Why is it so difficult for kids to wait? You might not like what I say at first… we’re saying the wrong words! I have a simple solution for you. Get ready to have your kids waiting like champs.
When we tell them “I’m busy right now, wait please” all they hear is you’re not important and I don’t care about what you want to tell me.
While their words may not be as important as the thing they’re interrupting at the moment, you do care about them and want to send them a different message. We want them to understand that you are occupied and you want to hear what they have to say.
You might be starting to get the hang of the way I approach things…. There’s a formula to this magic.
Tell them this:
“I can tell you want my attention and I want to give you 100% of it. Right now I’m unavailable, I will be ready to give you my full attention when (insert a specific ending or time).”
- I can tell you want to show me something and I want to give you my full attention. Right now I’m folding the laundry. When all of the clothes are folded and put away I will be ready to give you my full attention.
- I can tell you want my attention and I want to give you 100% of it. Right now I’m finishing an email. When the email is sent I will be ready to give you my full attention.
- Instead of saying “working” tell them a specific thing you’re doing. Writing an email, looking at numbers, working on a project or piece of a project, etc. Giving them the specifics allows them to connect better to your “work” rather than seeing it as the enemy. It shows them that there are about 5 million things that go into “work,” not just one big thing all the time.
There are times when it’s good to simply say I’m unavailable and give them an ending time or sound. You want to mix this in when your child has built some resentment toward the thing that’s keeping you busy.
This removes the blame from the task/subject while still keeping it as part of reality.
For example, if you have a baby you’re nursing or taking care of baby needs it would go like:
- “I can tell you want my attention and I want to give you 100% of it. Right now I’m unavailable, I will be ready to give you my full attention when the timer goes off”
- Now, I know that feeding a baby doesn’t always end at a specific time. All you have to do is go into your clock/alarm when you’ve finished feeding and tap on the sound it would make if you set it. Then it’s making the sound and you’re deciding when.
The exception: when your child has a 2 second question there’s no need to make them wait. Also, emergencies! Make sure you communicate with them that emergencies are always ok to interrupt for and make it clear what an emergency is.
****THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT PART*****
Step two is: FOLLOW THROUGH
You absolutely must give your child 100% of your attention once your task is done. ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. If your phone dings or rings, you have to ignore it. Give your child your undivided attention while they tell you or show you whatever it was they had in mind.
If you give them anything less than 100% they won’t believe you the next time you do this. This is so crucial. You are slowly building their trust here and teaching them the expectations.
So why does this work?
Telling them that you want to listen to them or see what they want to show you lets them feel valued. It tells them “I think you and your ideas are important.”
Communicating that you are unavailable shows them that you have specific things you do in your day. This also models a good work ethic to them. Do you want them to be constantly distracted by their friends in class? Do you want them to stop what they’re doing to see what the person next to them is doing? Probably not. When you show them how to communicate this boundary and model what focusing on one thing at a time looks like they are more likely to mimic this.
Lastly, this builds trust. I’m all about setting the foundation now for when your kids are older. Right now, do they trust you to come talk to you about their big feelings? Yes. Do you also want them to do this when they’re 16? Yes. That work starts right now and doing “little” things like this simple word swap.