How to Implement the Interrupt Rule

David DeVel   -  

OK, so you want to know how to help your kids gain self-control, patience, and respect through a simple rule we refer to as the Interrupt Rule. Great! I hope it adds value to you as a parent and helps you in your difficult job of parenting your kids. Before I share the details, it’s important to lay some foundations first—the Interrupt Rule is built on a couple of essential ideas.

First, let me ask you a question: What are You Trying to Accomplish as a Parent?

I know that’s a weird question, yet it’s really important. For example, some parent’s primary goal for their parenting is to produce happy kids. Now I like happiness anytime I can get it; however, happiness is a terrible goal for your life. For one thing, happiness is always dependent upon what happens to you. Have you noticed that sometimes we have no control over what happens to us? For example, as I write this, I’m quarantined to our house. Why? Because I am right in the middle of the COVID-19 outbreak. I have no control over that. I guess I could be a rebel and ignore the rules, but I don’t want to be that guy. Besides, I do care what happens to others. So, I am limited to what I can do, and that’s not much fun, it certainly does not make me happy.

Here is my point. Happiness is great when you can get it. Yet, it’s a terrible goal for your life or, in our case, a terrible goal for your parenting. Let me suggest something better, and yes, you might as well know upfront; this goal is harder to accomplish than having happy kids; so you need to know that this stuff is not for wimpy, distracted parents. I don’t think you are one of those because you’re looking into the Interrupt Rule – way to go!

OK, so what’s a good goal for parenting? How about something like this: to produce a healthy, self-controlled, fully functioning adult, who loves God and people, knows how to work hard, and has great people skills (let’s refer to this goal as a fully functioning adult for short).

OK, so what do you think? Maybe you would add or take something from that list; that’s OK, it’s your kid(s), and you’re the parent(s), you get to choose. One thing I hope you see – the goal above is a way better goal. I mean thing about, after investing 18 years of your life, and all you produce was someone who just wants to “be happy.” You can do better!

Why is this important? Because the way you parent now is going to produce results later; trust me that’s inescapable. So, let’s make sure you’re doing what will give you the best opportunity to produce what you really want in your kids – a fully functioning adult.

There is so much more we could explore on this, for time’s sake, just recognize that how you parent today will produce results in your kids later. That’s so important, let me say that another way. You are going to work hard, make sacrifices, be patient, and invest in your kids so that in 18 years (did you catch that part), you’ll get the result you’re hoping. Developing a fully functioning adult takes a long time, this is a crockpot meal approach, not fast food. With that in mind, perhaps you’ll better understand the brilliance and the simplicity of the Interrupt Rule; and why you would consider adding it to your family values.

OK, one more concept, and this is important to understand so you know how to implement the Interrupt Rule. There is a difference between “childishness” and “disobedience.” They are very different things.

Childishness is…well…when your kid acts like a child. Think of it this way, your four-year-old is never going to act like a 9-year-old, and your 9-year-old is never going to act like an 18-year-old. At each stage of development, your kid is going to act like a kid, not an adult. By the way, did you know that the male brain does not reach adulthood until their middle twenties? Yep, explains somethings, doesn’t it?

Here is my point: when your child acts their age, you don’t correct them for that. For example, it’s not fair to expect your 2-year-old to be able to wait patiently for the same amount of time as your 10-year-old. It’s important to distinguish between when your child is acting “childish,” and when your child is “disobedient.” Why? Ready? Because you discipline childishness and you correct disobedience.

OK, here’s another important concept; it’s very important to understand the difference between discipline and punishment. Think of discipline as what an athlete does to get ready for the big game. They work hard in practice, so when the big game comes, they will know how to execute and win when it really matters. Discipline is not punishment, think of it as training.

Please don’t confuse discipline with punishment; they are not the same. Punishment focuses on “paying for the crime done. Like, you do the crime, now you have to do the time”.

I suggest that you never, ever punish your kids – never ever! Punishment is focused on retribution. That is, you afflict a certain amount of pain and suffering on your child in proportion to the pain and suffering they caused someone else – usually their sibling. Aren’t you glad God doesn’t punish us?

OK, ready? Punishment has no value in parenting. It will not help you accomplish your goal. Remember, your goal is to produce a fully functioning adult. Instead of punishment, I suggest you focus on correction. Correction is focused on changing a behavior or an attitude. Sometimes this includes feeling the pain of bad behavior, but never in proportion or for retribution. Punishment is focused on justice. When your child has a bad attitude or behavior, one that will not help them win in life and one that works against your goal for them, you’ll want to respond in a way the helps them correct that bad attitude or negative behavior. It’s not about equal suffering for doing the crime; it’s not even about punishment at all. It’s all about helping them feel the consequences of their bad attitude or behavior so that they will change. Correction is focused on change; punishment is focused on suffering. I hope I’m making sense here because this is H-U-G-E.  Perhaps the Bible can help here. Look at Ephesians 6:4:

Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. (Ephesians 6:4, NLT)

Notice the contrast. Do not provoke your children instead use discipline and instruct them. What’s the difference? It’s found in the purpose of correction. It’s not about punishing your kid for misbehaving. Focus on discipline and instructing them, and yes, sometimes this includes helping them feel the pain of bad behavior.

When correcting, you should never do so out of anger. Why? Because anger will feel like punishment to the child, it will also feel like rejection. Aren’t you glad God never condemns His children?

When you correct, be calm and clearly explain what was wrong, focusing on the attitude or behavior that needs to change and not the personality or value of your child. The goal of correction is to help them learn to change so they can win in life.

OK, let’s put it together. If you correct childishness, you will frustrate your child because they can’t change that, at least not until they mature. Here is another verse, Colossians 3:21:

Fathers, do not aggravate your children, or they will become discouraged. (Colossians 3:21, NLT)

OK, so as a parent, I encourage you to evaluate your child’s attitude and behavior and figure out if they are acting out of childishness or disobedience. Why? Because you discipline or train childishness, and you correct disobedience. Getting this reversed will damage your child. The good news is that you are your child’s parent, and there is no one better to know which one is going on.

OK, if you are still reading this, thanks! It’s time to share the reason you started reading this.

What is the Interrupt Rule, and How do you use it?

When your child needs something from you, attention, food, to get you to say “yes” to something they want or need, and you are busy, this is what you want them to do.  Teach them to use to Interrupt Rule.

Here is how it works. When your child approaches you for something and sees that you are busy, they are to come up to you and put their hand on your leg, back, or shoulder, depending on their reach. They do that respectfully and wait for you to acknowledge them. Once you do, then they can make their request, but not before. Simple – right…well?

It might be helpful to teach your kids the definition of patience because that is what you want them to do while using the Interrupt Rule. Ready? Patience is “waiting without complaining.” OK, it’s that simple. It will take a few times for your kids to get this, and for them to believe that you are serious about it – be patient with them.

Let me suggest some tips. In asking your kids to use the Interrupt Rule, they are trusting that you won’t ignore them. The younger your children, the less time you can let pass before you address them. Sometimes it’s helpful to put your hand on top of their hand, letting them know you know they need your attention.

It’s also essential to give lots of praise when they do it right. Remember, you get more of what you praise, so, when they get it right, make a big deal about it thanking them for being patient and loving and respecting you.

Oh, and it’s also important that the husband and wife practice the Interrupt Rule too – be good examples.

If you have questions, or want to talk more, don’t hesitate to email, text, or call me.