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Toddler, Interrupted

Why you shouldn't interrupt your children when they are talking.

We often rush to help our kids complete their sentences when they’re learning to speak, but we may be harming their progress. Here’s why:

Interrupting your toddler might be detrimental. Language is made up of gestures, body language and cognitive or written parts. We develop the former first. From a speech pathologists’ point of view – language is primarily verbal (spoken language) or nonverbal (gestures, actions, written modalities, drawing, electronic etc).

Children begin by developing and using nonverbal language.

They start communicating using gestures and actions, then by using sounds and then by joining sounds together to form spoken words. Learning to speak when you’re a child is akin to learning a foreign language for adults. The best learning is through interaction. Finishing sentences, constantly correcting grammar or being impatient might stall their progress.

When we begin to constantly interrupt our children as they are trying to figure out how to say what they want to say, essentially what we are doing is interrupting their flow of thought and efforts to verbally put together their thoughts. They may begin to feel unimportant, always wrong and disrespected.

They may begin to feel that what they have to say is not important and may end up not wanting to speak often or contribute to conversations.

We often tell our children to “wait” when they interrupt us. Similarly, when they are speaking, even though it takes them longer, we must learn to wait because interrupting a child can have an impact on their self-confidence. In turn, this can affect their language progression and interfere with their way of using their knowledge to formulate their own rules and recognize correct from incorrect.

This can result in incomplete knowledge and impaired language or grammar. As a parent sometimes you may want to jump in and correct their grammar. In this case, using the indirect method instead would be more fruitful. You correct them implicitly whilst helping them learn the rules of grammar.

For instance:

Child: Look mom I saw a red car!
Mother: Oh! Where is it?
Child: It just goed away!
Mother: Oh it went away? I must have missed seeing it!

(Here the parent would have stressed or emphasized on the word went) When this is done, keep repeating the emphasized word so the child is repeatedly hearing the correct form rather than telling the child they are wrong and this is what they have to say instead.

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