If you’re like most parents of teens, then you’re always looking for a better way to make your teenager more responsible. But sometimes, it seems like they just don’t hear you. What gives?
Enter: the nag.
You recognize her…shrill voice, pursed lips, crossed arms. The nag intends to get her teen moving, but she fails to see the distance the carping puts between her and her teen.
Nagging doesn’t work.
Last month, I tried an anti-nagging experiment. Initially, my goal was to run the experiment for two weeks. After the two weeks were up, I decided this would be our family’s new normal.
There’s good news! You, too, can stop nagging your teenager by following the 3-step method outlined below.
What is nagging?
Nagging (of a person) is constantly harassing someone to do something.
You feel overwhelmed because you can’t get your teenager to do X (insert: brush their teeth, do their homework, finish their chores, etc.).
Your teen’s sense of who they are is rapidly changing, and your simple questions are heard as nagging. What your teenager hears is different from what you actually say.
You say, “Did you take out the trash?”
They hear, “I don’t trust you.”
So, how do you stop nagging your teenager? Read on.
How to stop nagging your teenager: The 3-step method to banishing the nag forever
step 1: create your list of expectations and rules, and write them down.
The first step is simple. You need to create a set of hard and fast rules for your teenager. Your guidelines for behavior ought to include all of your weekly expectations. Write them down!
If you want your teen to finish their homework by 9 PM on school nights, then include that as one of your rules.
Now, many people skip this step. I admit it’s tedious, but don’t omit it!
Here are the rules I created for my teenagers at the start of my two-week experiment:
I omitted hygiene-related tasks from my list, like brushing teeth, because I won’t give any wiggle room there. The health repercussions associated with not caring for your body can have lifelong implications.
Once you’ve completed this step, move on to step two…
step 2: jot down a list of the consequences for your teenager in the event they fail to meet your expectations.
Let me share 3 tips for making this step go more smoothly:
Tip 1: Use natural consequences if you can. A natural consequence is one that automatically results from a person’s action. Natural consequences can be powerful teachers. It’s ok not to rescue your teen all of the time.
Example: If your teenager gets a speeding ticket, the consequence is they must earn the money to pay for the ticket.
Tip 2: Make your consequences logical when they relate to the misbehavior. Logical consequences are different from natural consequences in that they require the intervention of an adult.
Example: If your teenager gets caught driving without a seatbelt, they lose access to their car for a week.
Trust is an imperative part of the relationship between parents and their teenagers. If you act as though your teen isn’t trustworthy, then there is no reason for them to act responsibly.
Tip 3: Decide which behaviors you are willing to ignore, like eye rolls or sighs. Resist the temptation to argue. Set your limits and follow through!
Examples of logical consequences: extra chores, loss of privileges, and acts of restitution.
Here are the consequences I created for my teenagers based on my list of rules and expectations I outlined above:
The goal of consequences is to teach a lesson. Learning from one’s mistakes is often the best way to improve and grow.
Once you’re completed this step, move on to the last one.
step 3: call a family meeting, explain your rules and consequences to your teenagers, and share with your teens how you want to stop nagging them.
For this step, you need to call a family meeting.
One word of warning: Your teenagers may fight you on your new rules. Don’t take the bait! Stick with it.
Here are some dos and don’ts for your meeting:
DO talk about nagging with your teenagers. Tell them how much you dislike nagging them and how you want to give them more freedom and independence to do the right things.
DO explain how this is a give and take situation. If your teenager does what is asked of them, the nagging ceases. If they habitually neglect their responsibilities, there will be consequences. You’ve shown them your printed copies of your rules, expectations, and consequences. Now, there are no excuses.
DON’T give in to badgering or arguments.
The effects of Constant Nagging
Nagging is the least effective way to motivate teenagers to comply with your rules and expectations. More than that, it can blow up in your face and send negative messages or spur rebellious behavior.
Learning how to nag less and communicate better fosters more peace and respect in the home.
results of my two-week nagging experiment
I spent two weeks observing my teenagers. While I had to remind 2 of my 4 children to brush their teeth and wear their retainers, the experiment was a success.
- 1 child lost his weekly allowance for not completing all of his chores by the end of the academic week.
- All 4 children submitted homework on time.
- 2 lunchboxes were not emptied in a timely manner. I instructed those children to pack their own lunches or use their own cash to purchase school lunch the following day.
While it was tempting for me to nag over the chores, I resisted being a perfectionist and gave them some space. After all, the goal was to learn how to stop nagging my teens.
So there you have it – a quick and easy 3-step process for how to stop nagging your teenager.
Let’s recap the steps:
Step 1: Create your list of rules and expectations, and write them down.
Step 2: Jot down a list of the consequences for your teenager in the event they fail to meet your list of expectations.
Step 3: Hold a family meeting, explain your rules, and start your anti-nagging campaign.
Now there is just one thing left to do. Take action! Go ahead and start your own anti-nagging experiment. Do it today because the sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll banish the nag forever.