Don’t Interrupt Me

I’ve seen some creative interventions for kids who constantly interrupt their parents while they are trying to talk to another adult. Some parents quietly put their hand on the shoulder of their child as a gentle reminder. Others give a single warning, “I’m talking to ____ right now, please wait.” Of course, some parents think that answering every interruption with a rebuke or warning is the only way to get the job done. That is sad.

 

I was recently surprised to read Dr. Charles Fay suggest that parents resist the temptation to say anything to their child while they are trying to interrupt a conversation. He acknowledged how difficult that might be but insisted that the time to address an interruption is after the offense at the end of the conversation with another person. Love and Logic strikes again!

 

That would just leave me completely frustrated, you say? Right. It really drains your energy, doesn’t it? I appreciate the consistent methods of discipline that Love and Logic parenting offers. Using a one-liner when there is misbehavior like, “That is so sad…” Using enforceable statements about what you will do or allow instead of telling kids what to do. “The car leaves at 7:15 for school…” is much better than 25 versions of, “Hurry up and get ready!”

 

What makes frustration our friend? It reminds us to use the skill known as “Energy Drain.” A parent who says, “Oh, that really drains my energy,” is telling the truth! Being interrupted really does drain our energy!!

 

Like the one-liner or enforceable statement, energy drain isn’t the only part of the skill. What comes next really refines the intervention. The great part is you don’t have to know what to do next! Put the monkey back on the child. “How are you planning to replace that energy?”

 

A question like that opens the door for suggestions. Some kids do extra chores around the house to replace the energy they have drained from their parents. Other kids stay home from the store the next time mom goes to shop. It doesn’t really matter which one they choose; they are the one responsible for replacing your drained energy! If they don’t come up with an idea soon, you can just surprise them the next time they want something. Try saying, “I’d really like to get up and take you to the mall this morning but I just don’t have the energy today after all that interrupting you did last night.”

 

Like all the other skills, energy drain must be accompanied by empathy. Sarcasm drains a child’s energy. Switching who is frustrated doesn’t really help the situation. Empathy—which is the love part of Love and Logic parenting—truly offers sadness when kids misbehave. I really am sorry I can’t get up to take you to the store. Otherwise, everyone is just mad.

 

Not that being mad is the end of the world for a child. Parents who believe they can always keep their children happy are setting themselves up for failure.

 

Use energy drain the next time you are frustrated. Quietly remind your child how interrupting your conversations—or whatever they are doing—really drains your energy. Then lovingly encourage them to replace it soon. The interruptions will cease being a problem!

 
Dr. Matt Crain writes weekly for the Sunday newspaper from his Connecting Fathers and Families ministry.