7 Steps to Break the Nagging Cycle

No one wants to be a nag, right?

Have you ever heard your children, friends or spouse impersonate you when you are nagging? (… And thought to yourself, “Oh my god, do I really sound like that?!”)

Nagging is actually a very ineffective way of getting someone to do something for you. It’s like a part of their brain switches off when they hear that tone.

It often makes our family members avoid us, tune us out (selective listening), become defensive and frustrated. It doesn’t make them want to do what we ask.  They may do it eventually but they’ll be resentful about it. We are also teaching others that they can wait until the tenth request before actually having to do anything.

Here are seven steps to help break the nagging cycle in your home:

1. Break Down the Problem

Ask yourself:

  • “What are the usual things I nag about?” (e.g. husband to put his golf clubs away, children to clean their room or do homework)
  • “Why is this important to me?” “Is this something that needs to be done, or just something I want to be done?” Pick your battles and prioritise.
  • “Does everyone in my family know what is expected of them and why?” Identify what you expect of each person and whether this is reasonable.

2. Prepare Yourself

  • Communicate with family members ahead of time about their responsibilities. Discuss the time-frame in which you expect things to be done, the reasons why it is important and consequences for not following through
  • Arrange a time to discuss this when things are not chaotic and all family members are in a positive, receptive mood. Allow a chance for everyone to have their say about what they think is fair. Get everyone’s agreement before finishing the “meeting”
  • Depending on the age of your children, you may find they are more receptive if you allow room for negotiation. For example, no chores on Tuesdays when they have basketball but more chores on the weekend. Or, less chores during exam periods but also less socialising.
  • Try not to change things or make decisions on-the-spot as these can become emotional and lead to unfair decisions
  • Consider the possibility that your children are avoiding doing things because they are actually too difficult. Can you make it easier for them or break the task up? For example, allow them to hang the washing out in the ad-break (even if it takes three ad-breaks to get it all done!) Or, one child can empty the dishwasher if the other child stacks the dishwasher.

3. Control the Urge

If your family member has been given until a certain time to do something, this means you will have to find some way to resist the urge to nag until the time-limit expires

**You may want to put a reminder in your phone or on the back of your hand, or keep a rubber band on your wrist to give yourself a little flick when you get the urge**

4. Issue a Reminder

Okay, so they still haven’t done what you ask ….Time for one (1!) gentle reminder.

  • Stay calm, take a deep breath and watch your tone of voice and body language.
  • Approach the family member (do not yell from another room).
  • Get their attention before speaking. (Note: standing in front of the TV or turning off the computer is unlikely to give you a receptive audience.) You might need to wait (a short time) before they are ready to listen to you.
  • Say something like: “Dylan, remember that it’s your job to take the rubbish out every night. It’s past 8pm so it would be great if you could get this done now.”

5. Implement Consequences

Still not happening? Implement consequence (or remove reward)

  • Continue to stay calm. Get their attention
  • Say something like: “Okay Dylan, well we agreed that you wouldn’t receive X dollars of your pocket money if you didn’t do it so we’ll just deduct that from next week”
  • Or, “Okay Dylan, well we agreed that you wouldn’t be allowed to watch any more TV tonight if you didn’t do it so you can just go to your room now”

6. Stay Firm!

  • Be prepared for tears, tantrums, insults and so on….
  • Bad behaviour increases initially but will die down after some time.
  • Be consistent. It is much easier to implement new rules in the house if both parents are on the same page.

7. Acknowledge When Things Are Done

Remember the old saying: “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

Others are much more likely to do something again if they feel they have been appreciated for it (even if you feel they are just doing their fair share). Younger children will probably need to be thanked and praised much more consistently and frequently than older children.

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