Do you get interrupted throughout the day?  Your day starts off with the best of intentions, a plan for the day, a realistic to-do list, and then life happens. I learned pretty quickly as a parent that my plans needed to be flexible. Kids seem to have their own agendas, their own needs and emotions that pop up at the most inconvenient times.

In today’s episode, I want to talk about those interruptions – those moments when our kids throw a firecracker in our perfectly planned day. Because these interruptions do happen so often, we really should have a clear understanding of what is going on and how we are going to deal with them.  

How To Handle Interruptions As A Parent With Heart-focused Results

 

I like to kind of plan my day the night before – I wake up knowing what is important to achieve in the new day.  I also like a flexible routine – a sequence in my day that helps me achieve the important things.  But then stuff happens.  One of the kids wakes up on the wrong side of the bed and they are having a tough day.  This of course impacts me and what I can get done.  By morning tea time though, we are processing the third meltdown.  Another child has an attitude, and yet another doesn’t know what to do with themselves and is wandering around the house humbugging me for screen time.  Each child, each situation not only interrupts my plans, but also interrupts my focus on whatever we were doing, or supposed to be doing.

I’m sure you can relate; I know I had many such days.

In my head, I understood the importance of pausing, putting down what I was doing and focusing on my child and their needs.  But that doesn’t mean it was easy, or even done in an appropriate way.

Interruptions are, by nature, a change in what is happening, they creep up on you (or are dumped on you) when you least expect them, and they are usually inconvenient.  

Have you heard that quote from CS Lewis: Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.

Maybe I had it all wrong—instead of my children interrupting my to-do list, really my to-do list was interrupting my primary focus: my children.

Parenting Interruptions from a Heart-focused Perspective

When we say the words – my primary focus, my children – what do we mean?

When we look at current parenting practices and even some parenting advice or theories we could interpret that phrase as making our children happy.  That is our primary focus.  But I don’t see it that way, and I see a lot of problems coming into our society because parents have made their children’s happiness their primary focus and goal in parenting.  Yes, of course, we want our kids to be happy, but our job as a parent, is raise kids so that they are healthy and functioning in all capacities – not just their emotional well-being.  We want them to be strong and functioning in their spiritual capacities, their moral, emotional, social, intellectual and physical.  We are raising the whole person – and that is what needs to be our focus.  

I think we generally expect some interruptions but the interruptions that drive us to distraction are the behaviours or demands from our kids that are repetitive, and ones that we think shouldn’t be happening.  Obviously, we don’t hold being interrupted with a dirty nappy from our 4-month-old with the same frustration as the 5-year-old who couldn’t be bothered going to the loo. That is an interruption that we feel like we shouldn’t have to deal with.

I found that when I had wrong thinking about interruptions, which went hand in hand with my to-do list and projects being my main focus, life became a spiraling mess.  It was never just one interruption it was a series contributed to by every child in the family!

So eventually it would hit a peak and I’d come to my senses and ask myself – what is going on here?!  When I took the time to reflect on what the interruptions were and when they were happening, I saw that these frustrating interruptions were generally about my child’s heart.  Remember their hearts are not just their emotions that’s only a part of the heart.  The heart is the place inside each of us that holds what we believe, value, think, feel, and choose.  

I came to the understanding that in this moment, this interruption was really a cry for help because their heart needed direction, encouragement, help or correction.

When I started to see interruptions, frustrating interruptions, as a signal to a heart-based need it changed things for me.  I can’t say it changed everything and I was never frustrated again, but it did change things.  It gave me a framework for handling the times my kids interrupted me.  Changing my thinking helped me see what was really going on.

Interruptions aren’t just a time management thing – they are a significant time for heart-focus attention in your parenting.

Balancing Tasks and Parenting

So that is the first step to handling interruptions – Have the right thinking about what is really going on.  Your kids aren’t being annoying – they need you.

The second step is to work out what they need you for – what is the heart issue they need you to address?  

The first thing to do when faced with one of these frustrating interruptions is pause and take a deep breath yourself.  This helps you to realign your focus.  Remember, your child’s heart is the most important thing.

It is kind of like triage – you deal with the urgent first.  What are the urgent needs – what does your child need, right now to be safe?  Remember whole child, consider the whole child.  

Your child might need you to deal with something physical, or they may need a hug or help in calming down.  Absolutely no point in dealing with heart stuff – beliefs, values, thoughts, feelings, choices – while they are in flight or fight mode.  The important thing here is that your child knows you are there for them.  This might take a moment, or it might take longer – depending on the child and the situation.

Once your child is safe, you then need to assess what is going on.  Why are they interrupting?  Why do they need your attention?  What’s going on in their heart? Is there a struggle you need to address or are they not making choices that you know they are able to?

But we also need to reflect on our own expectations – Have I given them the attention they need, have I been realistic, have I been available and attentive?  Or have I been ignoring them, distracted with other things?  

Parenting is not a simple straight line – it’s like one of those flow charts where you have a problem and if yes, you go this way and if no you go that way, and then you are posed with another question and yet every situation we face with our child, needs a different flow chart! 

The first question to ask is – what does my child need?  As starters – they will need either instruction, help, encouragement, or correction.  

And when we give them that it changes everything. It isn’t an interruption, it is doing the important work of being a parent.

Heart-focused Parenting Action Step

So three things to consider today:

  1.  Have a right understanding of Interruptions and the opportunity they give you
  2. Get into the habit of assessing the heart.  Ask yourself what does my child need here – There are 3 reasons a child does the wrong thing – they don’t know what the right thing to do is, they don’t know how to do the right thing, or they don’t want to do the right thing.  Your job is to discern and go from there.
  3. Maybe this is more helpful than we would think – but maybe we should put at the top of our to-do list…My child and their spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual and physical needs.  We never think of putting our child on our to-do list (it seems too impersonal), but if they are the most important work, maybe we do need that daily reminder written at the top of our list.

 

Probably the biggest thing that pressured me to forget that my children were my most important work, was seeing all the things on my to-do list not checked off.  One of the things I started to do to counter this and help me find a better perspective on my days was I started to add to my to-do list, the things that happened. And of course, I’d tick it off straight away because it was already done!  When I did this

  • Melt down, and talk about sharing – tick
  • Attitude check with Heart-Thinking Time – tick
  • Dropped cup of milk – clean floor – tick
  • Room time training – tick

When I started to write down what actually took up my time I started to see all those interruptions for what they really were, I started to see the importance of all the little things that took up my time, or distracted me from what I thought my day was going to look like. 

Unmet expectations is one of the common triggers for anger.  And you may not get full-blown angry when interruptions happen, but if you look at a thesaurus for the word anger you come up with frustrated, exasperated, annoyed, irritated, peeved.  The reality is these words probably describe our reactions more than anger, but they are really just micro expressions of the same emotion.  And this is way we need to look at how we are handling interruptions in our day because we certainly don’t want to be reacting with anger (major anger or micro expressions). We want to speak into our children’ lives and for that to happen we need to be regulating ourselves.

I hope these thoughts today have helped you see that when interruptions happen, you have the opportunity to speak into your child’s heart, to teach or encourage what they believe, think, value, feel and choose when it comes to all the things they face in any one day.  Its a big thing.  Let’s make the most of it!

If this is something that you struggle with and you want some one on one help to get out of unhelpful responses to your kids – then book a Jumpstart coaching call – its free – one hour to talk about the struggle and establish some ways forward. You can find the link to my coaching calendar here, belindaletchford.com/coaching

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