Dealing with interruptions from your child

Isn’t it amazing how quickly children interrupt when they hear you on the phone?

We wait for that quiet minute to make an important call or task and, poof, our children appear with attention getting behavior.

What can we do to find a few minutes of uninterrupted time?

Start early.  We might think this is a problem with only toddlers, but if we aren’t careful it can persist into the teen-age years.  Unfortunately, I’ve dealt with some sixty-somethings that still interrupt.

Set limits.  Set your limits of attention, and be firm.  Don’t let whining and tantrums divert your attention.  For example, say, “I need ten minutes to make a telephone call.  I expect you to play by yourself for those ten minutes.  Please do not disturb me while I am on the phone.”  If your child does interrupt do something like put a hand on their arm or shoulder and while taking no notice of their actions.

You may want to practice this by pretending to make a phone call and working through the situation.

Set a timer.   In the beginning of helping a child with interrupting behavior, an hourglass type of timer can be helpful.   Young children love to watch the sand run through the hourglass.  Prepare your child and let him know that if he interrupts you before the designated time, the timer gets turned over, making the wait longer.   Interrupted?  Simply turn the timer over and start again.  You don’t have to say a word.  There are some great 15-minute sand timers available.

Give time and attention first.  Even though you may want those first 15 to 20 minutes after getting home to be time for you to unwind, you might see a benefit in spending those first minutes with your child having fun or doing a chore together.  Giving your child the first twenty minutes helps satisfy your child’s need to be with you.  When you say, “Now I need 15 minutes by myself, please,” you’re more likely to meet with success.

Helping your child learn to respect others’ time and attention by learning how to wait is an important skill.  Not just for today, but for all of your child’s life.

Start today by setting limits, using a timer, and helping your child understand that we all need time where we are not interrupted.

Maren Schmidt

Kids Talk TM is a column dealing with childhood development issues written by Blue Ribbon News guest columnist Maren Stark Schmidt.  Ms. Schmidt founded a Montessori school and holds a Masters of Education from Loyola College in Maryland. She has over twenty-five years experience working with children and holds teaching credentials from the Association Montessori Internationale.  Contact her at  Visit  Copyright 2014.

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