Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Teaching your child not to interrupt while on the phone

Proactive Parenting vs. Reactive Parenting

Do you feel that every time you answer the phone your little one immediately needs you whether it is a constant tap, saying mommy repetitively or whining for a drink or snack (which in most cases it is something they can't have). You are not alone. An ocean could probably be filled with the number of parents who have been interrupted while on the phone. Interrupting is a habit children learn to use because it works. They want your attention and NOW! They have learned that they get a response from you and that you are willing to stop what you are doing to answer them. Children are so focused on themselves and their needs that they don't realize that you have needs too. They can learn though that interrupting is not acceptable with a little patience and practice.

If you can, prepare children before making a call:
  • "Do you want me to read a story before I make some phone calls?"
  • "Is there anything you need before I make this phone call?"
This gives them a chance to connect with you or have some attention before you will be on the phone. You can also communicate to the child that you will be on the phone for a little bit and set them up with an activity they can do on their own or a couple of things they can play while you make your phone calls. Always tell your child that as soon as you are off the phone, you will play with them and try to be specific on what it is that you will be playing. This gives them the opportunity to look forward to doing something together when you are through.

If you answer the phone and your child starts interrupting acknowledge their presence with a nod or silent cue. Do not ignore completely because they will get more persistent. Try not to stop your conversation completely, but if you have to, stop talking and tell your child that you are on the phone and assist them in what they need briefly. Communicate to the child I will be off soon and we will play. Teaching your child to wait will be hard for your little one. If you say you will be 2 minutes then keep your word by setting a timer or be 2 minutes. It's about building trust in your child and letting him know that you respect him and care about his needs while also helping him to understand that there are rules that must be followed.

When you are teaching your child how not to interrupt you, practice what you preach and don't interrupt them. Also role model to your child how to interrupt you and others politely with an excuse me or I have a question please. When you give in to the attention seeker and engage them while on the phone with lengthy answers and constant communication you are teaching them that it is o.k. to do and role modeling disrespect. Try not to take too long of phone calls during sleepiness or eating times. Try to also take phone calls during nap time if you can. If you need to, you can set up consequences for your little one if they continue to interrupt while on the phone after giving the silent cues and assisting them briefly.

Learning to be a good listener and to interrupt only when necessary and in a respectful manner takes practice. The earlier your child learns these skills the better off he will be.


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posted by Colleen Baker at 6:24 AM


Blogger E and T said...

Hi Colleen

It certainly is frustrating when you are trying to speak to someone on the phone and children are constantly interrupting the conversation.

I have a toddler and am trying to be be very consistent with teaching her that it is unacceptable to constantly interrupt while mummy is talking to someone (whether it be on the phone, or face-to-face). I have been using the strategies you mentioned.


7:36 AM  
Anonymous vickie said...

really great posts! i'm eating them up.

1:21 PM  
Blogger Mika said...

Great advice, thank you. So in tune with my philosophy, it is great hear good ideas, and build a library for future reference!

9:23 PM  

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