It never seems to fail. As soon as you start an adult conversation with someone, your child appears and begins demanding your immediate attention. While you no doubt find this behavior extremely annoying, the bottom line is that many adults are frequent “interrupters” too. If we want our children to grow up to be polite people with solid social skills, we can start to teach some basics early on.
Babies and young toddlers rely on adults for everything. When they have a need, they often try to make that known to us immediately and we generally respond right away. As children grow into two and three year olds, they can already start the process of seeing that sometimes there is a brief wait for the attention of adults. A great technique to begin teaching at this stage is the “hand on the arm.” How does it work? When the child approaches you and begins interrupting you, show them how to place their hand on your forearm (which you make easily available to them.) Teach them that this is their way to politely tell you they want your attention. Next, you put your other hand on top of the one they have on your arm. Tell them that that’s YOUR signal that you will be with them in a minute. Practice, practice, practice. It won’t happen overnight, but they will begin to use the technique if you consistently reinforce it. At first, try to respond very quickly to them when you get their “signal” but as they get older and more adept at it, you can gradually increase the time before you respond to them.
One last thing? Be a good example yourself. Try to become more aware of your own actions and practice waiting patiently yourself when you approach others who are having a conversation. : )