Moms and dads often engage in nagging techniques because they need their children to do something and because they believe their persistent requests, demands, reminders, and threats of negative consequences will influence them to do what they want. What most mothers and fathers fail to realize is that even when nagging does work (which is always just a temporary ‘fix’), it usually ends up leaving both sides with negative feelings about the whole matter.
“I told you to pick that up.”
“How many times do I have to remind you?”
“Will you stop it?”
“You need to have a better attitude!”
“If I have to tell you again, you’re going to your room.”
Chronic nagging will chip away at a youngster's self-worth over time. Studies show that nagging does not improve behavior – it actually worsens it. Nagging is especially defeating in kids with a poor self-image. Nagging and repeating commands make kids nervous. Some kids exhibit more than their fair share of negative behavior, but constantly reminding your children produces more negative behavior. It is better to purposely pick out some redeeming qualities and concentrate on the positives (e.g., "I like the way you ignored your brother when he was trying to pester you”). You will see the “negatives” melt away.
It's really important to understand how nagging affects everyone involved. For one, nagging says to your youngster that he is either unable or not responsible enough to do what you've asked of him without being reminded. It may be true, but what happens is this: children will start to internalize this belief and live up to the expectation that they are irresponsible. They begin to believe that they can't do it rather than they won't do it.
The other thing about nagging is that it sounds more like a demand than a reasonable request. Demands are inherently inconsiderate because it tells the person that her feelings absolutely don't matter. It's also very disrespectful. You're effectively "pulling rank" and making the child feel powerless and inferior. If you can imagine having a superior at work demanding rather than requesting something of you, then you will understand what negative feelings this might bring out in your youngster. Rebelling and defiance become a natural reaction to nagging.
In addition, nagging can give children a false sense of power because they learn they can make you upset and amplify your nagging to ridiculous levels by holding out. The longer they wait the more powerless and upset you feel because your words continue to lose influence. You react by nagging some more, which causes them to wait even longer, and the vicious cycle goes on and on.
There are a few things you could do in the place of nagging that might benefit everyone involved. The first is to come to a reasonable agreement on what needs to be done and when. Make sure that an understanding of the consequences is communicated clearly but gently and be prepared to follow through with those consequences if the agreement is not met (which will likely occur often at first). Many children will make agreements too easily just as a way to postpone what needs to be done. They may also get defensive or upset even at a simple request. Rather than reciprocate the negative attitude, make it easy for them to discuss their objection so that an agreement can be made. Once you've come to an agreement, resist all urges to hint, remind, re-ask, or demand.
The key to end nagging is to change your own attitude to certain situations. Repeating the same request over again does nothing for you or your youngster. Try these tips for a new perspective:
1. Are you expecting more of your youngster than he can reasonably deliver at his stage in life? Listen to other moms and dads when they discuss everyday life. You’ll learn about what other children are doing and can use this as a guide. Of course, every youngster is different, but knowing roughly what to expect will help you pitch your expectations accordingly.
2. As with other areas of parenting, “positivity” can go a long way when you’re caught in the nagging trap. If you can’t avoid mentioning what your youngster didn’t do, try to counter-balance this with acknowledging a good thing that he did. Perhaps he forgot to brush his teeth again, but he did wash his hands. Make a big deal out of what he did well and your nag can just be a sideline.
3. Everyone likes to receive praise. Instead of concentrating on what your youngster isn’t doing, focus on the times when he does cooperate. Implement a star chart, with a small reward after a certain number of stars are achieved. If he forgets to hang up his coat as you asked, mention that next time he hangs up his clothes, he’ll get a star on his chart. A star chart is a positive, visual incentive to good behavior.
4. If all else fails and you really want to make a point, refuse to get drawn into any other discussion until your youngster cooperates. The prospect of being ignored is often enough to spur him into action.
5. If you always nag your youngster to get dressed after breakfast, change things around. Encourage him to dress first then have breakfast. With the prospect of food, he might be more likely to cooperate.
6. If you don’t listen to your youngster’s wants and needs, you can’t expect him to consider yours. Nagging stems from a youngster not listening to a parent, and that parent feeling frustrated. So, when your youngster has something to say, give him the attention you’d expect him to give you. Then, when you want to ask something of him, you’ve already set a positive example.
7. If you feel your youngster no longer listens to you, it could be that he has simply become immune to the same demands. If you’re constantly asking your youngster to tidy up, put things in a more positive way. For example, instead of saying: ‘Tidy this room, it’s too messy to move in here.’ Try: ‘Shall we tidy up together, and then we’ll have more room to do this jigsaw?’ If you get involved yourself, the task may seem less overwhelming to your youngster.
8. Pick your battles. Driving home the idea of road safety is never wasted. But do you really need to make a point about every crumb dropped on the floor? Decide what issues are most important to you as a parent and concentrate on these.
9. Remember that a youngster can’t always see the reasoning behind the things a parent wants him to do. So, if you want him to get dressed in the morning, explain that once he’s dressed, he can go outside to play. Or if you’re constantly asking him not to step off the sidewalk, tell him that you wouldn’t want him to get hurt by a passing car.
10. Sometimes a bit of light relief is all that’s needed, rather than repeating your request for a tidy room yet again. Stage a pretend fall over a toy which has been left on the floor. Most kids love slapstick humor and the distraction can be enough to get the job done.
‘Stopping nagging’ is hard for some moms and dads to do because they actually fear what would happen if their youngster does not come through for them. This could range from something as minor as the dishes sitting in the sink longer than they should to not filling out college applications before the deadline or taking their medication. The fear or frustration may be so strong that mothers and fathers will either give in to the urge to nag – or end up doing it themselves. This is probably the worst thing you can do since all it does is reinforce the irresponsible behavior and teach children that they can get out of responsibilities by just waiting long enough. Instead, be patient and show that you have confidence in your youngster even at the risk of her not coming through. You may be surprised.
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