try to drown out your voice by talking louder than usual if he thinks you want to speak before he is ready to stop.

He is perfectly happy to hear the sound of his own voice. Yet, he's not so good at letting you speak without him butting in.

Chances are, you barely have the chance to open your mouth to speak about something before he jumps in with a response of his own.

So, the next time he interrupts you, hold your hand up to indicate that he should stop, and continue until you have finished.

He'll soon get the idea. There is a time and place for most conversations, and there is a time when he should remain quiet.

For example, when he is at the cinema with you, when you are chatting with a friend you met while out shopping, and when he is with you while you are trying to sort something out at the bank.

Bear in mind that what is obvious to you may not be so to your young child. Be patient and give him time to learn.

Each time you anticipate you are about to enter a context in which silence is more appropriate than conversation, give him advance warning that he shouldn't talk loudly.

How to be sensitive

Although you raise your child to be honest and to say what he thinks and feels, he also has to learn to weigh the impact of his comments on the recipients.

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For instance, commenting loudly to you that the lady in front is extremely fat or that his uncle has lots of big red spots on his face is likely to cause embarrassment.

Point out that while you want him to tell the truth, he should be aware that remarks about people's appearances are probably best kept to himself unless he is specifically asked to say something.

As he grows older, his sensitivity will increase. In addition to listening without interruption, your child also has to develop the conversational skill of showing interest in what the other person says.

One of the best ways to do this - apart from making eye contact - is by asking questions that are directly related to what was just said. This won't come naturally to him because he is more concerned with his own feelings.

Demonstrate how to do this. For instance, tell him that you just broke your favourite piece of jewellery, and suggest that he asks "Can you fix it?" or "Does that make you sad?" He'll soon get into the habit.

This article was first published in Young Parents.