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Nagging your children really does not work

Last week, I got home from work to find that the light switch in my bedroom was broken.

I shouted as I sought to know and punish the culprit. As I nagged, it struck me that I had made the exact same speech a few days earlier, but in that case, it was the remote control which was broken.

I felt like Sisyphus and his rock; nag endlessly today, but by tomorrow the children will have forgotten and committed a similar mistake.

Like many parents, I spend a lot of time and energy teaching about the importance of being responsible, trying to maintain my most reasonable; I-am-the-responsible-and-sane-adult-here-so-listen-to-me tone.

Often, however my good intentions do not last as I beat them to death with my complaining and nagging brought on by frustration because sometimes it seems that I am talking to a brick wall.

The children still forget to make their beds or take out the trash; they continue to break things and keep bickering, until I resort to yells and threats.


As a child, I hated it when my mother nagged me to do anything. I did not dislike correction but I am yet to meet a person who likes to have their faults outlined for them, consistently.

If anything, nagging simply ensures that the people being nagged close themselves off and this almost certainly achieves nothing.

My oldest son had a habit of frantically looking for his school items in the mornings.

I had punished and preached against this — while paradoxically contributing to it by helping him look for them — until I got tired.

One time, I refused to help him, and the result was that he was left by the school bus and was subsequently punished for being late for school.

It was gratifying when that evening, he painstakingly polished his school shoes, ironed and arranged his uniform and even prepared his snacks.

All this was achieved without any drama, with the added bonus of inculcating similar behaviour in his younger sister.

Meal time

My youngest son seems incapable of sitting still while eating. I often find myself yelling at him to sit down because he makes such a mess with his constant movement.

My house help, who possesses a level of patience unknown to mere mortals, recently gave him a broom and dust pan after we were done eating, and explained that he had to clean up the mess he had made.

He did so immediately, without complaining. 

Of late, he tries to sit still until we have finished eating, and when he does spill anything, he cleans it up. 

From this I understood that children who realise that they have made a mistake and subsequently take ownership of it are less likely to repeat it. 

If I want my children to do something, it achieves nothing to keep harping at them. 

Rather, I should apply a lather, rinse, repeat system, until they finally get it.