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  • Your Child's Interrupts You Constantly? Try Hand Cues And 4 Other Discipline Strategies

    It can be a real problem for those who work from home.
    by Thumby Server-Veloso .
Your Child's Interrupts You Constantly? Try Hand Cues And 4 Other Discipline Strategies
  • One of the most common pet peeves for parents is when their children interrupt them with repetitive cries of “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!” or “Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!” And it almost always happens when we are in the middle of catching up with a friend, an important work meeting, or mom and dad are talking.

    A child interrupting is a real problem for many parents. We wonder why our children are doing this. How can they be lacking in attention, especially now that many of us work from home?

    Why does your child need your constant attention?

    The first possible explanation is they are young. For children younger than 5 years old, their needs always come first. We describe them as “egocentric” because they aren’t ready to take the perspective of others at this age.

    For a child, if he needs to find his toy truck, that need is urgent. It does not occur to him that Mommy cannot be interrupted from her team meeting because he needs his truck, and he needs it NOW.

    The second reason is some children need to learn about self-management or impulse control. Then, as children grow older, they can be taught about waiting and taking turns. We need to help our children learn about delayed gratification (the ability to wait to get what they want) and that they cannot always be attended to instantly.

    More importantly, we want them to learn they can take care of things for themselves. So often, children will interrupt us for things they can very well do independently — answer homework, find a missing item, or handle a conflict with a sibling.


    The third reason is children need to be taught rules on appropriately interrupting or joining in a conversation. Some parents assume children will naturally pick it up. But it is always best to sit down and explicitly talk to them about the do’s and don’ts when someone is having a conversation.

    How to stop your child from interrupting all the time 

    Helping your child learn the appropriate ways of getting your attention or chiming in an ongoing conversation lessens not only your stress but also shows good manners. Here are things you can do to help your child stop interrupting:

    Help your child take the perspective of another persion

    Introduce this topic by talking about moments when they interrupted you, and you got upset or bothered. Then, turn the tables around and have them try to see things from your point of view.

    Ask questions like: How would you feel if I stood in front of the TV and started talking to you while you were watching your favorite show? What if you were in the middle of a game, and I kept getting your controller?

    The goal of this line of questioning is to put your child in another person’s shoes. You want them to see things from a different point of view and understand why you get upset when they interrupt you.

    Practice waiting

    To help children build self-management skills, one of the things they need to learn is waiting. You can do this by playing stop-and-go activities (counting games like Hide and Seek or freeze games like Dancing Statues or Pepsi 7-Up).

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    Some parents even purposely wait before answering their children. Those few seconds of silence can do wonders. Some children will learn how to wait for their parents to respond, or at best, end up doing what they are asking from their parents on their own.

    Teach hand cues

    Sometimes children need to see something visible to help them wait. This works incredibly well for toddlers, those with speech or communication difficulties, and attention issues.

    Ask your child to gently squeeze your hand when he needs you, instead of the usual cries and whining. Then, instruct him to watch your hand for a reply. You can raise five fingers to show you may need a lot of time before you can help him. When he sees that signal, he needs to try to look for someone else to help.

    You can also raise two fingers to let them know you will be ready in a short time, and if they can wait, you will get to them soon. Then, go down to one finger as you are winding down and getting ready to talk to them.

    Showing them how much time they have to wait will help your child understand that you acknowledge her presence and that you will attend to her soon.

    You should also take the time to discuss what you consider emergencies — for example, somebody hurt, something breaking, someone at the door, or even potty emergencies.

    Make a particular signal for these emergencies. For example, instead of squeezing your hand, your child will hold your arm or squeeze your shoulder. It will give your child a sense of security, knowing that if she urgently needs you, there is a way to get through to you.


    Teach proper etiquette

    Don’t take for granted that your child will know how to behave while you are otherwise engaged. Teach hand signals or phrases like, “Excuse me.” Teach them to listen to your responses. For example, you might reply with, “Give us two minutes,” or “I’ll go to you when I’m done.”

    There are times when children interrupt us because they want to join in our conversations. They are curious and want to know what everyone is talking about. Instead of sending them away with the usual, “The adults are talking,” you can encourage them to participate in the conversation but give them some tools.

    Teach your kids about reading the group’s body language, listening to the tone of the conversation, and even teaching the phrases to use, like “Is it okay if I join in?”

    A few things you can tell your kids to observe:

    • Do the people look relaxed?
    • Do they smile or acknowledge you as you are near them?
    • Do they sound happy, or does it seem like they are arguing?

    Prepare yourself and your child

    If you have an important meeting on your calendar or want to spend a specific amount of time without interruptions, make sure to be ready. Prepare a basket of toys or art materials that your child loves that will keep them busy. Some parents will put their child’s favorite movie on. 

    Give your kids a space where they can safely stay or play. Make sure to go through your interruption rules and reminders. You might want to sweeten the deal by giving an incentive: “If you keep yourself busy while I’m at my meeting, I’ll make your favorite merienda later.”

    And remember, if your child was able to avoid interrupting, give some positive reinforcement, “Wow! You let Mommy finish her meeting while you stayed busy. Thank you for being such a big kid.”

    Our kids don’t mean to annoy us. They want our attention, and many times they can’t or don’t know how to wait. If we take the time to teach them and help them learn what we would like them to do and work together better, we can make life easier for ourselves and teach our children essential life skills.

    Barbara Server-Veloso is known as Teacher Thumby at her preschool, Toddlers Unlimited, and Ms. Thumby at her grade school, Thinkers Unlimited, Alabang. She is also a partner in Spark Discovery Center, where she teaches the Baby and Me Class. Teacher Thumby has a Master’s degree from the University of the Philippines in Family Life and Child Development. She has been teaching since 1993. She is also the mother of Lucas and Verena.

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