My Child Keeps Interrupting

Posted by on Jul 20, 2015 in Uncategorized | No Comments
Annie The Nanny

Annie The Nanny

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Annie the Nanny is a professional parenting educator. She writes a weekly advice column for parents who need help with their children's behaviour. Her advice has also been featured on CTV, CBC and in all kinds of print media. For more information about Annie, please go to her 'about' page.

Hi Annie. My child keeps interrupting. Have you got any ideas about what to you with a child that interrupts all the time? I’m a foster mother and I have a three year old girl that never lets me have a minute on the phone without her constantly pulling at me and interrupting.  She shouts if I leave her longer than a few seconds and the only way I can get a chance to talk on the phone is to run to the bathroom, where she ends up banging on the door. I do play with her and spend time with her. Why can’t she let me have a minute to myself?  Janet

dreamstime_xs_16255952Hi Janet,

Being a parent can make the best of us sometimes want to run to the bathroom for a few minutes break, so I totally understand where you’re coming from. That being said, I don’t know how long you’ve been caring for your foster child or what sort of experience she’s had to date, or indeed even if she’s is an only child, but regardless, learning to be considerate of others is an important skill.

Learning not to interrupt is a skill

Behaviour like this is common in this age group as kids grapple with life seen only from their point of view.  Many kids learn the polite phrases such as, ‘excuse me’ but still interrupt anyway.

It’s a cry for attention

If you’re giving your little girl one on one attention that’s great, as lack of that attention is often a contributing cause of chronic interrupting.  Having said that, it’s not only a case of offering attention, it’s offering the right kind of attention.  A cry for attention is because the child’s need for satisfying contact is not being met.  So if you’re doing something special with her, ignore phone calls during those one on one times and let callers leave a message.

Share your expectations

To stop the interrupting the rest of the time, explain to her,that you’re no longer going to the bathroom and that you expect her to be polite and wait her turn when you are on the phone. Explain the difference between common interrupting such as when she doesn’t want to wait and a true emergency, like when she has her finger caught in the door!

Role play

Role playing can be helpful to teach her the difference between routine interrupting and an emergency.  It’s a lot of fun too!  After you’ve explained though I would set her up as it’s important to show rather than tell.  If you’re a good enough actor you can pull this off yourself.  If not, you might need the help of a patient friend or family member.

Here’s the parenting plan

This is how it works. When she is not looking, use one phone to call another like your cell.  Pretend there is somebody on the other end. If you’re acting skill is good enough your little girl will start to cause a problem. Put your hand over the phone as if there was someone there, kneel down on her level and tell her that you are on the phone and that she must wait.

Go on to say that when you are off the phone she will have your full attention. Follow through. Pretend you are having a delightful conversation. If she continues to cause a problem, put your hand over the phone again, bend down and tell her that if she cannot be quiet or stop pulling you, she will have to go to time out. Return to your conversation.  If she still doesn’t stop, offer one more warning and then act. Take her to time out and leave her there. If she comes out, put her back for a few minutes.  You may have a lot of screaming going on but at least you won’t have the stress of trying to deal with a ‘real person’ on the end of the line.

Make her wait

Let her spend a minute per year of age in time out, but if she isn’t quiet when she comes out repeat the process (including warnings). Let the ‘conversation’ last just a couple of minutes over and above the time it takes her to quiet down. Then hang up. Thank her for being quiet at the end. Now give her your attention.

Keep repeating the process

Spread the calls throughout the day, but don’t overwhelm her and extend the program to the next several days if you need to, repeating the process over and over again.

Don’t worry she will get the message. Just remember to praise her after a call when she does not interrupt and if she behaves, scale down on the duration of the calls.  Just throw in one longer one every once in a while to make sure she doesn’t revert.  Believe me, it might take a few days, but it works! Just remember to warn everyone in advance, so you can limit the amount of real phone calls during your practise run.

Best of luck,


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