Dr. Elisa Saffle, principal, Hillview Elementary School
Do you ever find yourself asking your child, spouse or coworker over and over again to do something? Is it successful? Typically, no. This action is called nagging, and most of us learned to tune-out and ignore this at a young age.
Think back to when you were in school. Do any of these sound familiar? “There should be no talking while I’m talking,” “It’s too noisy in here, quiet down,” or “How many times do I have to tell you . . .” These are all examples of nagging. At home it may sound a bit different: “Toys do not belong in the middle of the floor,” “You need to do your homework as soon as you get home,” or “This is not how we behave in the store.”
Dr. Fred Jones, author of Tools for Teaching, said when adults nag, we name a behavior that we failed to teach. In both school and home, nagging appears as our default method of trying to get children to comply, but it’s often unsuccessful. Adults can make changes in our approach to overcome the cycle of nagging, and build better relationships with children. School teachers need to get entire classrooms full of students to follow directions and do what is expected, and many accomplish this without nagging. Methods that teachers use to organize and run a productive and ordered classroom can also be used to create a “nag-free” environment at home.
Decide what behaviors you expect and why you want them.
We cannot expect for children to do what we want or need them to do, if we do not tell them. This is even more difficult if we are not exactly sure what we want from them. For example, when going to the grocery store, we may expect our children to stay with us, not whine or beg and help find items on the list. These seem reasonable to us as adults, but do our children understand why. These rules are important because there are many people in the store and the child could get lost; good behavior is expected in public places; children enjoy being actively involved; and the list helps the family stay on budget. Now we have a clear set of expectations and the reasons for our expectations.
Teach children the expectations and why they are important.
Expectations are the groundwork for reaching and achieving goals; they can also be great motivators. Children thrive in an environment with structure and expectations. Developing these skills forms a foundation to build upon as your child grows.
Practice, practice, practice — and then review.
As the cliché goes, practice makes perfect, but I was always taught that only perfect practice makes perfect. Yes, practice takes time, but regular repetition of an activity or skill is the best way to succeed, and also encourages children to persevere. Do you remember your expectations for the grocery store? Does your child? Find out before walking into the grocery store by reviewing them. Ask your child what you expect and how he or she will behave. A quick review will keep everyone on the same page.
Being proactive about our expectations and teaching them to our children will lead to less nagging and a happier home.