6 Year Old and Arguing and Interrupting!!!

Updated on November 14, 2014
S.B. asks from Safety Harbor, FL
18 answers

I'm ready to pull my hair out :(

My 6 year old has been by far the most challenging of my 3 boys. Since early on he has been a major tantrum thrower, he fixates on things and cannot let go, stubborn to the max. We have sought the help of counselors over the years, and have found some things that help.

The major challenge for quite some time is his arguing and interrupting. He will over hear us speaking to someone else and 1) Interrupt by 2) arguing. Most of the time he's not even on topic with his arguments. Recently I had a sitter over I was interviewing and he was there playing not far from us. He interrupted while I was speaking to her, and was sent to his room. He continued to try and interrupt from there. After she left we talked with about it, as we have many times. And he lost some privileges. Well that sent him in to a tail spin of a tantrum. Which we ignore, and any time he comes out of his room he is sent back and we repeat "You may come out when you can be calm and behave"

We stick to punishments. We take away privileges and stick to it. Such as losing the 30 minutes of t.v. he may get or 30 minutes of a video game. He can pick one or the other every day. If he pushes it beyond that, we will ground for a day where there are zero privileges and he will get an extra chore or two. I have had him sit down and write sentences. Such as "I will not interrupt when others are talking. etc

Tonight he did this outside in front of neighbors. Blatantly interrupted, and I corrected him and he got mouthy and said "Well I was talking to so and so...." Even though our adult neighbor was talking to this person he was trying to talk to. I sent him in and he proceeded to have one of his fits, opening the door screaming and crying and I just kept telling him to close the door, he's not welcome outside. When I came in I asked him if he could explain why his behavior was not ok. And he did.So he lost another privilege, and had him write sentences.... I feel like I'm spinning wheels.

I'm not sure what else to do. He does GREAT in school. Gets good grades, reads very well, is doing great learning math, has friends and his teachers have nothing but wonderful things to say about him. We have a reward system at home where he can move up or down two levels each way or stay "neutral", he starts at neutral every day and there are rewards for good behavior as well. It just seems we rarely get there.

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

I definitely need to take a breath and not feed in to the arguing. I get so upset about the interrupting because when I ask him to hold on or wait his turn, it seems to amp him up more and he continues to interrupt.
Obviously my approach hasn't been working. Thanks for some tips!

Featured Answers



answers from Abilene on

I'll tell you what worked for us. I had an agreement with my kids that if
I was talking to someone they could come to me and gently touch my arm which was their signal they needed my attention. I would at that point put my hand over theirs which was my signal that I "heard" their request for my attention. As soon as I could I would tell the person I was talking to that I needed to see what my kiddo needed and I'd be right back with them. It worked beautifully when they were 4-8.

Now I tell them if I'm in an important meeting or phone call that I have an important issue to take care of and they are not to interrupt unless there is blood. Lol! If they forget they are both very familiar with sign language and I sign them to stop.

Sign language is a beautiful way to communicate. I sign sometimes to my kids when they are getting too rowdy with their friends and they appreciate me not calling them on it in front of their friends. It's very easy to learn and use.


7 moms found this helpful


answers from Albany on

You have a lot of good advice here, so I just want to add this one thing:

I've known quite a few obnoxious 6 year olds who grew up to be perfectly lovely adults.

Enjoy him.


6 moms found this helpful

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answers from Columbia on

1. When he interrupts and argues, send him to his room and require the door be shut. Say nothing to him other than "Go to your room right now and close the door." Don't lecture and don't tell him what he's done. He knows. If he opens his door to tantrum, go and silently close the door.

2. Don't ever argue back and stop having "talks" and lectures about his arguing. He knows exactly why he's in his room. Don't go to him. Call him out of his room ONLY after he's quiet and ask him "why did I send you to your room?" If he says anything other than "because I was interrupting/arguing," send him back to think about it longer. Never lecture. Always guide him gently to determine that it is his choices that lead to him going to his room. Mom isn't just being mean, she's teaching him how to behave.

3. Instead of taking away privileges, make him earn them. If he can go the day without arguing or interrupting, he'll earn his game time. Require that he be self-aware. Only stick to short term consequences. Start each day new. Don't take away a week's worth of game time all in one fell swoop or he'll feel defeated and not even try.

