When my grandchildren want to ask or tell me something they begin to talk excitedly, often without pausing to think that I might be in a conversation already. Sometimes three or four of them will try to get my attention all at once.
Eight-year- old Kate was the family’s “queen of interruptions.” But that is changing because she is learning better ways to get the attention she needs. On the way to school last week she began to recite an assigned poem, but midway through both her cousin and her brother interrupted her. Frustrated, she cried out “I can’t remember my poem when I am being interrupted.” She personally experienced how interruptions disrupt focus and feel very annoying.
With 4 to 6 grandchildren with me on Tuesday home days, interruptions can make all the difference in my ability to effectively attend to each individual as well as their ability to stay focused.
Plus interruptions eat up time. That’s why I am making it a consistent aim to teach my grandkids a more prudent way to get my attention. If I give in (which is often easier at the moment) and pay attention to their interrupting, I reinforce this bad habit, whether my responses are positive or negative.
Kids interrupt to get what they want or to get our attention. They just need to learn better alternatives.
Last week, I gave my grandchildren two simple choices; they could either raise their hand during our school time to let me know they needed something OR they could put their hand on my arm or shoulder indicating they needed me for something. In return, I would acknowledge them with a silent look and raise one finger to indicate that “I will get to you as soon as I can.” While none of them made it through the day without interrupting, overall the atmosphere was much improved. When they forgot and tried to interrupt, I simply looked at them silently which reminded them to try a better way.
This week, I explained to my grandkids how interrupting is actually self-seeking.
It’s looking to my own interests and not to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4) Then I asked them to be very mindful of using one of these simple approaches rather than interrupting when they needed something. At the end of the day I asked them to reflect on how they did with regard to this aim. We had a very productive day – in part because interrupting was very minimal – and we all enjoyed our time together more.
If interrupting is an issue in your household, make it your aim to break this habit. Rather than lecture them when they interrupt, or give in to their demands, determine not to give interruptions attention. Instead, consistently expect them to try a better means by which to get your attention. While it will take effort for awhile, by both you and your kids, it will be well worth it. And in the process they will be much more pleasant to spend time with.