At some point, every parent has nagged their child. It is just in our nature as parents. We nag because we are frustrated and don’t know what else to do. We want to instill some life skills in our kids, but they’re not internalizing them. Nagging puts us in charge of tasks our kids should be responsible for and focuses on what our children are NOT doing.
Common tasks parents nag kids about:
- Cleaning the room
- Walking the dog
- Taking out the trash
- Picking up after themselves
Does nagging work for your family? It certainly doesn’t for most families. The result of the constant reminders simply makes our kids feel incompetent with no change in behavior. Nagging is short term and repetitive. It doesn’t lead to a long-term solution, like actually instilling the desired behavior in the child. Nagging instead sends a message to our kids that we don’t have faith they’ll be able to complete the task independently. Nagging models poor communication patterns because it trains our kids not to listen to us. Ultimately, nagging puts a strain on our relationship with our child, creating resentment.
Why do we feel like we have to nag?
Kids are told what to do – all the time – and we expect them to do whatever it is right away. As adults, we know what we need to do, but we get to pick when to do it.
Instead of nagging, work with your child to create daily, weekly, and monthly expectations. Meet with your child and develop a plan together; give them choices and catch them being good. They may need help breaking down a big or complex job into manageable parts.
Don’t sweat the small stuff – pick your battles and recognize you’re shaping behaviors over time.
Instead of nagging, articulate expectations and give your child some freedom to implement changes themselves, such as:
- Do your homework and turn it in on time
- Take out the trash on Monday nights
- Make your bed daily by 9 a.m.
- Do your laundry weekly
- Keep your belongings in your room
- Pick your battles
- Have clear expectations, rewards, and consequences
- Figure out when to teach and engage your child and when to let them figure things out for themselves
- Let THEM come up with an alternate plan and empower them to carry out the plan
- Get out of their way
- Let kids feel the consequences of NOT getting things done
What do consequences look like?
If you want to instill regular laundry skills in your child, you need to stop doing their laundry. For some families, their child will pick it up quickly and start doing their own laundry regularly. But, for the vast majority of families, their kid will struggle with figuring out when and how to do laundry, so you will need to be okay with them wearing the same thing more than once (or twice?) or doing their laundry at 10 p.m. on a Sunday night. Expect some poor clothing choices to accompany this letting go of laundry, but it will be OK.
Yes, this does take some time and involves some front-loading on our part. It takes time, patience and repetition to instill a new behavior in our child. However, the long-term benefits are worth it when you raise an independent young adult. AND what parent wouldn’t love to stop nagging?!