Wednesday, September 26, 2007

The Nuts and Bolts of Nagging

Okay, so I was going to write a long, detailed piece about nagging. But who wants to read something long and detailed about nagging? No one.

Instead, I’ll give it to you straight. I’m making peace with nagging. I’ve taken a poll, and all wives nag. All mothers nag. Some more successfully than others. But no one wants to be a nag. I often catch myself doing something that’s really the duty of another member of our household simply because I’m tired of asking them to do it. But the thing is, if I continue repeating that action pattern, pretty soon EVERYTHING is mine to do.

So here’s the deal. Nagging is a good thing. But the key to successful nagging is all in the presentation – how you go about it. Timing is important. If you ask your child to do a job while they’re in the middle of an engrossing activity, they’re not going to want to do it. (This is a good reason to limit TV watching, video games, and other such distractions.) Keep your voice low when making your request. High-pitched requests are going to sound whiney and will be less effective. If your child (or husband) gives you flack, ask them when it would be a better time to do the job. Then set a timer. When it goes off, remind them of their commitment and be firm. Be cheerful. If you can make your request into a game, go for it!

A little organization goes a long way. A job chart is nothing more than nagging in writing. It communicates what’s expected without you having to say it. You’ll also have less verbal nagging to do if you make jobs a part of your family’s daily routine. At my friend Linda’s house, having their bed made is a prerequisite for getting breakfast. In our home the kids don’t get to play with friends or watch TV until their chores are done. There are times when they get sloppy in their duties or need reminding, but for the most part my kids complete all sorts of tasks every day without any reminders from me. (Having well-trained children is even better than having a well-trained dog.)

Think outside the box, or the chest of drawers, as the case may be. For a while I had a hard time getting Loula Belle to change her underwear every day. Each laundry day I’d tell her, “You only had three pairs of panties in the wash this week. That’s gross.” She didn’t seem to care. Eventually I left a note taped to her dresser that said, “Help! We’re suffocating in here! We’re your underwear, and we like to get out of this cramped drawer. Please wear a different one of us each day. We’d be so much happier. How about it? Help us get out and about!” It made Lou laugh and got my point across in a totally new way.

Gimmicks are good. Young kids like stickers. Older kids often go for cold, hard cash. Only you know what motivates your husband. If it works, do it.

I don’t have any studies to back me up, but I believe that mothers who are successful at nagging are happier than mothers who don’t nag at all. The non-naggers are the ones doing everything themselves, and that makes for lots of resentment.

Don’t become the grumpy cleaning lady. Embrace nagging. If you need to call it something else, borrow a term from my own mother. She calls it “spaced repetition.” I call it good communication.

1 comment:

Doreen said...

I linked to your blog through Nan's. Anyway, I just had to comment on your post. It made me laugh. I'm considering showing it to my husband. Then again, maybe I don't want him to notice when I try new nagging strategies... Thanks for giving me some new ideas. :D