I never wanted to be a mother who nags. I planned on setting clear expectations, and my kids would just… I don’t know…listen? They would pick up their toys when asked. They’d make their beds in the morning. They would brush their teeth at bedtime. LOL forever, right? Because here I am, nagging my kids to do their chores. And let’s just say, I don’t love it.
I feel like I’m the teacher on those old Charlie Brown specials. Wah-wah-wah-wah-wah. I’m sick of reminding my kids five times to put their cereal bowl in the sink. I’m sick of reminding them to hang up their coats. I’m sick of telling them a dozen times to pick up their wet towels. And I have no doubt, they are sick of it too. I mean, at this point, I’m sick of my own voice.
Not only is it annoying and frustrating, but nagging makes me feel like a failure. It makes me feel like a bad mom. Like I must be doing something wrong.
If you, too, feel like your kids don’t listen, you’re not alone. If you also feel like the wah-wah-wah-wah-wah teacher on Charlie Brown sometimes, I feel you.
I don’t have any magic tricks or tips to get our kids to listen every time we say something. I’m not a parenting expert; I’m just a mom—like you—who’s trying her best to get it right. That doesn’t always happen, but I’m trying. Here are a few things that have worked for me and my family.
Find your child’s listening “sweet spot.”
Maybe they listen better after a nap or just after dinner. Maybe they are more likely to do their chores first thing in the morning or just before bed. Maybe they need lists; maybe they need verbal cues. Whatever the case might be, finding your child’s preferred method of communication is key.
Say it with a single word—or no words at all.
I can talk all I want, and my voice is white noise to my kids. But if I touch them gently on the shoulder, they focus more on what I am saying. Oftentimes, the touch will be enough to grab their attention and they will do what I am asking right away instead of telling me they’ll do it “in a little while.” Similarly, experts suggest using a single word, such as "towel" instead of "Sweetie, did you pick up your towel? Please pick up your towel." (I'm totally guilty of the latter.)
Keep your expectations in check.
This has been one of the biggest shifts in the way I parent. By understanding what is realistic, we have all become happier. This doesn’t mean I let my kids get away with leaving messes all over the house or that I follow them around cleaning up after them. It does mean that expecting my older son to do chores first thing in the morning is a recipe for nagging and frustration. But when I shift my expectations and trust that he will get them done before the end of the day, we’re all happier (and the chores typically get done).
Let them have a messy room.
This one might be the most controversial on the list, but hear me out. I hate clutter with a passion. My kids, on the other hand, are completely immune to it. As a result, the state of their bedroom (my kids share a room) used to be the bane of my existence. Just one look at it would cause me to physically feel uncomfortable. That is, until I read the advice of Marilyn Oduenyi, a cognitive behavioral therapist and parenting coach known as The Peaceful Black Mama on social media.
She urges parents (like me!) to resist the urge to micromanage their kids’ bedrooms so they can be a haven for them. As long as there are no safety or health concerns, she recommends that we “close the door and mind our business.”
Let me tell you, this is easier said than done but it is pretty life-changing. We recently got rid of some unnecessary furniture in their room, and since then, I’ve tried to have a more hands-off approach to my kids’ bedroom.
Cut yourself some slack.
I never thought motherhood would involve as much nagging as it does. But you know what? Motherhood isn’t anything like I thought it would be. I’m a work in progress, learning as I go. And so are my kids. I still giving a few more “friendly reminders” than I’d like, but I am nagging much less these days. And we’re all happier for it.