How to stop nagging
Most parents would agree that the one thing that really makes them mad (to do with their kids) is asking, and asking, and asking again for them to do some simple task.
"They should just do it the first time!" they say.
Wouldn't it be great if we didn't have to nag? Imagine if we spoke and - hey presto - kids complied. Our homes would be, well, heavenly.
However, our children are not automatons, nor are they robots or slaves. They are people. They have preferences, priorities, and minds of their own.
The ironic thing is that children are not the only ones who need to be reminded - again, and again, and again - to do something. Sometimes we, the perfect adults, also need reminding.
Jennine and Ian, two friends of mine, shared the following story with me. Both are definitely grown-ups. They're parents, employed, intelligent, terrific people. Nothing dysfunctional so far...
Jennine has a habit of making herself a cup of tea and dropping the used teabag into the sink. Her husband, Ian, has asked, and asked, and asked, and begged, and pleaded with Jennine to put her used teabags IN THE BIN!!! NOT THE SINK!!!
Ian asked Jennine EVERY DAY for 51 DAYS to do this simple task after making her cup of tea. Jennine wasn't trying to torture Ian. She didn't mean to upset him. Truth be told, Jennine didn't recall being asked, or thought she had properly dealt with the teabag issue each day.
For 51 days Ian catalogued the teabag controversy with a photograph. The photographs were presented to Jennine in an album (with the title "seething resentment") when Ian simply could not stand it any longer.
My point is...
Grown ups seem to be as susceptible to the issue of not doing as they're asked the first time they're asked to do it, just like our children. Perhaps it's human nature? Especially in lives so full of busy-ness and distraction.
So what is the solution?
Many parent's typical reaction to not being listened to is to yell. While a loud and angry tirade usually gets things done, it comes at a cost. Anger always does. We harm our relationships with our children (or spouse) when we are angry.
Instead, I suggest you do the following:
- Attribute the best possible motives we can to our children (or husband) - perhaps they didn't hear us. Perhaps they were so involved in what they were doing that they forgot. Perhaps they don't know how to do it.
- Ask them again in a way you know they understand.
- Crouching down on the floor, looking into their eyes, and holding their hand you can easily and clearly restate your request. You can ensure that they have heard, that they understand, and that they are capable of doing it. You may even ask them how they plan to do it, when, and whether there are any obstacles to it occurring.
- Use gentle reminders and try not to lose your cool.
- Call your child by name. When you have your child's attention state the issue, say please, and wait. For example, "Jennine, your teabag please." "Jackson, your ball please." "Chloe, your bedroom please."
Gentle is best
Persistent use of gentle reminders will get things done, better, faster, and more lovingly than most other methods. Kindness rather than anger, patience rather than self-righteous tut-tutting, gentleness rather than abrasive outbursts. These approaches reduce nagging, and offer simple solutions to the endless need to get things done.
This article was written for Kidspot by Justin Coulson, Ph. D. Justin is a relationships and parenting expert, author and father of five children.