A completely normal thing that can be frustrating
You’re not alone! Here’s how to mindfully get through these moments.
My son, Ryaan, is 28 months old and he went through a time where any time I opened my mouth to speak to my husband, his teacher, or another adult; he would start screaming or yelling “momma,” or whining.
And it only happened with me. When another adult or my husband would talk, he wouldn’t do it at all or as much.
Whenever your child does a behavior, get curious about the why.
Sometimes you will find an answer and sometimes you won’t.
But our children may be screaming while you’re having a conversation because they:
- Want our attention too
- Want to be a part of the action or conversation
So here’s how to navigate these moments when they’re seeking your attention with screaming or other behaviors:
Try to maintain calm.
If you respond to them in frustration or with equal screaming, they have gotten your attention which is exactly what they wanted. Avoid the big reaction of “WHAT DO YOU WANT??” because this will make them realize that interrupting gets you excited and hot and bothered which guess what?—is attention!
PAUSE and take a breath
Make eye contact with them (if possible) so they see you are recognizing and acknowledging their desire for interaction. Avoid speaking immediately and see if a look or touch will give them the connection they need that’s leading to the interrupting.
Verbalize what you see:
“I see you want my attention, but mommy is talking to daddy.”
Continue speaking to the adult and make eye or physical contact with your child if you are able to.
Just say you are in the passenger seat of the car, your partner is driving, and your child is in the car seat in the back; continue verbalizing as mentioned above.
You can reach back and give them a quick tickle on the head or make it playful to acknowledge you hear their desire for attention and go back to speaking.
You can also include them in the conversation to fill their desire to be part of the action: “Ryaan, what do you think? Should we do that?”
By giving them physical or verbal acknowledgment, they get our attention and feel included and the interruption will happen less and less.
Some other strategies to teach the long-term skill of waiting while we talk, instead of screaming, happens when the interruption is NOT occurring.
So, when you’re not in the moment:
If you are about to take a phone call, tell them you will be on the phone call.
Connect before you disconnect
Before taking a call or talking to an adult, try to make eye contact or physical touch with your child to give them the attention and connection many young children crave. This brief moment will fill their cup before your attention is diverted to another person
Praise moments when they are waiting for you to finish. Say: “thank you for letting me finish speaking, Ryaan” so they recognize that waiting is polite. Verbally recognize and acknowledge when they say things like “excuse me.”
Teach them when interrupting is needed
Sometimes interrupting is warranted. Teach them when interrupting is needed such as when somebody or they are hurt or in trouble.
Teach them the power of touch for connection
When kids are screaming over us or yell our name when we’re talking; they often want attention.
We can give them this attention in non-verbal ways such as eye-contact or a gentle touch.
Remember, there are three ways to connect with our kids: verbal, eye contact, and/or touch. Sometimes, eye contact or a gentle touch is enough in the moment.
Teach your child that when you are talking to another adult and they want your attention, they can gently squeeze your arm or leg. You can gently squeeze their arm in return to acknowledge them. You can even make brief eye contact so they feel seen.
This will give them the attention they crave, but allows you to finish having a conversation.