I have noticed that humans, both adults and children, love to interrupt each other during conversation. We all guilty of it, including myself. The other person is speaking and it triggers an idea, an experience, an event, and we have to share it immediately before we forget.
I know I am guilty of having done this many times. We don’t mean to hurt the other person, quite the opposite. We believe that the thing we have to share is so important that it is more important than what they are saying. And this is where the problem lies. The art of conversation is as much about listening as it is about talking. To listen, really listen to someone is not an easy task. As parents, we need to model this for our children, and acknowledge that it can be hard to pay close attention to someone else. When that amazing thought pops up like “I know exactly what you mean. I had the same thing happen to me…” Stop. Don’t speak. Notice the anxiety you feel about not saying anything. I’m always afraid that I will forget whatever it was that I wanted to say but be brave let that thought go into the ether. When the other person has stopped speaking or asks you a question, then if you remember what you were going to say, now is the time. If you have forgotten so be it. Wonderful things happen when we communicate like this. It allows for a deeper connection and understanding.
When children talk to each other, they are defining themselves and so this need to prove themselves often results in interrupting. Ask one child what her favorite movie is, another child will respond by saying what his favorite movie is. Instead encourage him to keep the light or focus on the child who was asked the question by asking more questions like “Why is it your favorite movie?” or “When did you see it?” or “What’s your favorite character in the film?”
It’s not easy for us grown ups never mind our children, but if we can start becoming aware of when we interrupt, this is an important first step. Here our some tips to get your children to become better listeners:
1. If your child interrupts when someone else is speaking, gently remind him to listen until the person is finished.
2. Tell him that you are interested in what he has to say, but first let’s listen to what the speaker has to say.
3. When a person answers a question, encourage your child to ask follow up questions. Make it a game at the dinner table. How many follow up questions can you ask.
The benefits of becoming a better listener are endless. We become more compassionate family members, friends, humans. So don’t give up on yourselves or your children. Become good listeners not interrupters!