I clutched the phone securely to my ear paying close attention to what my car repair guy was saying to me on the other end.
‘Mum. Mum. Mummy. Mum. Mama,'
I can feel the tapping of my son's fingers on my thigh as I write this sentence. I bet you can feel it, too.
Why do children always interrupt when you are on the phone?
It must be something to do with them sensing that you have become ‘unavailable’ to them, an attention seeking behavior, right?
I can remember my children interrupting often when I was trying to deal with life's most awesome moments like moving house, on important calls with doctors, and the list goes on. Without these tough circumstances, interrupting is ingrained in a child.
Here is done good news: it doesn't have to be.
Your Guide to Operation Stop Interrupting
#1 – Talk to your child at a NEUTRAL time about the issue rather than reacting when it happens.
‘Why do you always have to interrupt me? You could see I was on the phone!’
Are you guilty? Me, too. Let me guess? It didn’t stop your child from interrupting the next time, right?
#2 – Explain the REASONS why you want them to entertain themselves when you are on the phone, keep it simple, keep it friendly.
#3 – Have your child to REPEAT BACK to you what you have said using Why, What, When questions:
‘When Mummy is on the phone, what do you need to do?’
‘Why do you need to play by yourself?’
‘What could you do?’(suggest some activities)
‘How will you know when it’s ok to talk to mummy?'
#4 – PRACTICE, especially suitable for younger children, you can make it fun, making a ‘pretend’ phone call. Kids love role play and it's an effective way to help learn behavior.
For an older child you could perhaps do a reverse role play where you interrupt their phone call. There’s scope here for having some fun and bringing some humour into it, which is often helpful.
#5 – SET UP A SITUATION where you have someone call or have a conversation with you. Tell your child that this is going to happen, and have the: What, How, Why conversation again. Keep the phone call short (give your child a chance to succeed)
#6 – PRAISE your child within context for appropriate behavior, even if they didn't quite successfully manage to not interrupt you for the whole call
‘Thank you, Archie, you played on your own for five minutes while I was on the phone, let’s see if you can make it six minutes next time!’
Keep things upbeat and positive, children respond so much better to this approach.
This might seem a lot of hard work because, well, it is. As with so many aspects of parenting, going that extra mile can make all the difference. I don't have to tell you that much.
More about the author:
Jane Rogers lives in the UK and is founder of The Cambridge Parent Coach. She is experienced in running a number of highly regarded parenting courses, and writes and runs her own workshops for parents, designed to help solve all those day-to-day parenting problems quickly and easily. She writes and runs workshops for parents and has many years of experience working with families. Jane is passionate about Positive Parenting and her aim is to share the ethos and ideas of this style of parenting in a way that is simple to understand, and easy to put into practice. To find out more about her work visit The Cambridge Parent Coach. Jane is currently adapting her workshops into workbooks for parents. The first workbook is available on Amazon and is titled: ‘How to Encourage Good behaviour, so you can Enjoy Your Children’.
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