Do your kids come running to interrupt you as soon as you get on the phone? It’s as if kids have a silent alarm that goes off inside of them. A lot of parents will get off the phone when this happens. But that just causes parental resentment. Is there anything else that can be done?
Young children see themselves as the center of the universe, and that’s age appropriate. They haven’t developed to the point where they understand that their parents need to, want to, and can do things that don’t involve them.
So when a child hears her parent talking on the phone she runs in, attempting to refocus her parent’s attention back on to her. This is a form of research for a child, not misbehavior.
A Parental Response That Feeds the Problem
Think of what you normally do when you’re on the phone and your child comes running in to interrupt you.
You look directly into her eyes and point to the phone as if to say, “I’m on the phone, please be quiet and let me talk.”
Then, you raise your finger and make the silent shush sign.
Finally, you hold up one finger to indicate you’ll only be one more minute; which by the way is an eternity for a child.
To a child, all of that translates as, “I got some of mom’s attention. Not the lovely kind of attention, but attention nonetheless.” (For more information see my article on potty training, Potty Training and Parent Pie, to fully understand why I say this.)
Of course, if that’s not enough attention to fill your child’s tank, she’ll resort to whining, begging, talking loudly, stomping, screaming, or having a tantrum to keep you focused on her and not the phone.
Oh, the Silly Things I Say
Have you ever noticed that sometimes when you ask your child “What do you need?” she mumbles or says something silly? Her answer is telling you she’s looking for attention. Of course, if you sense your child really needs you, then pay attention to her.
How to Handle Phone Interruptions
The phone rings, you answer, and your child comes running in to interrupt you.
Motion for her to come closer to you. As she’s snuggling up beside you, begin rubbing her back. Touching a person’s body sends a message to their psyche that they’re being paid attention to.
Do not look her in the eyes, and do not talk to her.
If she tries to talk to you, rotate your body a quarter turn away from her, and continue to rub her back.
6 Tips and Tricks
Children under the age of 2½ are developmentally too young for parents to use this tip.
When first trying this, talk to a dial tone and not a real person. It’s too hard to remember what to do as you listen to your child and attempt to talk to a friend.
Ignore the repeated mom-mom-mom chant. Try to give it one full minute of silently rubbing her back before you say anything to her. During that minute her talking should begin to slow down, or stop. That’s because her deep need for attention is being filled.
Support yourself as you do this by reminding yourself that you’re teaching your child that she can’t have everything she wants, when she wants it. The world just doesn’t work that way.
This is not about punishment — it’s about teaching. If your child is becoming more and more agitated as you implement this tip, then stop and talk to her. Some days are days for teaching and some days aren’t.
If your child is not looking for attention, then the back rubbing will just make her mad and she’ll simply push your hand away.
This works for all aged kids, and husbands too. Although for some reason the hubby’s don’t like it so much. LOL!
Sharon Silver is the author of Stop Reacting and Start Responding and The Authentic Parent Series. Go to proactiveparenting.net to download two free chapters from her book and learn about other Proactive Parenting programs. Find Sharon on Twitter and Facebook.