Hold That Thought. . .If You Can

Sizzlers often miss what’s going on around them. This can be a problem in many ways. Read this mom’s letter to learn about one of them.

I have a sizzler who is a great talker. The challenge is creating boundaries.  For instance if I need to change little sister’s diaper and little sister is busy playing catch me if you can, it may not be the best moment to ask to play a video game or tell me about a favorite event from 2 weeks ago. Is it even worth trying to set that boundary?  Or is it a futile cause in your opinion/experience?

Thanks for your wisdom!


Dear Sara,

What pleases me most is that you’ve assumed I had wisdom. A thousand blessings on your day.

I have experience. I have headaches. And I even have Sizzler stories I can now laugh about that typically involve some mix of fluids like motor oil and peanut butter. Whether or not I have wisdom has never satisfactorily been determined. The jury is still out. And there are days, my children will tell you, that the jury is not even out. In fact, they’re are IN, have pitched a tent and ordered Chinese for dinner.

Nonetheless, I will provide an answer based on whatever it is that I DO have, and let the chips fall where they may. Mental meanderings aside, I promise I’ll now give you a serious answer. 🙂

My Answer:

I still think it’s worthwhile to try to teach this skill. Our kids regularly walk into a room and begin speaking whatever is on their mind without making a habit of first pausing to take in the lay of  land. They are going to need this Pause-and-think skill, even if it is much, much (oh, and did I mention MUCH) harder for them to learn.

So here are a couple of things to try that will help him learn when and where to speak freely.

Create a signal, something that says “hold that thought”. Maybe one silent finger in the air, or a flat hand held up. Anything predetermined by the two of you that says'”pause.”  Tell him that when he sees this, not only does it mean “hold that thought” but it also means “while you hold that thought, be a detective. See if you can figure out on your own why I may need you to wait.”

When you are done with whatever prevented you from listening intently in the first place, then turn to him and say, “Were you able to figure out why I wanted you to wait?” Based on his answer, you may need to help him catch a few more clues in the surrounding environment. But don’t belabor this process too long. Move along to his actual reason for seeking you out in the first place as soon as you can.

This is a social skill that most people figure out automatically. But for Sizzlers, who often lives in the excitement in their heads (and frankly, their heads ARE a pretty cool place to be. I understand why they are often found there,) this is a skill that will have to be learned and even memorized. It may never come naturally, but it can still come.

Create a save-it-for-later board, particularly for use in school. If your child has a question or comment and if that question or comment is unrelated to the current assigned task, have them write it on the save-it-for-later white board (you can substitute a piece of paper, or notebook– whatever works.) Any thought inappropriately brought up is sent to the board. Later, when the timing is better, go through the list on the board. For example, if my son is doing math and he asks a question about  whether a great battle from history might have gone differently if tazers had already been invented–onto the board. Great question. But maybe the wrong time. Later, at a break in the process, we’ll return to the board and work through the items. It lets him know that I’m still interested in his concerns. But that they must be brought up at a more appropriate time.

When Talking to Other Adults, how do we teach a Sizzler not to interrupt? Let’s face it, not all interruptions are bad. We have a general rule– unless there’s an emergency, which in our house requires fire, vomit, blood, or nuclear explosion, then hold that thought.  Early on I trained all my kids to do the hand-on-the-shoulder technique. This simply meant that if they wanted to talk to me and I was currently talking with another adult, (even when on the phone) they were to come up and gently put their hand on my shoulder. This would indicate that they had something to say. I would wait for an appropriate time to turn to them to ask them what they needed.  That has served us very well over the years. There was one child who had a difficult time understanding what “gently on the shoulder” meant, and often confused it with “pump the shoulder vigorously as though drilling for oil.” But we eventually worked it out.

If YOU, dear reader, have found a great technique for helping kids to pause before speaking, share it! You may have the one idea that someone else needs.


4 Responses to “Hold That Thought. . .If You Can”

  1. kayleenrunyan Says:

    My daughter gets so frustrated because if she doesn’t say it right away, she forgets what she wanted to say. She is 8 (developmentally about 6) and is a SIZZLER on the autism spectrum. We use the hand on the shoulder (she even made a long stick in the car to put on her daddy’s shoulder–while he was driving–creative points, not so many for safety. LOL). Carol, I always find your insight helpful and so many times you make me laugh when my only other choice would be to curl up in a ball and cry. Blessings!

  2. carolbarnier Says:

    I SOOOOO understand your daughter’s frustration. I’m the same way. If I don’t blurt it out, there’s a really good chance I won’t remember it when it’s my turn. For what it’s worth, the most useful thing I ever did was to learn the Sign Language alphabet, and then I hold a letter in my hand while I wait. When it’s my turn to speak, the letter prompts me about what I wanted to say. It works a good 98% of the time. Blessings back at ya.

  3. Kelly Karr Says:

    Carol! What a great blog and a great idea (the sign language letter). You are right on.

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