Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedure (CAPP): How to get a Kid to Stop Interrupting You

 

Reminder:

Calm/Assertive Procedures like this one give kids two choices and two choices only. Kids can either:

 

  1. Be cooperative

 

or

 

  1. Suffer the consequences of not being cooperative

 

Either way, we can be calm and empathetic because we do not allow this third option to exist:

 

  1. Do whatever you want, develop bad behaviors, and become a person people don’t want to be around

 

The possibility of allowing choice Cis what makes us angry, excitable, and sometimes irate because we love our kids and we know where kids who get to use choice C often end up.

Calm/Assertive Parenting Procedures like this one take into account all possible ways that kids will try to get to choice C. We stop those channels to Cand reroute back to either choice A or B. We do this all without ever trying to control that which we cannot control.

 

Remember: There is ALWAYS somewhere to go. There is ALWAYS something to do that will guarantee A and B, and make sure that C is not an option.

 

Here We Go…

 

Is being interrupted by your kid a hot button issue for you? It certainly was for me. I have a kid who, like my former kid self, is constantly bursting with excitement about the fantastically amazing events of her life that have to be relayed to the nearest person RIGHT NOW!

 

However, although my daughter’s hardwiring makes it difficult for her to remember to not interrupt adults, it does not make it impossible for her to be trained to exhibit the behavior of not interrupting.

 

What Not to Do

 

Do not give warnings. Do not use threats, lectures, or yelling. Do not punish. Do not lose your cool. You may be wondering what’s left. Here’s what’s left:

 

What to Do: Setting the Limit

As always, you want to use empathy beforeyou set the limit. Do this before your child exhibits the negative behavior (interrupting). Be sad. Use the following script. Notice that it starts with empathy. If you need to alter it slightly, that is fine, but do not remove the empathy that prefaces the setting of the limit. It should go like this:

Oh, man. Honey, you have really been causing a problem for me lately. When you interrupt me with something that is not an emergency when I am talking to someone, it makes that conversation really hard and it stresses me out. It’s important to me that I am able to talk to people and that I not get stressed out. From now on, you will be allowed to stay in the room as long as you are not interrupting my conversation.Also, I may have you do something to make me less stressed.

If your kid tries to argue, simply ask the question “And what did I say?” If your child continues to argue, continue to ask the same question, walk out of the room, and shut a door behind you.

If your kid wants to know what you will have him do so you can become less stressed, simply say “You’ll see.” If your child continues to ask the same question, just repeat the same statement, walk out of the room, and shut the door behind you.

DO NOT SET THE LIMIT MORE THAN ONCE PER LIFETIME.

What to Do:

Intervention I

If you get through your limit-setting script, it is time to put your intervention in place. Say the following:

I know how hard it is to want to share something, or you can really, really want something. To help you out, I am going to give you a little sign that will not stress me out when it looks like you are about to interrupt me, or when you actually do interrupt me. I will only do this one time at the most. I may not do it at all, depending on how stressed I am. The sign that I will give you will be me tapping my thumb and index finger together like this (model the movement). That will be your one and only sign for you to think harder about what you are doing.

If you were not able to get to your intervention script, because your child either argued or demanded to know how he was going to have to make you less stressed, simply explain the intervention at some later time.

DO NOT TALK ABOUT THE INTERVENTION MORE THAN ONCE PER LIFETIME.

If you would like, you can come up with your own movement or gesture, or have your kid come up with another small movement that can be used for the intervention.

When your kid interrupts, you can use your gesture. Extend your hand towards your kid, tap your thumb and index finger together (or do whatever movement you choose) while not stopping your conversation and without looking at your kid.  If you are for some reason too stressed out to have your kid around, skip Intervention I and go straight to Intervention II.

Intervention II

Here is where you will enforce your limit. It looks like this:

Oh, man. You interrupted me. Please go to your room. Please come back as soon as you can be here without interrupting. Thanks.

Just as the script suggests, your kid can come back immediately after being in their room for just one second, as long as he doesn’t interrupt you. If he does, simply repeat Intervention II.

This is not a punishment. It isn’t meant to inflict pain, it’s only meant to maintain an interruption-free zone for yourself. The only lesson that your kid learns from this is that he can be around you as long as he can be pleasant.

If your kid refuses, say these words: “Oh man. You didn’t go to your room when I asked you? Yikes. This stresses me out. Bye now.” Go to another room with a lockable door with the person with whom you are talking or with your phone, lock the door behind you, and continue with your conversation. For how you will consequence your kid later for not going to his room when asked, see Consequence II.

 

What to Do:

Consequence I

If your kid is still exhibiting the interrupting behavior even after you have used interventions I and II, or if you’ve just had it and feel like you need to get control of your life ASAP, you can use the De-Stress Consequence. Sometime well after the stressful interrupting occurred, when both you and your kid are calm, say the following:

Oh, man. I get so stressed out when you interrupt me while I am talking. So, I’m going to ask you to do something to help me be less stressed. Usually today is the day that I vacuum all the floors on the first floor of the house. Because of you interrupting me, I’m too stressed and need a break. I would like you to vacuum all of the floors on the first floor. I’m going to read a book. Feel free to get it done any time before 6:00. Any floors not done by then will be vacuumed by Bertie from next door. You will be paying her 15 dollars per hour if it is not done by then. I’ve talked to Bertie already and she will be ready to come over at 6:00.

Consequence II

If your kid refuses to go to his room, use this script. It’s very similar:

Oh, man. I get so stressed out when you interrupt me while I am talking, and I get even more stressed out when you refuse to do what I ask. I’m going to ask you to do something to help me be less stressed. Usually, today is the day that I vacuum all the floors in the entire house. Because of you interrupting me and refusing to do what I asked, I’m too stressed and need a break. I would like you to vacuum all of the floors in the house. Feel free to get it done any time before 6:00. Any floors not done by then will be vacuumed by Bertie from next door. You will be paying her 15 dollars per hour if it is not done by then. I’ve talked to Bertie already and she will be ready to come over at 6:00.

If the floors are not to your satisfaction, call Bertie at exactly 6:00 and show her what needs to be done. Either have your kid get the money to pay her or you can do so. If your kid has no money, take $15 of video games and toys and pawn them. Ask Bertie if she could wait a few days while you convert toys into cash.

Notice that this strategy covers you if your kid totally refuses to do any vacuuming.

Remember: Your kid gets to choose A or B. there is no C.

 

Notes

  • This consequence would be appropriate for an eight year old or older child with average physical abilities. Make your De-Stress Consequence age appropriate. Make sure that it isn’t too easy. Don’t be tricked by a whiny kid into thinking that you gave him a consequence that is too difficult.
  • You may want to tell your kid that Bertie’s minimum charge is $5 just in case she just has to come over to do a touch up to make the vacuuming job perfect.