Are You A Nagging Parent? Here's How To Turn Into A Great Motivator

Do you and your child feel that you nag a lot? If yes, then here's how you can go from being a pestering parent to one using positive reinforcement.

By Sarika Chuni  • 11 min read

Are You A Nagging Parent? Here's How To Turn Into A Great Motivator

“Why don't you just complete your homework.”

“There is no other way to ensure that my daughter does anything without me being on her back.”

Do such phrases sound familiar to you?

If your answer is yes, then chances are, you tend to micromanage your child’s life and still lament his irresponsible attitude. So, what does that make you? Well, the answer is, 'a nagging parent'.

Disagree with that? Then, read on to understand what nagging means and how to transform yourself from being a nagging parent to a great motivator.

Who is a nagging parent?

As parents, we expect our children to achieve certain goals or do certain tasks. When children fail to accomplish what has been set for them, and parents begin to repeatedly ask them to do what they are supposed to, it makes them a nagging parent.

A nagging parent's experience

I was speaking to my friend recently about her experiences with her two children. She said that she shared a great bond with her 11-year-old daughter, who was polite and confident. However, her relationship with her son aged 16 wasn't so cordial. They often got into arguments and he struggled through school. Out of curiosity, I asked her why it was so. 

And, she explained, “With my son, I was strict to the point of nagging. I would ask him if he had completed his homework, worn his woolens, brushed his teeth and other such minor details repeatedly every day. So, even though I focused more on my first child, my behavior had a negative effect on him. He isn't so confident and struggles with doing things independently. 

She paused for a while and added, "However, by the time my daughter was born, I had understood that my parenting approach wasn’t going to help. I learned the value of positive reinforcement and began to work on changing my parenting style.”

My friend’s story reflects what many parents face with their first child, but what about one-child families? There has got to be a better way than this trial-and-error method.

Why do parents nag?

If we observe the parents around us, we would find that most of them resort to nagging. While some indulge in it occasionally, some have made it a habit. And, if you ponder over what makes parents nag, you would find that the following common reasons:

  1. Desire for control: Quite a few parents feel that they aren't in control of their lives. So, the take to controlling the lives of their children to feel in charge.
  2. Anxiety: Fear and worry of how our children will fare in today's competitive world leads many of us, parents, to cope with it in unhealthy ways, nagging being one.
  3. Stress: Stress from our job or relationships can easily trickle down into our parenting. When we feel overstretched and in a rush, our communication takes the shape of orders or stressed reminders.
  4. Unrealistic expectations: Whether we like to admit it or not, parents are often guilty of burdening children with their expectations and standards. According to Aditi Sharma, counseling psychologist, “A lot of parents have a fixed idea about how their child should be. And, when the child’s actions don’t match the predetermined notions, there arises a conflict.”
  5. Lack of awareness: Some parents aren't aware that there are ways to get a child to comply other than nagging; so, they go with it. Aditi says, “A lot of parents subconsciously echo the behaviour they saw in their parents.” So, it can be said that, perhaps, most of us learnt to nag by watching our parents.
  6. Trapped in a vicious cycle: The habit of nagging leads to a downward spiral, much like other behavioural issues. Parents nag because they want their children to improve. However, after a point, children learn to tune parents out. As a result, neither the child shows progress nor nagging produce results. This makes parents step up their efforts, which translates to more nagging.

Why nagging doesn’t help

To understand this, you need to put yourself in your child's shoes and ask yourself, "How would I feel if my parent nagged me like I nag my child?" The answer you would probably come up with is, "I would feel as though I am being criticised, disrespected, and attacked." So, do you think nagging ever push your child in the right direction? Here are a few reasons why nagging doesn't bring about a positive change in the long run.

  1. It is a quick fix: Nagging is the easy way to get your child to do what you want him to. Sure, it might work in the short run, but gradually your child learns to tune you out and become resistant to what you say.
  2. It hurts self-esteem: Imagine your boss reminding you every few minutes to send him the presentation he asked for. How would that feel? No doubt, you will get irritated, but you will also end up questioning your own competence. “Does he not trust me with completing my task?” This is what happens every time you nag your child. According to Aditi, “Children exposed to nagging have severe self-esteem issues. They are always remain followers and never become leaders.”
  3. It interferes with the child’s independence: Children are naturally curious and exploratory. When you constantly nag and correct your child, you prevent him from making mistakes and learning from them, something that leads to greater independence.
  4. It is negative reinforcement: As the old saying goes, “you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.” We often overlook the power of a simple compliment. Positive reinforcement might take a little longer to work than the negative approach, but it is the one that produces results in the long run.
  5. Your child tunes you out: Sooner or later, your child will learn to tune you out or become passive-aggressive. Also, by the time your child becomes an adolescent, when healthy dialogue between the parent and child is a must, your nagging might have damaged the communication channels.

How to stop nagging and become a great motivator

Nagging is a learned behaviour; so, it can be unlearned as well. Engage in a little introspection about how your behaviour makes your child feel and what you can do about it. With some brainstorming, you can come up with many positive reinforcement techniques such as:

  1. Offer praise and reward instead of criticism and punishment: Whenever you compliment your child for a job well done, you demonstrate your confidence in his abilities and boost his self-belief. Both of these are crucial to change a behaviour into a habit.
  2. Use positive words: Instead of saying, “I knew you could never do this on time,” try saying, “I know it is a little late, but I’m sure you’ll finish this in no time.” Remember to look out for occasions when your child completes his tasks on time, and show your appreciation.
  3. Be specific with your appreciation: Be specific about how you appreciate your child. “You folded all the clothes so nicely!” works better than merely saying, “Good job!”
  4. Focus on the effort instead of the outcome: Be genuine with your praise. If she makes a painting, instead of voicing a compliment like, “How beautiful!”, tell her how you appreciate the colours she used and the details she included.
  5. Focus on engagement instead of judgement: Instead of saying something like, “I like how you finished your homework,” focus on the “doing” part – “You did all your homework so quickly!” This tells the child that he is being praised for the job done, not that he will be liked only if he does the job.
  6. Let it pass: In case your child recognises her mistake and sincerely takes ownership, let the situation pass without focusing on the mistake.
  7. Prepare a checklist: It is very important for you to pen down the changes you want to make in your parenting style. “Changing our own behaviour and coping mechanisms can sometimes be the toughest challenge. A checklist helps a great deal,” says Aditi.

Being the adult in the parent–child relationship, the onus to bring about a positive change lies with you. When nagging becomes a habit, breaking it would, no doubt, prove difficult. However, for the long-term well-being of your child and your relationship with her, it is the one habit you will be glad you changed.

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