How to Retrain Your Kid to Stop Bothering Adults

Dear Kid Whisperer,

My 11-year-old daughter is extremely nosy, butts into adult conversations, and tends to stand with adults even when kids are around. She even adds commentary that isn’t her business and sometimes honestly it just doesn’t make sense. I often have to get MEAN and yell in order to get my point across and to get her to go away and go be with the kids as opposed to the adults. What is a logical consequence, and how can I break her from this before it gets her in trouble?

-Kim, Abilene, Texas


Thank you for coming to grips with the fact that your kid should be hanging out with whomever you want her to be hanging out. Kids being with adults is fine- until their parent thinks it isn’t fine any more.

Your daughter is not making sense and sort of embarrassing you and herself because she lacks the maturity and prior knowledge to participate in adult conversations. It’s great for her to hear adults talk, but she will need to leave the conversation the moment that you want her to. Why? Because you are the boss, that’s why.

You are having to be mean and yell because you are trying to change her behavior with words instead of actions. Kids don’t listen to words. They pay attention to actions. Here’s how I would set the limit.

 Kid Whisperer: I’ve noticed that you like spending time with adults. That’s fine until I ask you to go and let us have a fully adult conversation. Next time we are in this situation, when it is time for you to stop being with grown-ups, I will say “OK, time to hang out with your friends.” If you go within three seconds of the me saying the word “friends”, you will be allowed to stay at the party (or picnic, play date, etc). If it takes more than three seconds, I will have to do something about it. No matter what happens, I love you.

Here’s how I would enforce the limit at a kid/parent get together…

 Kid Whisperer: “…friends.”

(1 steamboat, 2 steamboat, 3 steamboat)

Kid: “…and that is why we have four branches of government: to make sure that we, as a nation, are never overtaken by bees.”

Your friends look on in uncomfortable silence. One of your wide-eyed friends pours his third glass of wine.

 Kid Whisperer: Oh, dear. We are leaving now.

 2 minutes later, in the car:

 Kid: Why did we have to leave? I was on a roll.

 Kid Whisperer: I said that we would leave and that I would do something about it if you didn’t leave the adults alone when asked. You failed at this today. Now I am doing something.

 Kid: But I wanted to hang out with the grownups.

 Kid Whisperer: I know. From now on, until you can do a better job of listening to me, we will not be going to any activities that involve talking to grownups. No more group playdates like the one we just left. No more dances with chaperones to hang out with.

 Kid: No fair!

 Kid Whisperer: Indeed. The good news is that I will be noticing how well you listen to me, and when I think you have mastered listening and doing what is asked of you immediately, you can try being around adults again. Then we can test whether or not you have mastered listening to me.

Just keep it simple: set the expectation and follow through!