Many of you may be feeling like the summer honeymoon is over. You dreamt of warm weather, but now it’s just hot. The kids prefer inside over outside—and if you’re lucky, they’re kind enough to share with you how bored they are. All day long, as a matter of fact.
You couldn’t wait for less structure, easier routines and more flexibility. But maybe you’re lucky if you can get them out of bed before 10am at this point, and when they are awake, you just wish you could give them unlimited doses of screen time and not feel bad about it.
What started as setting summer rules may have slowly morphed into prompts and reminders. Why does it feel like it’s turned into full-blown nagging? I hear a lot of parents say they’re downright tired of hearing themselves say phrases like: “Get up.” “Get dressed.” “Why aren’t you dressed?” “I've asked you 5 times to…” “Come on, we’re late!” “Go outside and find something to do.” “You can’t sit around like this all summer!”
It just feels good when kids find us to be helpful and (at least sometimes) perceive us as fun. The curtain tends to drop on the fun when we’re constantly nagging and correcting. If you fall into this category, try these strategies:
1. Do With (not for or to)
If you notice a child seems to never do what you ask, or just can’t do that thing, odds are there is something standing in the way that you aren’t aware of. Often, we don’t realize that tasks we perceive to be simple are actually quite difficult. Especially for a child who has not yet developed a set of skills required for follow-through. For example, if you are repeatedly nagging your child to clean his room to no avail, you have some work to do beyond asking or reminding. Even a seemingly simple request to pick up dirty clothes and place in the laundry basket daily may require more than one skill your child doesn’t have a complete handle on yet. Thinking one simple task requires one skill for completion is a mistake.
While it may sound counterintuitive, performing tasks together with your child is an excellent way to foster independence. Verbally planning together, visualizing the task before you complete it together, drawing a map of the space where the task will take place or reviewing a photo and having your child point and narrate as he verbalizes the sequence of steps will help develop the critical executive skills required for independent task completion. Review the process once complete with your child to determine successes and tweaks for next time.
Instead of nagging and prodding, you’ll be able to back out of the process as your child adopts the skills necessary to meet your expectation.
2. Speak in a Different Language
Just kidding…(kind of.) While nagging in a language he doesn’t understand may be slightly less annoying to your child, the language I’m suggesting you use here is called declarative language.
If you want to see improved problem-solving, planning, and initiating of tasks from your child, it’s important to support the development of his inner-voice, or self-talk. Skills like taking the perspective of others, predicting the feelings of others and understanding subtle nuances stem largely from this inner self-talk. They become better aware of the bigger picture.
Rather than giving a child directives (“Go get your shoes,” “Brush your teeth, “ Pack your bag for soccer,”) replace nagging with opportunities to think out loud, make predictions and verbal observations, work through problems out loud, and pose questions based on the visible world around your child. (“I wonder what needs to be done before you leave for soccer?” “It seems like you’re not looking at me, I wonder what would it take for you to turn around ?” “What do you look like when you’re ready to leave for school?” “I see a toy on the floor.”)
By providing these routine invitations to your child to process and act on information provided, you’ll be helping your child become more independent and free from relying on your directives and prompting.
3. Meet Them Where They Are
If you’re reading this because you struggle with feeling you are constantly nagging your child, you may have some fear that your child is not meeting ideal standards for a healthy, productive and educational summer.
Relax. You can even relax with your child. What’s that video game all about anyway? Why is it so fun? Your child may be delighted to hear you ask to try a round or two. Maybe choose a day or two where you stay up late with your child and everyone sleeps in. And what is this obsession with slime, anyway?
Take some time to ask your child, and when you find out, fill me in.