4. Ditch the reward system. They're proven ineffective. When he does good, notice it (don't praise, just notice...praise is empty, recognition is valuable). When he does wrong, give him the opportunity to correct it. If he misbehaves, send him to his room to think about what he's doing, and after he's done thinking, bring him out and ask him what he did (DO NOT TELL HIM, because he already knows. This is an opportunity for him to learn to take responsibility for himself).

Best of luck! I've been there. :-)

ETA: Stop asking him to "hold on." Or, "Wait your turn." Immediately, when he interrupts or argues, say nothing more than "Go to your room." Be calm and collected. No yelling, no temper.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Reading on

"When I came in I asked him if he could explain why his behavior was not ok. And he did.So he lost another privilege, and had him write sentences.... ". What? Why did you punish him for doing what you asked him to do?

Sounds to me that you've made him feel like he never can talk, never has the floor, can't win.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

It's takes 2 to argue.

Why are you ( adult supposedly) arguing with a 6 yr old??

Be a parent.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

Oh my gosh, you are describing my son EXACTLY. He was just like this at age 6. I handled things the same as you...firmly and consistently. The same things that work so well with almost any other child just do not work well with a kid like this, yet you have to keep teaching them, being firm, giving consequences, and giving praise when they are compliant. My son also is very well behaved at school. I believe it is a personality type. The only thing I can tell you is that it gets somewhat better with maturity. My son is 10 now and things are definitely better than when he was 6. He is still hard...but sooo much better.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

it's one thing to say 'we stick to punishments' and it's another to stick to punishments if they're not working.
and clearly your punish-fast-and-first methods don't work for your little boy. so rather than keep relentlessly punishing him, it's time to really dig deep and learn how YOUR child works rather than whatever parenting philosophy you've adopted that doesn't fly in your particular case.
i agree with much of what you do. you're consistent, and you make sure he knows why. that's terrific. now tweak it some more to accommodate your own individual child's personality and learning profile. and it sounds as if he needs more positive reinforcement and less punishment.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

It sounds too complicated to me. I got lost just trying to read all the potential consequences for various misbehavior. Of course, it's past midnight and I'm tired....
But... maybe you should try something really simple. Are you at all familiar with 1-2-3 Magic? It is reaaaalllly simple. In fact, you may already do part of it. The part most people do NOT do, is avoid talking too much.

In the incident with your neighbor (using the 1-2-3 Magic), you'd have looked at your son, and said to him, "That's one." When he continued to interrupt, you would have said, "That's two." (Obviously, he would be aware at this point what he was doing wrong, right?) If he continued... "That's three. Take 5 in the house." And he is dismissed to the house while you continue on (with no more interruptions). You don't follow him into the house. You don't go behind and talk it out at length.
You create a little distance so that there is no arguing and no audience for his tantrum and display of displeasure. When his 5 minutes are up (which begin when he is calm) he can return to your presence (outside, or whatever).

It doesn't take long at all for kids to self-correct when they know their "reward" is losing their audience for arguing. And when you don't allow it to escalate into an argument, guess what. You don't get ANGRY yourself. So when the cool -off 5 minutes is over, everyone is able to communicate without a lot of hurt feelings.

I also agree with Diane that maybe you should inquire at school what his teacher's methods are concerning his behavior. It may even be that he never displays this sort of behavior with her. At all. She may look at you like you have 2 heads and not know what child you are referring to. LOL
Kids push us and get away with exactly what they know they can get away with. Right?

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Honestly, if everything is so perfect at school and so miserable at home, I'd ask the teacher(s) what's done in school to keep him in line. What terms to they use to elicit cooperation from all kids, especially your son. What does he do when he's frustrated? What does he do when he wants to ask a question when someone else is talking (whether it's a teacher or another student)? What is their reward/incentive system and what is their system for consequences? Do they tell him he's not welcome outside, do they stand by a door and repeat over and over "close it, close it"? Do they take away a privilege later on for an infraction now?

