One question moms often ask me is, “Do you have any tips for what to do about my kids misbehaving while I’m on the phone?”
It is a common problem. Mom gets on the phone, the kids realize she’s not paying full attention to them so they act disruptive. Either they interrupt her constantly or they sneak away from her and do things they shouldn’t. Or sometimes they do things they shouldn’t when they are right in front of her, being loud and troublesome.
Here are a few ideas that worked great for us. I hope it helps!
1. Be SURE they know what is expected.
Anytime you are handing down discipline you want to make sure your children understands what is expected. Do you just get on the phone, turn your attention away and expect them to act appropriately? They may not know. They may just think it’s a free for all and not realize what is really expected because you have not stopped to tell them.
2. Once you tell them, practice it by pretending to be on the phone.
Instead of getting on the phone then stopping your conversation constantly to correct the kids, try just acting it out. A little while after you’ve showed them what is expected pick up your phone and pretend to make a call. They don’t have to know you’re pretending. Just start talking, “Hey Sue! I needed to ask you a question about church tomorrow….” You have to act exactly like you would normally or they will feel that you’re pretending.
As soon as….I mean the second…they are disruptive you put down the phone and give them your full attention. Correcting them immediately will show them that even though you’re on the phone you’re putting them first and ready to discipline. You may need to do this a few times at first and then occasionally after that to refresh everyone’s memory (including yours!).
3. Show them what it is like.
One of my girls used to be bad about making a lot of noise when I was on the phone. So I asked my husband if he would call her one day while he was at work. The phone rang, I answered and said, “Honey, Daddy wants to talk to you on the phone.” She was so excited! I let them talk for just a minute then I started being loud. I talked to one of the other kids loudly while I was right next to her. I started asking her questions while she was on the phone. I did all of the things she had been doing to me. After a couple of minutes of trying to talk on the phone, she started to cry, “Mommy! I can’t hear what he’s saying!”
Then I got quiet and Dad explained to her through their phone call that is what she does to me when I am on the phone. The lesson was very effective and she rarely interrupted me again.
4. Stop your call to show them what to do.
Instead of just saying, “”Ssshhhh!!!!” to them, ask your friend on the phone to hold on. Tell your children, “This is what I want you to do right now. Sit here and color/read/play quietly until I get off the phone.” You can tell them no talking or if that’s too hard for them you can imitate the volume level, have them show it back to you then go back to your call. After that, if they don’t follow through as you instructed then you need to work on obedience in general, not just during phone calls.
5. Keep the calls short.
If you have 3 little children you can’t expect them to be quiet and still for an hour while you chat about things on the phone with your friends. Keep the calls to a minimum. Set a timer for 15 minutes then tell your friend your time limit. If she’s a good friend she will understand you are not in a place in your life when you can have long phone calls.
If you have to make several calls, take a couple of minutes between each call to reconnect with your child and make sure they know that you are still paying attention to them.
6. Try getting together in person.
I know this isn’t possible for some of you. But if you have a friend nearby, instead of talking on the phone try getting together in person. Your kids can play with their kids for an hour while you visit with your friend. You can agree to limit your long talks to when you are together and leave the phone calls for a few minutes each.
If your friend can’t come over, try going outside to talk with her on the phone. Then your kids can play a little more loudly without bothering your call. You sit outside too, Mom. They need you nearby.
7. Have a quiet time every day for the whole family.
In our home we have what we call “Rest Time” every day. For a couple of hours after lunch we all go off into our own spaces and be quiet. Babies nap, bigger kids read or do schoolwork. I take that time to return emails and phone calls. People will usually understand if you have to call them back during those hours. Set aside that time for those things so you can give your kids your full attention during the rest of the day.
8. Teach them not to interrupt at other times.
If interrupting is the problem, be sure you are not allowing them to interrupt at other times either. At the dinner table when Mom and Dad are talking, don’t let them interrupt. They can wait a minute or two to share. During the day if you are reading or on the computer, teach them to touch your arm if they need something and then wait. Make them wait even if you don’t need it so they learn how to do it. Driving, cooking, writing are all good times to teach them not to interrupt.
9. If it’s too much, get off the phone.
Sometimes it just gets to be too much for you and for the kids. When that happens, let the person on the other end of the line know that you will need to get off the phone. Say goodbye, hang up and take a deep breath. Don’t start to yell or dump a guilt trip on the kids. Just use this as the motivation you need to get this problem under control. I would encourage you NOT to give them the kind of attention they are demanding when you get off the phone. That teaches them that their demands work. Instead, when you get off the phone, go sit on the sofa and close your eyes. When they wonder what you are doing tell them you are praying. Don’t let them interrupt. Just keep telling them what you were telling them while you were on the phone, what they already know to do. “Whisper, sit still, look at a book, etc.” Then keep praying. Ignore their requests until you are ready to reply.
10. Talk with them on the phone too!
Sometimes it’s good to be spontaneous! Pick up your cell phone and call your house. Let them answer and talk to them on the phone for a few minutes. They need to know that you think they are just as important as anyone else and want to talk to them also!
Being on the phone, either for business or pleasure is sometimes necessary and your kids can learn how to keep from interrupting you. In return, you can show them respect by not expecting them to be quiet and trouble free for an hour while you’re on the phone. It’s too hard. They need to know you are there for them and they need to be able to use the childlike energy God gave them. Working together and being creative can make phone calls much more pleasant for the whole family!
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