Do you nag your kids over everyday little things like taking a bath or putting dishes away? Here’s how to stop nagging your child to get stuff done.
Her kids have three hours to get everything done when they come home from school. Everyday tasks like brushing their teeth and finishing homework needed nagging.
They can’t complain for lack of time. Three hours is plenty enough to get these tasks done and still have downtime.
But she can’t seem to motivate them to start the tasks themselves—she nags her kids to get things done.
How to stop nagging your child to get stuff done
Evenings with the kids can be difficult enough as it is. How can you stop nagging when they have zero motivation to do the tasks they need to do?
Have a routine so tasks are second nature
Far from being boring, routines help anchor the day’s activities. Both parents and kids need little reminders of what comes next. With more repetition, kids don’t think about what to do—they just know to do it.
Routines make it easier for kids to know what’s next.
Morning time routines can include:
- Wake up and use the potty
- Change into school clothes
- Eat breakfast
- Wash up and brush teeth
- Free play
- Put on shoes and backpack
After school routines can include:
- Remove shoes and backpack
- Use the potty and wash hands
- Eat a snack
- Free play
- Eat dinner
- Wash hands
- Free play
- Clean up toys
- Use the potty, undress for bath and place clothes in the hamper
- Bath time
- Put on pajamas
- Do homework
- Read books
This is my five-year-old’s daily routine. He runs on automatic because we do this every single day. He gets his variety during free play time where he chooses whatever he wants to do. But everything else stays the same so there’s no question of what’s next or why we do certain tasks.
Don’t make the tasks seem tedious
How do you refer to homework? Or finishing their dinner? Or putting away their clothes?
Homework isn’t the same as getting a new toy, how we refer to these tasks can affect our kids’ outlook on them.
Homework is inevitable, but it doesn’t have to be the tedious task it’s painted. Instead, treat it as what it is: something they need to do and that’s it. And make learning fun and exciting, not something to get out of the way. Promote the love of knowledge, not a worksheet to blow through.
“You have to do homework now” vs “You can start your homework now.” See the difference?
Hang a check list
Lists relieve your mind of storing information when the tasks are on paper. Hanging a visual list helps kids see tasks they need to do next and the tasks they’ve already completed.
You might start off with a list that they can actually check off (or place a sticker) next to each task. The next day—reprint and start over. Then once they’ve got the routine down, leave the list hanging for visual reference.
We all love to cross things off, and lists are a great way to learn their routine without nagging.
Follow through with consequences
Imagine this scenario: a kid is watching television and his parents have asked him to take a shower. He ignores them. They holler again about the shower a few minutes later. This time he says that yes, he’ll take a shower soon. Soon doesn’t come, and the nagging continues, back and forth.
You don’t want that. Instead, state what he needs to do and, if ignored, the consequences that follow. Then follow through with the consequence.
You’ll want to pick a consequence that makes sense. In our example, the parents can say, “In five minutes, turn the television off and take a shower.” When those five minutes have passed and the television is still on, turn it off.
No 1-2-3 warnings. No pleading. No negotiating at that point. Follow through with the consequences so your kids know to listen to you every time.
Watch your tone of voice
How do you speak to your kids when you ask them to do things? Do you do so respectfully, kindly?
While you’re the authority figure, this doesn’t excuse you from being rude to your kids. Stay calm and composed, even when enforcing rules or when your kids talk back. Speak to them with respect as you would another adult, or another stranger.
My eldest is old enough to check me on things like this. Several days ago, I was getting frustrated at one of my kids, using a harsh tone of voice. My eldest piped up in his defense: “You don’t have to say it mean.”
Wow. Talk about a humbling moment. Since then I’ve learned to listen to how I sound. Do I sound like a bully? Do I sound mean? And when I listen to myself getting there, I know to pull back and speak kindly.
Because kids won’t listen if you disrespect them. You’re nagging someone who isn’t listening, creating a cycle of not getting things done.
Explain why the tasks are important
My kids respond to the ‘why’s of the tasks much better than because “I said so.” Pick any reason, so long as it’s true and something they can process.
Do homework because their brains get a good workout (or because the teacher needs it the next day). Brush your teeth so they’re clean and cavity-free.
Sometimes the reason can even be a “reward” of some sort. I’m not a fan of conventional rewards. But when phrased as a natural consequence or as part of the routine, kids are likely to finish the task. For instance, start eating dinner so we can play that new board game.
It’s never too late to stop nagging your child. Begin with implementing a routine so your kids know what to expect and can do them with little reminders.
When asked ‘why,’ respond with a good reason and not because you said so.
Rephrase the tasks as something interesting, new, challenging—anything but tedious. Hang a checklist so they can keep themselves accountable (and have a visual reference).
Follow through with consequences so your kids know you mean business. And that you won’t shirk the rules or their responsibilities next time.
And watch your tone of voice. No one responds well to nagging, so listen to how you sound. Would you follow the rules yourself if someone spoke to you that way?
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Get more tips:
- 9 Ways to Get Your Kids to Listen
- Warning: 5 Things You Tell Your Kids but Probably Shouldn’t
- Why It’s Not Good to Say “Good Job” (and What to Say Instead)
Your turn: How do you avoid nagging your kids? Which tasks have been the most challenging and require the most nagging? Let me know in the comments!