Handling the Interruption Disruption
The 10 Commitments: Parenting with a Purpose
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Do your children interrupt you when you're talking? Does the house seem completely quiet until you pick up the phone, and then your children immediately demand your attention? Have you ever attempted to have an important conversation with your spouse, but the kids couldn't seem to leave you alone? If so, then you're experiencing a common frustration for many parents: the interruption disruption.
So what can parents do about this situation? How do we get our children to stop interrupting without sending them the message that we don't want to hear what they have to say?
The key to handling the interruption disruption lies in teaching children how and when to speak up. Simply put, if you want a behavior, you have to teach a behavior. Children do not understand when interrupting is or is not appropriate. Nor do they often demonstrate the skills that will enable them to speak up effectively when it is appropriate. They don't understand the power of words and how to use them to create positive change in their lives.
To help your children learn to curb the interrupting habit, start with these steps.
Step 1 – Create a signal.
Before you find yourself in the situation where interrupting occurs, establish a signal or sign that your children can use to let you know they want to talk to you. You might try having them place a hand on your shoulder or touch you gently on the side. These are signals used by many parents.
Step 2 – Practice the signal.
Practice the signal several times by role-playing before putting it into use. Then have a few of your friends or relatives call you on the telephone when your children are around. See how it works, and debrief as needed.
Step 3 – Teach children the difference between important and unimportant reasons to interrupt.
Talk to your children about what is and what isn't an acceptable reason to interrupt. One acceptable reason is if someone is hurt or in danger. If your son witnesses a dangerous situation, teach him to communicate it quickly and directly. Give him some starter words that will tip you off that he is communicating potential danger. "Mom, I see danger," "Shannon needs help," or "Trouble alert" work well as clues that danger is at hand.
Unless there is immediate danger, inform your children that you will turn your attention to them when a break in the conversation allows. This means that they might have to wait 15 or 20 seconds after they give you the signal as outlined in Step 1. Once you feel or see the signal, you don't have to immediately end your discussion and attend to your child. However, 15 seconds is a long time in the mind of a young child who is working on being patient, so you want to move in that direction quickly. It is important that you practice this scenario, too. If you wait several minutes after getting the signal before you give your child attention, you will sabotage the entire process.
Step 4 – Give friendly reminders to encourage use of the signal.
Your children will not automatically start using the signal the first time they feel like interrupting. You will need to remind them as they learn this new behavior. "Michael, that's interrupting. Please use the signal we practiced" and "Angel, touch me on the shoulder if you are wanting my attention right now" are examples of ways to encourage a return to signal use.
Have patience with this fourth step. Be ready for some misuse and some forgetting of the signal. It is going to take your children time to learn that you have not forgotten them and that you will attend to their need in a timely fashion. Children are used to the world revolving around them, and it is often difficult for them to wait while you meet some of your needs. When they regularly experience having you slowly stop your conversation, attend to their need, and then return to your conversation, they will realize they are still connected to you and that you are still available to them.
It may also take time for you to remember to respond to the signal quickly and give appropriate reminders to your children. Keep refining the process until it works smoothly for all concerned. Remember, the end result of your effort is a child who grows into an adult who knows how and when to interrupt. By implementing the above strategies with respect, patience, and understanding we help our children gain skill and confidence when speaking up for themselves.Viewed 17063 times | Discuss this article |
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