This is an A-B Conversation

I think it’s part of our human nature to be aware of our surroundings. We pick up on the sights, the smells, the atmosphere, and, mostly, the sounds. When we hear someone asking a question, we tend to want to answer it. When we notice someone is lost, we want to help. While these are generally good qualities, we also need to gauge when is the right time to speak and when we need to remain silent.

Our kids tend to struggle in this area. They walk into our room, hear us in the middle of a conversation and immediately want to know what we’re talking about. Truthfully, I’m sure their desire is to merely participate in the conversation and we understand this. However, there is still a valuable lesson to be learned. Not every conversation is meant for them to overhear and they do not need to participate in every conversation we have.

As our children mature, we’re trying to teach them the art of conversation. While we stress the ability to listen well, think before speaking, and speaking in the right manner, we also want to impart the wisdom to know when they have no part in the discussion at hand and should quietly walk away (or at least remain silent until the conversation is over).

As adults, we try to model this for our children. Our children observe our behavior when in larger groups, watching how we choose to speak and decide to refrain. They see us patiently wait for someone else’s discussion to finish before beginning our own or are asked to join in another. We train our children by not allowing them to be a part of every conversation we have, helping them understand this is a private discussion which they are not a part of.

While I’m sure this must be slightly frustrating to our children – I can’t think of a single person who likes being cut out of a conversation – I think this is an important lesson for them. Not everyone appreciates their discussions being interrupted, especially when the exchange was meant to be private. Every dialogue is not necessarily meant to include all those standing around. Until you are asked to be involved or it is obvious all are welcome, it is probably best to remain still.

Time to Chime In: (See, I’m asking you to talk! – laughing) Do your children tend to interrupt adult conversation, attempting to participate? What steps have you taken to help your children determine when it is acceptable to join in?

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13 thoughts on “This is an A-B Conversation

  1. Excellent post! Every one of our girls (we have 5) caught the bug to interject themselves into the conversation around age 7. I’m distinguishing this from the ‘Mommy, mommy, mommy” stage before then that just needs to training to wait until Mommy is done speaking. Around age 7 they all decided that their opinion on the topic needed to be shared, no matter who I may be speaking with already. My initial response is to look at the child, smile, and say ,”Not your conversation.” Then later I will talk with them about how great it is that they have thoughts and are figuring things out – but that it is not their place to comment when adults are talking until they are invited to do so. If the adults involve them in the conversation – great, speak on.

    The difficult thing in our house is that my husband’s family primarily converses in sarcasm/tongue in cheek phrasing. My daughters are bright enough to have picked up this skill, but we have had to teach them that just because Dad and Uncle speak to one another that way does NOT mean you may speak to either of them that way. That’s a tough one to balance. LOL

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  2. My daughter is more likely to butt in if if it a phone conversation or if she hears raised voices. I am constantly reminding her that she doesn’t like it and should use the same respect. If we truly want a private conversation, we will either talk in Spanish or wait until she is asleep. My husband is native Latino and I speak some Spanish (not fluent, but enough) and we have noticed that although, I am teaching her basic Spanish, she tends to comprehend more than she is taught, but only when you least expect it.
    I think our curious natures make us want to know everything. Sometimes to throw my daughter off I will “threaten” a pop quiz on something newly learnt to keep her nose in her business and this usually works.

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  3. Pingback: This is an A-B Conversation | A Homeschool Mom | The Diligent WomanThe Diligent Woman

  4. This is a great topic! And a HARD TASK! I don’t think we did as well as we wanted to with our older children. They don’t so much as interrupt a ‘private conversation’ but feel they deserve the right to give their opinion on any matter- uninvited opinions- and, in the case of our daughter, seems to think her opinion should be taken over our own. I believe what happened was in my huge efforts to ensure she would not be the shy introvert that I was and am, I may have encouraged her too much to speak up and obviously gave into her opinion far too often as a way of encouraging her to express an opinion- something I wasn’t ever aloud to do as a child nor was my husband. So we’ve gone from one extreme to the other. She doesn’t seem to do this quite as much with others as she does with us though, so that’s a good thing. But now we have the youngest child, age 4, to teach these skills to. We want to somehow find a way to meet in the middle. We want him to feel he has some say- but not feel the entitlement that our older child seems to feel. So as for interrupting conversations- right now is a time to just teach manners- “Excuse me, please” or he doesn’t get acknowledged and also to know he doesn’t always get what he wants, even if he does remember to say please.

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  5. We did not have this problem with our children, for some reason, but I would love if you would adopt and straighten out ME! 😉
    It just occurs to me that the example set by Elihu, in the book of Job (about ch. 34 or so) would be an excellent starting point. He waited a LONG time for the elder men to spout their incorrect theories, and then made an apology before introducing his thoughts. And he was RIGHT and they were WRONG. Hmm.
    On the phone was a different matter for us, though. I had a rule: They were not to interrupt me unless there was a house fire, blood, broken bone, or unconsciousness to report. Any other interruptions, they had to fetch the switch, have in in their hands, to obtain permission to interrupt me while I was on the phone. If they interrupted without thinking, I would pause the conversation and ask, “Is there a fire? Is someone bleeding? Or what.” Usually I would get a downcast look and the child would know trouble was waiting in the wings.
    I did know a mother who taught her children to approach a personal conversation in which she was involved, and stand a few feet away, perfectly still. She would raise her hand slightly, like a modified traffic director, to indicate she had noticed his felt need to speak. If the conversation needed to go on longer she would draw the child close to her and maybe stroke his shoulder or arm while he waited. I always thought she was encouraging him to be patient and to know that he was being trained, not rejected. When she thought the time was good for an interruption, she would turn to the child and ask him what he needed. If it was legitimate, she would tend to it at once. If not, she would gently tell him that next time he should wait with such an interruption.
    On facebook, once, I was having a personal conversation with a new home schooling mom, and someone jumped in with “I HATE homeschooling!” I scolded him for interrupting a private conversation and he argued that if it was on facebook it was NOT private. He really ranted quite a while. I had to report him and delete all his comments. I’m happy to say the young mom I was counseling was not scared away by his boldness. 🙂
    Thanks for broaching this topic!

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  6. “If you want to ride the train, get on at the depot!” That is the refrain in our home. In other words, if you weren’t a part of the beginning of the conversation, don’t butt in. If we want to bring you up to speed, we will, but don’t assume you have the right to join in. It has been a lighthearted way to make the kids stop and think about whether interruption is appropriate or not. 🙂

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  7. “Glad” to hear it’s not just us. We have the same issue, especially with our middle. Lol. First, we’ve taught them to listen discreetly to recognize whether the conversation is relevant to them. At the very least we’ve told them to ask if they could add something or ask a question (regarding the hubby’s and my conversation). Hasn’t kicked in yet, so we’re still working on it!

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  8. My middle child always wants to be in the middle of everything. We’re trying really hard to help her with this right now. Half the time, though, she so excited to tell us something that she hasn’t even taken the time when she enters to room to see if we are actually already having another conversation.

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