“Jacob, do you know how important reading comprehension is? Do you know how important becoming a good writer can be to your future?”
He stares at me blankly.
“Well, let me tell you. No matter what you do you’ll need to understand what you read and convey a clear thought in writing. I can’t think of one profession where those things won’t matter.”
Some days, he continues to stare at me blankly.
On others, he quickly responds with a “Yeah, Ok. OK!!” in that exasperated voice of his that conveys he’ll agree with whatever I say just to keep me from launching into more nagging and lecturing.
Jacob loves math and science. However, when it comes to language arts he is totally uninterested. And I lecture and nag to drive home the point that this stuff really matters.
In reality though, he probably just hears “blah, blah, blah.”
No matter how much I harp, nothing I say seems to get through.
So what do we do, parents? There are so many important issues that we want to talk to our kids about, but if everything we say just goes into one ear and out the other and completely bypasses the brain, what good will it achieve?
Here’s what I’ve found out –
Why Nagging is Detrimental to Your Relationship with Your Child
When I began to realize that my nagging wasn’t working, I started to look for alternatives.
At first, I was just frustrated that my attempts to get through to my son were not working. As it turns out though, nagging can be far more counter-productive than I originally anticipated.
For instance –
- Nagging conveys our lack of faith in their abilities to complete the task. When we nag our children it comes off as though we are stating, “I have to keep reiterating what I’m saying because I’m not really sure you can complete this task.” We never want our children to feel incapable or inadequate so why participate in a habit that would portray such a thing?
- Nagging trains our kids to stop listening to us. We want our children to listen to us and we nag because we think they aren’t. However, in reality, nagging is counterproductive. It actually trains them to tune us out because they assume we are going to either continuously say the same thing or say something negative.
- Nagging can make them (more) rebellious. Everyone has a rebellious streak in them. Our children are no different. But if we are constantly verbalizing things that make them feel as though they are being pushed into a corner over something, well don’t be surprised when they begin to push back. It is human instinct to dig your heels in when you feel someone is constantly attacking you on the same front.
- Nagging results in resentment and can tear down relationships. Do you enjoy being around people that constantly nag you or ride your case? I know I don’t. Well, our kids feel the same way. Nagging is a place where resentment is often born. And resentment can easily tear down relationships. So keep this in mind the next time you feel the urge to nag your child.
- Nagging puts you in charge of things that kids should learn to take responsibility for. We nag about homework and school work. We nag about getting dressed, brushing teeth, and showering properly. But in reality, a lot of these things are areas that our kids need to learn to take responsibility for. Are we going to go to college with them too? Are we going to move in with them when they get married to remind them of proper hygiene? The answer to those questions are hopefully no. So now is their time to learn, but we have to let go and stop nagging for them to have the opportunity to figure it out and take ownership of it.
- When we nag, we model poor communication patterns for our kids. If your child is raised by a nagger there is a good chance they will become a nagger. This is an issue because it will carry over into future relationships. You want your child to be an effective communicator. Not someone that nags people to death to get their way. So practice what you want for them in their future. We need to realize we are laying that ground work now.
So, OK. Now that I was more than a little motivated to stop nagging and try a more positive approach, here’s what I’ve found out –
How to Stop Nagging
1. Put Your Listening Ears On to get to the Root of the Issue
When we nag, we aren’t listening. And I’m learning (slowly, unfortunately) that so much conflict, misunderstanding, and hurt feelings can be avoided if we would only listen.
So when I’m standing there in front of my son desperately wanting him to pick up a book and fall in love with it, or to see his daily writing prompt and immediately feel inspired, I need to listen to why he isn’t interested instead of verbally beating him over the head with how important all of it is.
And when we listen, we might just find the underlying problem which then we can deal with. For us, sadly, my son didn’t have a great start to his education. He struggled with reading and writing because of this and now it is something he tries to run from instead of conquer.
And my nagging and lecturing wasn’t moving us any closer to resolving this root cause. If anything it was driving a wedge.
Realizing this made it easier for me to proceed with the next few steps to break out of my nagging habit.
So in your own battles, try listening to your child first. And see if you can get a clue as to what is really going on.
No matter what the obstacle is, I’m sure if you search deep enough you’ll find there is a root reason behind it.
If it is something simple, say they’d like to finish watching their TV show before doing what you are asking them to, then work around it. With my boys, I’ll pause the show and tell them they are welcome to come back and watch it once the chore is done.
If it is something a bit more complex, then help them sort out a plan to break down the job so it isn’t overwhelming. For instance, I have three boys and sometimes their room is such a big mess they feel overwhelmed and don’t really know where to start. A quick step-by-step outline of what needs to be done goes the job done a lot faster than a nagging lecture about the need for cleanliness.
And if the reasons run way deeper, like in the case of my son not wanting to do his reading and writing assignments, at least you have concrete idea of what the issue is, so you can tackle it more effectively (more on it below) than by nagging them and making things worse.
2. Figure Out What Triggers You to Nag and Resolve Your Worries and Insecurities
I’m being transparent here. I can handle not nagging my children over chores much easier than I can over our homeschool hurdles. The reason is because I carry a lot more of the burden when it comes to their education and feel compelled to do something.
