I sometimes wonder if my kids have a built in radar system that alerts them whenever I am speaking to another adult to that they will know to come and interrupt me with the latest breaking news in their life.
Two rooms over, happily watching their daily allotment of YouTube videos and, yet just as I am trying to book an appointment, answer questions or just have a conversation, they have popped up around me like adorable little groundhogs.
When Big Dude was little, I would give him the exaggerated SHUSH signal, my finger over my lips, or in desperation I would turn my back to him, hoping that the lack of eye contact would cause him to stop talking (it didn’t, in fact, it was a highly effective way for me to ensure that he would get louder), or I would gesture wildly and make my mean mom faces which usually just ended up making us both feel bad.
And then I came across a parenting tip on Pinterest. I’m constantly reading parenting tips or hacks to get new ideas or strategies. If it works great and if it doesn’t no great loss. This tip has worked now for two years and Little Dude is also starting to get the hang of it.
It seemed to easy to be true but the next time Big Dude interrupted me, I excused myself briefly from the conversation, crouched down and said, “Big Dude, put your hand on my arm and I’ll put my hand on top of yours. This way, I won’t forget that you are waiting to talk to me and you know I haven’t forgotten because my hand is right there.” I went back to the conversation and when it ended two minutes later, I crouched down where Big Dude had been silently waiting and gave him my full attention.
Then I explained what we did again. When he needs to tell me something or show me something, he needs to put his hand on my arm or leg and I will put my hand on top of his so that he knows that I know he is waiting. I assured him that as soon as I could finish my conversation then I would give him my full attention.
We started when he was around three and it was a process of me reminding him and remembering to respond to him within a minute or two. But it worked.
Now at six, Big Dude will patiently wait his hand under mine for me to complete my conversation even when it takes five or ten minutes. And if I forget to put my hand over his then he will quietly pick my hand up and place it on top of his.
Here’s why I think it works. It provides instant feedback. The minute Big Dude feels my hand on his, he knows that I have seen him and that I know he is waiting to talk to me. The constant pressure of my hand is a constant reassurance that I haven’t forgot about him and that I will get to him as soon as I can. It gives him some of my attention and that is enough to help him wait for me to finish my conversation.
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