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“I don't understand why you can't get your dirty dishes into the dishwasher!”
“Do I have to say it again? Put your dirty socks in the laundry!”
“You're not dressed yet? It's time to GO! You know I hate being late. “
Most of us don't set out to nag our spouses or children. Rather, we know the tasks at hand and are desperately trying to encourage and reinforce beneficial behaviors. By the tenth time a request has been repeated to no avail, though, it should be evident that this method is NOT working. Nagging is often ineffectual and ultimately fosters tension in relationships.
Do you find that your family members don't seem to remember what you said, or maybe you've noticed many of the words coming out of your mouth are instructions for someone else? Do you want things just so, or refer to yourself as a perfectionist?
The next time you feel the urge to repeat yourself like a broken record, why not try one of these tactics instead?
- Gain perspective. Remind yourself of the many ways your loved ones add to your life. Sometimes the little, albeit frustrating, details of daily life together can cause us to lose sight of what is truly important. Reframing our focus can increase our capacity for grace.
- Handle the task yourself. If there is a task that your spouse never seems to get around to completing, maybe it's time to reexamine who should be doing that particular chore. Acknowledging we all have strengths and weaknesses helps us to give and receive grace. Additionally, learning to achieve said chore checks one more item off the To-Do list and may be an empowering experience!
- Leave space for individuality and relationship. Try to allow your family members the freedom to complete tasks in their own way. They may not make the bed with military corners as you prefer. However, trusting your spouse with personal responsibility rather than finding fault in the way tasks are completed offers more acceptance and teamwork.
- Allow for natural consequences. Instead of stressing to make sure your child completes his/her homework on time or packs a lunch the night before school, take a step back. A poor grade, missed recess, or a hungry lunch hour might prove to be far more effective in the long run than any lecture you are ready to dole out.
- Delegate when possible. Maybe tasks are piling up due to a shortage of time or energy. Hiring a cleaning service or enlisting the help of family and friends to take children to this week's soccer games might be worth the cost and effort for all the relief it offers. Getting things completed is not more important than the relationship itself!
- Prioritize. If you constantly feel irritable and overwhelmed, it might be time to decide what items on your weekly lineup are necessary. It is okay to admit that you have limits and to say no. Saying no can be particularly difficult if you are a people pleaser or helper personality. If this is the case, remember that if you don't put your proverbial oxygen mask on first, you can't help others effectively.
- Coordinate schedules to limit conflict. Making use of linked family calendars on your phone or a master family calendar on the wall prevents you from having to repeat yourself, which can be perceived as nagging if you're not careful. Putting today's appointments or games time in a central location can reduce frustration or conflict for you, your spouse, and children.
- Walk away. If a specific problem has left you emotionally charged, the natural default might be nagging. If that instinct arises, politely leave the room, and take some time alone to calm down and strategize.
- Dig a little deeper. Sometimes nagging can indicate root issues within relationships. If you think that might be the case, enlisting the help of a marriage expert or parenting class could be a worthwhile endeavor.
- Don't drop hints. Be direct about what you want and speak with clarity when asking a loved one to do something. Occasionally nagging is just a symptom of poor communication. Make requests, not demands. Communicate your expectations and be open to your spouse's input.
- Model good listening. Be sure that you fully comprehend what your loved ones are saying, especially in response to your requests. Listening enhances connection and encourages cooperation.
- Boost your confidence. Feeling powerless can cause you to demand to be heard. Speaking and thinking positively about yourself can increase self-esteem. You are less likely to find flaws in others when you believe yourself to be confident and capable.
If the endless cycle of nagging isn't getting the desired results, it is time to change tactics. Adapting your perspective, finding room for flexibility, and clearly communicating can take a burden off your shoulders and restore peace to your household.
Which of the ideas above are you willing to put to action this week?