The last thing I want is for me to not have pushed them when they needed it. Let’s be honest, all of us need a little push from time to time.
Realizing that operating from a position of my insecurities was making me choose a less optimal path, helped a great deal in breaking the nagging habit.
Now, when I notice myself about to launch into a lecture, I stop myself and take a deep breath. I remind myself that while I need to teach my son and engage him, I also must allow him to work some things out for himself. And I wait it out until the urge to nag or lecture has slowly passed.
So if you feel that urge coming on, stop yourself by taking big, deep breaths until your emotions are under control enough that you can hold your tongue even when it is wanting to fly loose.
3. Look for Alternate Ways to Get Things Done
a. Let Your Children See the Consequences of Not Getting Things Done
This is so hard. But this was the solution for myself and my son that stopped the battle over reading and writing.
The last time we began to butt heads over Language Arts, I finally looked at my son and said, “Okay. If you don’t want to write a paragraph about this writing prompt then don’t. And if you don’t want to read the story then don’t.”
He looked at me very funny and asked if I was serious. And I said I was. I told him we would just skip over that until he felt like he was ready.
And explained that there was a consequence to this choice. I made it clear that we were required to complete a full 180 school days by our state’s laws. So if I had to school year round until he was ready I was willing to make that sacrifice and that’s what we would do.
Well, as soon as he heard no summer break, a little light bulb seemed to go on for him. He now doesn’t quite resist reading and writing as much.
Ideally, I would have preferred to find some positive motivation to get things going. In this case though, the root cause of his resistance ran too deep and all else had failed. This route has worked the best for me to let him take responsibility for his reading and writing, so I could stop having to nag him all the time.
b. Let Them Come Up with An Alternate Plan
Sometimes the things we nag over, our children can help us come up with a solution that will satisfy both parties.
For instance, the other night I needed my son to take a shower before bed. He kept putting it off because he was more interested in his tablet. I wanted to nag him so badly, but I instead left it with him. I told him I had to get up early in the morning so I really needed to get ready for bed myself.
He told me goodnight and that he would play for 15 more minutes and take a shower before bed.
I was satisfied with that because he was still going to be clean before he went to bed, and I didn’t have to end our night on a sour note.
c. Empower Them to Carry Through Their Plan
It is important that we give our children the tools to have success especially in the areas we are tempted to nag over the most.
So if you feel the urge to nag your children about their homework then buy them an alarm. If they drag their feet to do their homework then agree on a certain amount of time they can relax after school. Have them set the alarm and once it goes off they’ll know it is time to do homework.
Or if your children drag their feet while doing homework, agree on a set time it should take to complete assignments. Let them set their alarm to help them stay within that time frame.
If your children drag their feet in the mornings then help them to get everything ready the night before. Help them pick out their clothes, decide what they want for breakfast, and get their backpack and lunch box packed and in a place that they can grab it quickly.
And finally, if your children have a hard time keeping up with assignments or activities buy them a planner or calendar to hang on their wall so they can easily keep up with all of the things they have going on in their lives without you having to constantly nag them about it.
d. Get Yourself Out of the Equation
Making your kids responsible to follow through or face the consequences is key. If necessary write down an agreement and stick it on the fridge.
And then it is time to step out. This is the tough part.
In my case, with my son now a little more motivated to do his reading and writing, I restricted myself to one short reminder for the days that they were needed, and resolved to not nag no matter what happened after that.
And, mentally prepared myself to work through one summer with our teeth gritted if that’s what it came down to.
Fortunately, when my son saw that whether he got a summer break or not was now entirely up to him, he got in the hang of taking accountability and stuck to our agreement for the most part. He had a few rough spells during the learning curve, but he caught on rather quickly.
Almost every parent nags to a certain extent. The key is to make sure it doesn’t become a habit and you end up doing it all the time.
The 2-Minute Action Plan for Fine Parents
Things to think about for our quick contemplation exercise today:
- Do you find yourself lecturing or nagging your children often?
- Is there a common denominator for these nagging and lecturing instances?
- Do you understand your child’s reason for not doing the thing that you end up nagging them about?
- Do you understand your fears that push you to nag?
- Is there a certain instance that you know is coming up that you can think of a game plan of how you’d like to handle it in advance?
The Ongoing Action Plan for Fine Parents
- Be Honest With Yourself. If you are a ‘nagger’ or someone who loves to lecture then own it. That way you are leveling the playing field and can be ready to battle this nasty habit.
- Understand the impact of nagging on your family. Go through all of the times you can recall nagging or lecturing. Ask your children or spouse for their honest opinions. It might be good to talk about how your actions made them feel and ask for their perspective. And maybe even their help. When you begin to nag they could gently let you know that you’re doing it again.
- Write down your triggers. Then ask yourself why they trigger you. Mine is a fear of failure. I’m afraid after doing all I can for my children’s education that it still will not have been enough. So I often nag to get them to strive harder. Take on those fears or triggers and put them to rest.
- Gather a game plan of how to handle those nagging moments. Can you practice deep breathing when you want to nag but know you shouldn’t? Can you wear a rubber band and pop it on your arm every time you begin to lecture? It is just like breaking any other bad habit. Find something that will remind you and help you to break the urge.