Do you nag about everyday little things like taking a bath or putting dishes away? Here’s how to stop nagging your child to get things done.
That’s how long your child has to get everything done after school. This includes finishing homework, tidying her room, and eating her snack.
But despite this stretch of time, you still need to nag her every step of the way. You have no idea why an assignment takes her two hours when the recommended time is a mere 30 minutes. You’ll find her playing in the backyard instead of cleaning her mess as you asked her to.
And she certainly can’t complain about lack of time. Three hours is plenty enough to get these tasks done and still have downtime.
You can’t seem to motivate her to start the tasks on her own. Without your constant nagging and reminding, nothing would get done.
How do you address these behavior problems in healthy ways?
How to stop nagging your child to get things done
Nagging isn’t pleasant for anyone—parent or child. As “effective” as I think I am in telling my kids what to do, I realize that that’s not a long-term plan we should have. Kids shouldn’t need someone to tell them to do their tasks.
Instead, they need to do these on their own, without being told or reminded all the time. To be self-sufficient and responsible—and feel proud of that fact. And with so many tasks already on your plate, not having to nag your child can be a welcome relief.
So, how do you go from constant reminders and everyone feeling upset to raising a self-starter? How can you stop pestering and begging when they have zero motivation to do the tasks they need to do? Take a look at these discipline strategies to turn things around:
1. Don’t make the tasks seem tedious
How do you refer to homework, finishing dinner, or putting clothes away into the hamper?
Sure, chores and tasks aren’t the same as, say, receiving a new toy. But how you refer to them can affect your child’s outlook.
For instance, school work 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. Make learning fun and exciting, not something to get out of the way. Promote the love of knowledge, not a worksheet to blow through.
Your choice of words and tone of voice can change her perception. It’s the difference between “You have to start on your school work, now” versus “It’s eight o’clock—time to start on school work.”
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2. Have a routine so tasks feel automatic
Far from being boring, routines help anchor the day’s activities, where both you and your child need little reminders of what comes next. With more repetition, he doesn’t have to think about what to do—he just knows to do it.
By doing the same things at the same time and in the same order, he can soon shuffle through her daily activities automatically. For instance, a typical morning routine for school can include:
- Wake up and use the potty
- Change out of pajamas
- Eat breakfast
- Wash up and brush his 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 the bath, and place clothes in the hamper
- Bath time
- Dress in pajamas
- Do homework
- Read books
Soon, he can run on automatic because he does these tasks every single day. He can still enjoy variety during free play time where he chooses what he wants to do. But everything else stays the same so that there’s no question of what comes next or why he does certain tasks.
Read more about after school routines here.
3. Hang a checklist
Lists, especially on paper, relieve your mind of storing so much information. Hanging a visual list can help your child see the tasks she needs to do next and the tasks she has already completed. This can also be an important skill she learns to stay organized.
You might start with a list that she can check off (or place a sticker) next to each task. The next day, simply rewrite the list and start over. Then, once she’s got the routine down, leave the list hanging for visual reference.
We all love to cross things off, and lists are a great way for her to learn her routine without nagging.
4. Follow through with what you say
Let’s say your child is watching television and you asked him to take a shower. Except… he ignores you. So, you holler again about the shower a few minutes later. This time he says that yes, he’ll take a shower soon. But “soon” doesn’t come, and the nagging continues, back and forth.
You can see why this isn’t exactly ideal for either of you. So, what can you do in this situation?
Say what you plan to do, and follow through with it, despite his ongoing protests. You might say, “In five minutes, we’re going to stop watching television so you can take a shower.” When those five minutes have passed, turn the television off.
No 1-2-3 warnings, pleading, or negotiating at that point. Follow through with the consequences so he knows to listen to you every time. Remember that many of the activities he does, like watching television, is a privilege that he gets to do.
Read more about how to follow through with consequences.
5. Watch your tone of voice
How do you speak to your child when you ask her to do something? Do you do so respectfully and kindly, or do you lecture and boss her around?
While you’re the authority figure, this doesn’t excuse you from being rude. Stay calm and composed, even when enforcing rules or when she talks back. Speak to her with respect as you would another adult or stranger.
My kids are old enough to check me on things like this. I got frustrated at one of them, using a harsh tone of voice, when 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 speak. Do I sound like a bully? Am I being mean? When I listen to myself getting there, I know to pull back and speak kindly.
Because kids won’t listen if we disrespect them. We end up nagging someone who isn’t listening, creating a cycle of not getting anything done. We can only get their cooperation through threats and fear, not a willingness to comply.
Similarly, express gratitude for the times they do a task without being told. It’s easy to focus only on the times when they drag their feet, but I’m willing to bet there are times when they listen that we overlook. They’re more likely to continue a behavior when we praise and acknowledge them.
Read three ways you may be unknowingly disrespecting your kids.
6. Explain why the tasks are important
The next time your child whines about doing something, explain the reason. She’ll like respond to the “why” of the tasks much better than because “I said so.” Pick any reason, so long as it’s true and something she can process.
She’s doing homework because her brain gets a good workout (or because the teacher needs it the next day). She brushes her teeth so they’re clean and cavity-free. Her dirty clothes need to go in the hamper so she has something to wear the next day.
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, she’s more likely to finish the task. For instance, she can start eating dinner so you can go to the playground after.
It’s never too late to stop nagging your child and curb the bad habit of whining. This is a learned behavior, which means you can both “unlearn” what you’ve been doing and start fresh.
Begin with implementing a routine with consistency so she knows what to expect and can do them with little reminders. When asked “why,” respond with the main reasons and not because you say so.
Rephrase the tasks as something interesting, new, or challenging—anything but tedious. Hang a checklist so she can keep herself accountable (and have a visual reference).
Follow through with a logical consequence despite your child’s pleading. That way, she knows you mean your word 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 or anxiety, so listen to how you sound. Would you follow the rules yourself if someone spoke to you that way?
At the very least, she can get all her tasks done—well within the three hours she has to complete them.
Get more tips:
- How to Motivate Children to Do Their Best
- What to Do When Your Child Disrespects You
- Consequences for Kids That Can Work
- How to Respond When Your 3 Year Old Won’t Go to Sleep
- How to Rock a Morning Routine for Toddlers
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