It’s tough being a parent. Then your cell phone rings and what happens next? It’s like a magnet and your child instantly wants your attention.
Cue the South Park, “Mom, Mum, Mommy,” episode where Stewie is standing beside his mom who is lying in bed as he repeatedly calls her name over and over.
I don’t know a mom who doesn’t feel like that at certain times.
Many times kids interrupt because they are craving attention and feel like they aren’t getting enough. And when you don’t get what you want, you crave it, right?
It can be gut-wrenching to be torn between needing time for work or self-care and trying to take care of your kids.
That doesn’t mean you need to feel pressure to spend the entire day together or go out for a fancy meal. Just taking 15 minutes together to talk and laugh daily can make a big difference. It makes kids feel loved and secure.
Many experts say the general rule is spending a minute of time for every year of life, so seven minutes for a 7-year-old and 15 minutes for 15-year-old.
Here are some strategies to make it easier and reduce interruptions.
- Flip the script
I think it’s really important we let our kids know that they are important to us. But it has to be done in the right way.
It’s easy to get annoyed when being interrupted.
Instead of saying, “I know you want to spend time with me, I just need 15 minutes to finish up what I’m doing,” flip the script. Shift how you are communicating with your kid to make them feel like they’re not annoying and irritating you.
Be joyful and trying saying something like: “I really want to spend time with you. I really want to hear what you’re saying. I really want to help you with your problem. Or, I really want to play with you… I need 15 minutes to finish this up. And then I can’t wait to do that with you.”
Treat it as your special treat for finishing up work.
That helps you and your mindset when you say it like that. It does make a difference.
- Plan for “kid time” in your calendar
Just like planning out meetings and date nights, you have to plan for moments like these in your calendar. Literally, block out time in your calendar that is scheduled to interact with your kid. It doesn’t have to be a lot of time, like playing with them for an hour.
Rather find 15 minutes to devote to them to do whatever they want that’s being incorporated throughout the day.
When they get bits of you, you’re making it special and it’s not an imposition. Otherwise, it’s easy to become disgruntled and say something like, “Fine, I’ll play with you when I’m finished doing everything.”
If you proactively schedule time in for your kids, you’re not going to be stressed out wondering what your day is going to be like, how many times you’re going to be interrupted and feel guilty.
For the record, all parents feel that way when we can’t be with our kids and they want us.
When my kids were younger and I needed to do quiet work, I used to say, “You’re welcome to come in and work alongside me, but it’s a no talking zone” and then specify the amount of time.
- Create a sign for the door
This sounds simple, but it’s work. Try and work in a room with a door you can close. Have a little sign on the door with a picture of a phone to signal you are working. Or, if your child is younger, put something green or red on the door, like a stop sign or a traffic light.
I would tell my own kids, “Everyone needs privacy and quiet time. When you’re in the middle of doing something I want you to have a sign too.”
Let them have a sign, they’ve picked and let them use it. They’ll begin to understand it’s not just mommy saying “I can’t come talk right now,” but something they can do too.
- Give your kid a notebook
Once your kid can draw or write, give them a special notebook with a pen or colored pencils.
Make it a special thing, that every time they think of something they want to share with you, ask them to write it down or draw out a picture.
You can say, “Here’s your special notebook for you and me. Whatever you want to tell me is important and I don’t want you to forget, so I’m giving you this notebook.”
By doing that, you’re giving your them control. Kids interrupt because they want that immediate gratification or they’re afraid they are going to forget. This is a way for them to have less of a need to interrupt.
5. Ask your child to rank the importance of a conversation
As kids write things down, ask them to start ranking and judging what they want to discuss based on what is most urgent.
That doesn’t mean that something that isn’t urgent isn’t important and that you’re not interested.
But suggest tackling the urgent ones first. Do this with yourself and your kids. If you say, “I have five things to talk to you about, and this one is the most urgent,” it helps.
Mirror what you are asking your kids to do. Think of it this way: Your teenager only has a little time to talk to you, so how are you going to decide what you want to talk about?
By doing the same thing, you are showing you respect your kids and you’ll get some in return.