Try these strategies before you start to feel like a nag!
When it comes to your kids making excuses, you’ve probably heard them all.
“Aww, mom! Do I have to?” Or the all-time favourite, “You can’t make me!”
Or maybe your kids’ routines are more along the lines of pouting, arguing and ignoring you (or agreeing and then ignoring you).
Either way, in the day-to-day dealings with children, there are few things more frustrating than dealing with resistance, power struggles or outright refusals to do what you want.
On a bad day, even the most reasonable requests can trigger an uncooperative, passive-aggressive, or even hostile response from your kids. These interactions are annoying and exhausting, and can leave you feeling like a terrible parent.
The good news is that there are tools that will help you avoid having to bug your kids and build cooperation and respect.
Know that you are not alone! Within two hours of posting a simple request to parents on Facebook asking what they nag their children about, I had dozens of responses.
Several of these comments listed a whole range of offenses, including chores and cleaning up after themselves, friends and curfew, homework, siblings, personal hygiene, and basic manners and consideration – especially those related to phones and other devices.
If so, don’t worry – there are ways to prevent conflict and build your kids’ sense of responsibility and respect without turning to nagging
1. Start by building a sense of cooperation
The tips below are all pieces of a big picture, one that can increase your kids’ commitment and cooperation without surrendering your authority. Don’t forget, even little ones want some autonomy, too, and need a balance of freedom and structure along the way to turn into civilised adults.
These “front-end” steps for building cooperation with your child are important because they can help avoid a “gotcha” response when he or she messes up.
Anticipate their wants – and your limits – ahead of time. You know your kids. Are they going to ask for candy or a toy every time you go to the store? Will they want to use their devices at the dinner table? Consider what you’re willing to buy or allow before there’s a problem.
Make at least some of the good stuff conditional. It’s good for kids to learn the benefits of earning things that have meaning for them. The price of the privilege might be financial: “I’ll pay for half the cost of those jeans.” More often, what they want will depend on some level of cooperation: “You can have two cookies as long as you eat them at the kitchen table.”
Communicate your limits and conditions. Again, this works better if you let them know ahead of time. You might say, “You can pick out one candy bar as long as it costs less than $2,” or “Let’s make (or keep) the dinner table a device-free zone.”
Be specific. Good boundaries are clear boundaries. Your standards for a “clean room” are probably a little different from the what your kids might settle for. Don’t assume they know what you want (or even how to do it). Another way to do this is by using number. For example, “You can jump in the pool two more times,” or “You need to finish your homework by 8:00 pm.”
Be positive. Practice using promises instead of threats, which focuses on the positive consequences of their cooperation. Examples include, “You can go out as soon as you clean your room,” or “You can have your phone tomorrow as long as you respond if I call or text you today.”
Look for positive outcomes that have meaning and value for them. Kids will probably be more motivated to pick up their stuff when it gives them access to their video games than, say, when it gives them a chance to vacuum.
Get over the fear that you’re bribing them. Telling kids that they’re grounded if they don’t finish their chores is just as much a bribe as connecting chore-completion to a positive outcome. Threats and punishments are bribes, too.
Don’t depend on fear or threats. (This includes conditional love and approval.) Stop looking for bigger punishments. This is exhausting and creates a lot of stress and aggravation in your relationship — and your life.
Give them choices. It gets pretty silly to fight against someone offering you some control in your life, which is exactly what choices can do. This strategy also helps prepare them to make constructive choices when you’re not there to tell them what to do. Not all things are negotiable, but a lot are.
Make all options acceptable. Don’t ask them to choose between what you want and what they want — like offering eggs or cookies for breakfast. Instead give them options, but make them both options you can live with, such as “Do you want apple juice or grape juice?” or “Pick two of the chores on the list and I’ll do the third one.” Try not to have an agenda for which choice they make.
Reminders are helpful. Reminders are different than nagging, mainly because they happen before something doesn’t get done. Leaving notes to gently remind kids to hang up their towels or put dirty clothes in the hamper before laundry day can also increase the odds of cooperation with children who are better at remembering what they see, rather than what we say.
Say yes frequently, but don’t be afraid to say no. Also when you say “yes” as often as possible, kids can be more reasonable about accepting a “no” when something is not available or simply non-negotiable.