What you're doing isn't working so it's time to revisit your technique, your messages, your phrases, everything. It may be that losing 30 minutes of TV later on is not affecting his behavior now. It may be that engaging you constantly is his payoff - so you sitting outside the door arguing is just fueling him. I don't think the writing of sentences is effective - that's just not done in schools anymore because it's purely punitive and is turns you into the taskmaster.

I'd also consider getting some help from a child psychologist to help you address his communicate style, his frustrations and his need to interject all the time. It can't just be "his personality" because he contains it so well all day long. So there's something in the family structure or dynamic that's triggering him.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

You might ask his teachers if he tends to interrupt in school, and how they limit his interruptions or keep him from interrupting at all. Perhaps they have a good system that you could implement to keep things consistent.

The only other idea I have is, instead of speaking to him and telling him not to interrupt, maybe you could develop a sign language type of signal? Some kids are more visual learners and a distinct signal from you (such as an open hand that you close into a fist, like a music conductor does to signal the orchestra to stop in unison, or holding your hand up, or holding up first one, then two, then three fingers) might help him remember to close his mouth and wait his turn. You'd have to practice this, role play, in order to get it down between you. And then, you'd have to get down on his level after you finish your conversation and listen to him, give him his chance to speak uninterrupted.

I don't know, those are just my 2 cents worth of ideas.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I got confused also. I think the thing here is that anytime he messes up he doesn't get a warning, he immediately loses something. That means that he knows inside that he is going to lose something today, everyday, so why should he possibly try with you? He is a kid, and you aren't letting him figure things out without harsh consequences.

I personally feel that losing something arbitrary later for something you did NOW is too hard on kids. It is the same reason that grounding doesn't work well either. Have you tried stopping him and having him start over? If he doesn't practice what you DO want, he won't be able to do it at all. Do you think part of it might be that he wants to be heard and doesn't know how to do so? He sees you talking to someone and they have your attention, so he wants to join in the conversation as well. My 5 year old does this, and we remind her that it is interrupting and she needs to wait her turn. If she gets upset we send her to "cool off" until she is calm and wants to try and talk to us again. It works really well, and we dont' have nearly as many issues in this area as we used to have.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

You've gotten some good replies.

I agree with the idea of seeking the teacher's advice and input on what is working well at school. But it can be hard to apply that at home ALL the time since kids can be very different with parents than with teachers; familiarity does indeed breed contempt, as the saying goes. Plus, he wants wants wants to be the immediate center of your attention the instant your attention goes elsewhere. That's possibly a big part of this that you don't seem to see in the post - you frame it, understandably, as challenging behavior, which it is -- but I wonder if this is his way to ensure he gets attention. Remember, even the "negative attention" of your disciplining him is STILL a form of attention.

So a couple of thoughts:

Think about how much positive attention he does or doesn't get. He has two siblings and you consider him the most challenging -- is it possible that he hears his brothers getting praise or just being talked with, when the adult interactions with him tend to be more criticism? Even a child this young can pick up on unspoken feelings in parents, and if he's the kid you have to "deal with" while the others are the ones who always give you a sigh of relief -- he may be aware that he's considered a challenge. So he lives down to that.

Have you "caught him being good" lately and found things to praise, even if those things seem minor to you as the adult? You may feel you have, but to him, since the tantrums and interruptions get you 100 percent focused on him at that instant, he may feel there is more payoff in arguing for your attention than in being good for it. So when he least expects it, thank him or praise him for even tiny things he does. As adults, by the time our kids are in school, we often feel that "Well, he should just be doing/saying X by this age anyway Why lavish on the praise for what's done just to keep things going day to day?" But kids just don't see things that way.

I would absolutely see the school counselor -- you and dad, alone, without son there -- for a long talk about all this. School counselors can and do help with at-home behaviors. Explain the strong difference between his at-school and at-home selves. Ask whether your systems for reward and discipline are too complex (I don't think so, necessarily, ,but other posts here note that you have a lot of steps to your processes with him). Ask for some specific techniques to handle the interruptions. And ask about rewarding him more when he does what you ask, rather than focusing on the discipline when he doesn't. Don't leave without a list of actions you will take to change this situation on your side as well as his.

