Interrupting people while they are having a conversation with someone else is common with young children, even in Montessori settings.
There are ways to teach a young child how to get someone's attention without interrupting them, though.
Teaching a young child how to get someone's attention the Montessori way is a Grace and Courtesy lesson, a type of Practical Life Activity.
It's both fun and easy to introduce.
In this article, I'm going to go over how you can help your child learn to stop interrupting people but still get their attention – the Montessori way.
When do kids stop interrupting?
Teaching a child to get someone's attention without interrupting their task or conversation is a special challenge for teachers and caregivers.
This is because young children are just now beginning to develop the empathy it takes to truly care about someone else's desire to finish what they are doing.
This can be very frustrating for caregivers. It's important to understand, though, that interrupting is developmentally normal.
Children in the primary years (ages 3-6) are in a sensitive period for learning customs and manners, however.
So, starting at age 2.5 or 3, depending on your child's readiness, you can start practicing with them polite ways of getting someone's attention.
When manners are introduced in this age group, children enjoy the lessons – when introduced in gentle, fun, and age-appropriate ways, of course.
How to teach your child to get someone's attention without interrupting, the Montessori way
Teaching a young child any type of manners takes patience and practice.
This lesson can be introduced as early as 2.5 years old, however, you can expect to repeat this lesson multiple times throughout the following years.
This is a wonderful circle time activity, however, you can introduce or practice this lesson any time it's needed and/or a child is responsive to it.
It's optimal to have multiple other people participating, however, you can practice this with just you and the child with some adapting, as well.
As with almost every Montessori activity, there are multiple purposes to this lesson.
- To teach a child how to get someone's attention without interrupting them
- To help a child further develop an awareness of other people's needs
- To help a child gain independence
A child that is being introduced to this Grace and Courtesy Lesson at the proper age will be in a period of rapid vocabulary development.
Here are some words/terms a child will learn during this activity:
- drawing attention
- thank you
- excuse me
- Explain to the child that they will be learning how to draw someone's attention without interrupting them.
- Ask 2 other people to help you demonstrate the lesson.
- Start a conversation with one of your actors and have them respond normally. Continue with this back-and-forth role-playing.
- Motion for the 2nd actor to place their hand on your shoulder gently without saying anything.
- After a moment, say to the first actor, “Excuse me”, and then say to the 2nd actor, “Thank you for waiting”, and have them ask their question.
- Have the child you're teaching and the children or adults who were acting all sit down to talk about the situation.
- Explain to the group that sometimes you can respond right away, like in the demonstration you just gave, but that sometimes they will have to wait longer.
- Have your actors stand up with you again.
- Again, engage the first actor in conversation, while the 2nd actor places their hand on your shoulder.
- This time, touch the 2nd actor's hand and say, “Thank you for waiting. I see you and I will be with you shortly.”.
- After a minute or two, end your conversation with actor 1 and say to the 2nd actor, “Thank you for waiting. What can I help you with?”.
After the lesson, you can again sit with the children and process the demonstration.
You can follow up on the lesson by asking questions about how it feels to be interrupted when talking and why they think it's important to give everyone a chance to finish what they are doing.
The child(ren) should be given an opportunity to talk about a time when they were interrupted during a conversation or activity and how it made them feel.
As you can see, role-playing is a gentle, fun, and effective way to help children learn manners.
Have you given your child this lesson or introduced this to your classroom?
If so, what challenges did you have? Did you need to make any modifications to keep the children interested?
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