One of the most frustrating things for me as a group leader of young children is their voice volume…how it goes up, and up, and UP! This is most problematic when I or someone else is talking and others want to be heard. Not only do kids invade body space as they get closer and closer trying to vie for my attention, but they invade air space as well. I’ve tried many strategies: reminding kids to lower their voices; telling them to stop interrupting; trying to elicit empathy explaining that others’ ideas are important too; reasoning that I can’t hear anyone when everyone is talking; speaking quietly, hoping they will mimic my voice volume; ignoring, hoping they will simply stop; using behavior charts; facilitating peer feedback, and more…all to no avail.
Believing that kids want to do the right thing (and understand on some level what they need to do) led my colleagues and I to recognize an important truth. Kids have a primal social need. They desperately want to be heard and they aren’t always sure anyone is listening.
So, this is what we do: we teach kids to say a person’s name to get their attention. If they want to talk with me, they simply say, “Jill!” OK, you are thinking, “so what? So they interrupt by saying your name instead of just talking. That’s still interrupting”. But here’s the magic. Our natural response to hearing our name called is to orient to the person immediately. When that happens, kids are instantly reassured that they have been heard. When I hold up a finger to indicate they need to wait a minute or give a brief reminder that they can have a turn when I or a friend stops talking, they relax and wait their turn.
So, instead of reminding kids to stop interrupting, try giving them a strategy to say a name first and see what happens.