You are doing great at being consistent with discipline but I would add a warning stage before proceeding directly to removing things, and I would drop the sentence-writing; it isn't working, and he could end up associating the act of writing with punishment. (I know a kid in our school who hated the physical act of writing and said it was because his folks made him write sentences as punishment.). And I'd add a lot of "catching him being good" and giving him additional attention when he does things, anything, that is positive -- and even additional attention when it's not about his behavior but about just being with him. If your kids are all busy and it's go-go-go in your house, be sure he's getting some one on one time with you and/or dad, so he doesn't feel that he needs to act out whenever you are not focused on him.

It will take time to end his cycle of getting attention this way, possibly a lot of time. Be sure you remove your attention coldly and quickly when he does this -- overdoing the steps of lots of talking about what he did, and steps of discipline, can feed into it --that's all attention focused on him. So be short and don't over-talk each of his offenses, just warn first, discipline, then leave and don't let him have your attention for misbehaving.

I'd truly start with seeing the school counselor ASAP and finding something to praise this afternoon when he gets home from school.....

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sounds like he doesn't have very good impulse control yet.
I can't remember exactly when our son out grew this.
I do remember telling him 'Grownups are talking - you need to be quiet until we are finished.' a lot.
As an only child, he didn't really see himself as a child - he felt he was an equal to adults.
We had to tell him sometimes 'this is grown up talk' and he does not get to blurt out what ever pops into his mind when ever he wants to.

Maybe you can apply some bribery.
When you have a situation when he starts chiming in tell him "Grownups are talking - if you can be quiet till we're finished then you and I can have a treat when we go inside".
Taking things away and punishment isn't working so see if an imminent small treat for good behavior will give him some incentive.
When he does well, tell him "I'm so proud of how you let us finish talking!".
Some kids just take a little while longer to outgrow this than others.
It's hard to get through but you'll get there eventually.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

The problem is that you are trying to treat him the same way you treat your other kids. He's different. I have a very similar daughter and I cannot handle her the same way as my son. She requires much more from me. I have learned not to buy in to the argument from the beginning. I discipline MUCH less and avoid the drama. I have to have more patience with her or things can quickly get out of control. Honestly, rather than the negative discipline, he will respond so much better to positive reinforcement. If you get through a conversation without him interrupting, tell him how awesome he was behaving. If he interrupts you, remind him that he was being so patient earlier and he need to be patient for one more minute and then you can help him. Basically, don't get so worked up about it. He's feeding off of it.

I have noticed a dramatic change in my daughter when I started this approach of noticing the great things she's doing and not critiquing the bad stuff, unless it's unsafe or really needs correction. Interrupting isn't the end of the world and with patience and positivity, he can live up to your expectations rather than start a negative spiral when he knows you are disappointed. I truly believe these kids are different and need more of our love and understanding. My daughter is now 11 and is one of the sweetest, most caring children I know. Yes, still stubborn at times, but with maturity, it seems to be working in her favor. She stands up for herself and is a wonderful, strong kid. As I focus on the positives, I can see her self esteem grow and can see that she gets less argumentative with us.

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answers from Chicago on

you need to get the book 1,2,3 magic. read it and start doing it. It works. but it takes a little time. He sounds like a typical spoiled little boy who is used to having your total attention. He just needs to learn the rules. why do you have levels at home? what works at school is not always what works at home. he doesn't need levels at home. he needs consistent rules. get the book. it works.

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answers from St. Louis on

Were you other questions removed or did you start a new profile?

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answers from Washington DC on

My DH will feed the argument sometimes and I try to remind him to walk away. You are the adult. If it's just no is no, then try the asked and answered method. It's been asked. It's been answered. Discussion closed.

If my DD interrupts, we remind her we are speaking, wait your turn.

If he throws fits when he cannot speak his mind RIGHT THEN or when something doesn't go his way, use one of the tools the counselor provided. Perhaps focus less on punishment and more on direction when he does this, so he can apply those tools to the overall behavior all the time. You might also try having him write it down if he has something to say but it's not a good time.



answers from Cleveland on

Not sure if u will see this but he sounds like he needs some one on one w u.

Don't forget low blood sugar bc it's almost meal time can make kids react crazy sometimes too.

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