Telephone Interruption Rules


“Rrrrring! Rrrrring!” That was a cue at the Ramirez household for the girls to stretch limits and my patience.

By Jackie Saulmon Ramirez | September 12, 2013

A telephone is one way I volunteered for many years as a Helpline worker for Parent Anonymous but I was not one to waste much time simply chatting. When family or friends called I wanted the freedom to take a break and spend a few minutes catching up. Before you know it, Katie would be demanding attention.

“Mom… mom… mom… mom can I have…,” she would repeat over and over.

On the first interruption I set the timer to five minutes for myself. When the timer rings, I got off the phone unless the call was work related or a dire emergency.

Telling Katie, “in just a minute,” lasted about five short seconds but the minute I’d get off the phone she would be nowhere to be found. Chelsey took my phone-time to be raid the freezer time and enjoying ice cream or ice pops; she would happily share two or three with her sister.

Mur, my grandmother, often said, “When the cat is away, the mice will play.”

While parents are busy children may use the opportunity to do something they wouldn’t if Mom or Dad were nearby and attentive. Parents may give permission simply to quiet the pleading child; it is almost human nature.

When Katie and Chelsey were younger I explained the need for occasional phone calls – which made no sense at all to them. It wasn’t until I added rules and consequences that they could understand that I had any success:

On the first interruption I set the timer to five minutes for myself. When the timer rings, I got off the phone unless the call was work related or a dire emergency.

When interruptions were without merit, I may set the timer for Chelsey or Katie for five minutes before they are allowed another interruption. (“Mom, it’s hot outside.” “What time will Dad come home?” “Do I have to take a shower today?”)

Any consequence would be doubled automatically if I were on the phone at the time of the offence: Fighting, bugging your sister, teasing the dog, etc. Doing an extra chore for hitting your sister would then become two chores.

Children’s true emergencies take top priority: Injuries such as falls, cuts, scrapes, etc.

Those were the rules in our home and naturally you would tailor your rules to fit your family and needs. One reason setting rules worked was that Chelsey and Katie knew I always followed through. That may actually be the best lesson I ever learned.

How do you handle phone interruptions while you are on the phone?

Copyright © 2014 Jackie Saulmon Ramirez. All Rights Reserved.

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About Jackie Saulmon Ramirez

Jackie has volunteered for more than twenty years for children and family issues. Currently she writes for parents in the "Reminder" and "Parent Rap" Facebook page. If you are interested in receiving the "Reminder," send her a message.
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