Dial Back Expectations to Turn Down Frustration

Understanding that your child has a very short attention span is all it takes to level with them.

Illustration by alemon cz/shutterstock.com

About to lose your mind? You might be able to manage those maddening interruptions.

Set realistic expectations. “We don’t have a child sit in time-out for 10 minutes, so why would we expect them to wait through our conversation?” says Kristy Fritz-Bosse, licensed clinical psychologist. “They don’t have the capacity.”

Create a hand signal. For example, your child taps her shoulder to let you know she needs you; you tap your shoulder to acknowledge her.

Manage the interruption. If your child signals, signal back, then let her wait 20 seconds; that’s enough time to say to the other party, Can you give me a moment?, explains Fritz-Bosse. If your child verbally interrupts, say, Please don’t interrupt; wait one minute. “If you can get the child to wait for 20 seconds, it’s a win, because you got them to exhibit some impulse control, and it was on your terms.” Afterward, say, Good job waiting! Gradually work up to longer time periods.

Be proactive. Say, I need to call my friend. What can I do for you first? “Set the stage for your child’s success,” says Fritz-Bosse, “and avoid interruptions in the first place.”

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