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Our 3-year-old daughter has been talking over any conversation in her vicinity for the past few months with increasing intensity. I can't talk for more than a minute or two to my wife when our daughter is around, neither of us can talk to anyone else, house guests can't talk among themselves without our daughter trying to join the conversation if allowed or talk loudly over it if not.

My wife and I have already tried simple explanations, promising to talk to her as soon as the other important conversation is over, talking to her about importance of other people talking without her interfering, and none seems to have worked. Lately I can't seem to keep it anymore and tend to raise my voice suddenly at her telling her off for her repeated interference.

Now I warned our daughter that she will need to go to her room if she breaks other people's conversation again until she's ready to come back and not do it again. This we've been using recently when our daughter throws a fit and it seems to work to a degree (we have yet to finely tune ourselves to tell whether it is just attention-seeking fit, in which case this seems to work, and when there is a real problem we've missed, which is a rare occurrence, luckily). The going to her room is in reality no timeout, as she now usually needs less than ten seconds to enter her room, drink a bit of water and come out calm and willing not to act out. Even at the beginning we weren't leaving her alone for long peroids of time, we made the going the important moment.

She is our first and only child and so far seems more energized than other children we know (and more than we both are told we were in her age), and generally we tend to have problems with guiding her to spend all her energy on bad days when she can't just run around and play outside for at least half a day.

Sure, this, too, will pass. We would, however, be grateful for other options, which may ease the situation in the meantime and help her build a sense of respect for others (and at the same time help us respect her and her legitimate needs).

  • She's an only child. Does she have other kids to talk to regularly or is she mostly around adults? – henning May 10 at 18:49
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    @henning We do what we can to arrange company for her. She has other kids around for one to four hours at a time usually three to five times a week. This September she starts regular kindergarten, half a day Monday to Friday. She gets on well with other kids. You are right to point this out, the problem mainly arises when there are only adults around. – Pavel May 10 at 19:58
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At that age it is probably at least partly an impulse control issue-- Even adults, when excited by the conversation, can suddenly tend to interrupt when they think of something they really want to say. Limited impulse control is totally normal at three, so this is probably something you will need to work with her on over time.

Some possible ways to improve the 'wait for a turn to talk' skill and 'everyone gets a chance awareness' include playing turn-taking games where you each alternate using a toy, stop and go games like Red Light Green Light, the 'talking ball' game (only whoever is holding the ball can talk, pass it around and take turns), and modeling good listening behavior by giving her total and undivided attention when it is actually her turn to talk. If she's telling a long story and you need to move things along or tell her something, approach it with acknowledgement of the interruption, something like, "Sorry to interrupt you story, but it's time to wash up for dinner. Would you like to finish once we sit down?"

There is also this wonderful technique, where adult and child agree on a 'I have something to say next' hand signal, allowing you and your daughter to work together in making sure everyone feels heard, and gets a turn to have their say. This is especially useful if her behavior involves an element of feeling ignored or shut out of the action when others are talking. On the other hand, try not to reward excessive interrupting with attention, even negative attention. A silent 'wait a moment' gesture, or "Please wait your turn", or whatever is least disruptive and still effective. Then when it is her chance to speak, really listen.

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Now I warned our daughter that she will need to go to her room if she breaks other people's conversation again until she's ready to come back and not do it again.

@Meg gave a great answer. I'd like only to expand on the idea of time-outs.

Time outs should not be left to the child's discretion ("until she's ready to come back and not do it again"). Ideally, time outs are a time to calm down and reflect, not a punishment. They should be limited to about one minute per year of age. When the time out has ended, there is a calm discussion of why the child was given the time out (as well as a warning beforehand.)

If you find yourself repeating a request over and over again, or if you're feeling frustrated or even angry/annoyed with the child, a good resource on the use and implementation of time outs is 1,2,3 Magic. I don't usually advocate methods that require a purchase, but this used to be given to new parents for free by pediatricians across the country when it was new, and it was incredibly effective with my children (who are now using it with their children.) I only urge you to read te book cover to cover before starting to use it.

And don't forget to reward good behavior! :)

  • I should have mentioned that with our daughter, the going to her room is in reality no timeout, as she now usually needs less than ten seconds to enter her room, drink a bit of water and come out calm and willing not to act out. Even at the beginning we weren't leaving her alone for long peroids of time, we made the going the important moment. – Pavel Apr 30 at 6:02
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My feeling is this is too much to ask of a 3 year old. I think you should not focus on how to discipline / train the child and instead, use the year of age 3 to relearn how to deal with her antics without losing your temper.

This age, 2.5 to 3.5 is when my child learned how to infuriate me, and the only way I could get above it was to prepare. Make sure I am well fed, ready with distractions, and eliminated outside requirements (like work meetings during family time, or visits to restaurants).

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