The Polite Interruption: Managing Interruptions While Working from Home

Polite Interruption

Kids, Work and Disruptions

Many parents are working from home these days, and one of the frequent challenges they bring up to me is managing interruptions while working from home. Interruptions from their children during the work day - the in and out, loud or repetitive disruptions can be annoying.

So how do we give our kids the attention they need and deserve without sacrificing our positions at work?

What seems to work well for the families I work with is the idea of what I call a “polite interruption”.

The Polite Interruption System

The Polite Interruption looks like this:

Give your child one card or pass per day that allows them to interrupt any person.

Your child can visit mom, dad, or another significant person in the home or office at any point throughout the day.

The child gently knocks on the door, says “Excuse me”.  The parent excuses themself from the meeting, collects the interruption card, and listens to whatever the child has deemed important. They may say “I read a new book”, “Look at the note I wrote you!”, “Do you know the name of a mouse that can jump?”. The parent listens, acknowledges, praises, and thanks the child.  This should take about 1-2 minutes total.

To make it concrete for little brains that can not process abstract thoughts, I recommend giving children cards with the person’s name on it. (See photo)

Three and five-year-olds will say “I really want to go into Dad’s office and tell him something, but I don’t want to use my card yet.”  I’ve seen it with my own eyes!

It's a win for the parent too. Gone are the constant interruptions that disrupt focus and concentration for everyone, adult and child alike.

The parent is happy and feels connected to the child, the child receives attention, praise, and develops delayed gratification (an executive function behavior).

The common objections I hear are “my job is too important to be interrupted…blah, blah, blah”  or “what will my colleagues say or think if I stop to acknowledge my child?” I have new hires and CEOs using this system, so I am calling your bluff.

Everyone can stop for one minute. In fact, it will humanize you to your co-workers and clients. And we can all use more of that in the world.

The Brain Coach Blog is written by executive function coach Mary Turos. Based in Belair, MD, Mary is affectionately known as 'The Brain Coach" for her work helping people achieve harmony using strategies based in neuroscience.
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