Kids: avoid being ‘nagged’ by a parent.

I’m not without a handkerchief. When I was in primary school I would leave home each morning with four of them. By lunchtime they would be soggy. I would go home to replace them with another four, and have lunch with my mum.

As I got ready for school each morning my mother would ask, ‘Mark, have you got your handkerchiefs?’

I would say irritably, ‘Yes, Mum.’ She couldn’t understand that it was impossible for me to forget them. I would have felt naked without them. I would not have been able to walk even to the end of the block without realising I didn’t have my handkerchiefs.

Perhaps in my early years there had been a day in which I had forgotten them, and had come home at lunch time distressed. And, from then on, my mother remembered my distress and vowed to never again let me unnecessarily suffer.

Whatever the reason, she always reminded me.

I can’t remember how strongly I felt about her reminders in primary school, but I do remember that in high school I felt frustration. I felt smothered.

‘Yes, Mum! Please Mum! Please don’t remind me. I don’t need reminding!’

It was a plead from a boy trying to grow up.

It made no difference. Every school-day morning . . .

As I write these words, feelings of exasperation and despair rise within me. A powerlessness deadens me. It’s as though she reminded me just seconds ago.

I am reminded of why I moved to Sydney, and why I stayed here.

It’s disappointing to know that even today, decades later, I am still not over it. It’s still raw. Being nagged is one of my ‘buttons’.

My mother reminded me because she loved me, and cared for me. She didn’t want to suffer the thought of me suffering at school without a handkerchief. But I wanted so much to have the freedom of finding my own way in life. With her reminders I felt chained to childhood. Already weakened by chronic hay fever, eczema and regular bouts of asthma, I didn’t want to be kept weak. I wanted to grow.

One day I came up with a response I thought was brilliant. I said to her, ‘Mum, I hate it when you remind me. I would rather forget my handkerchiefs and suffer the consequences, than be reminded to take them with me.’

I thought that line made sense. I though it would do the trick. It didn’t. I tried that line for weeks. Nothing changed, except my frustration continued to grow.

In my last year of high school I came up with another strategy. One that worked. Here is what I did:

‘Mum, let’s make a deal. From now on, every morning, you have permission to remind me. However, you can only remind me as I am walking out the door. How about that? Shall we make the agreement?’

Mum was surprised, but she readily agreed. After all, she had been given permission to remind me. I couldn’t complain when she did! Mum would have been very pleased.

I was pleased, too. I was thinking, ‘This could work!’

When I was getting ready for school the next day Mum asked me, ‘Mark, have you got your handkerchiefs?’

I smiled at her. ‘Remember the deal, Mum? You can ask me just before I walk out the door. I’m not yet ready to leave.’

‘Oh, yes, that’s right,’ she replied, a touch disconcerted.

A few minutes later I was ready to leave. I looked at her. ‘I’m ready to go. Is there something you want to remind me about, Mum?’

She laughed with relief. ‘Yes, have you got your handkerchiefs, Mark?’

I smiled. I smiled inside, too. I knew this was going to work. ‘Yes, thanks Mum,’ I replied, ‘I have my handkerchiefs.’ And then I left.

The next morning the same thing happened. Before I was ready to leave: ‘Mark, have you got your handkerchiefs?’

‘Remember the deal, Mum?’ I smiled. ‘I am not yet ready to leave. But just before I leave you can remind me.’

‘Oh, yes.’

I could tell she thought the deal was silly, but she was happy to play along. After all, she had been given permission to remind me, and on the previous day when she had reminded me, as per the agreement, I had taken it with good grace. I had even thanked her for it! Even better, I had even reminded her to remind me! No wonder she was happy to play along.

When I was ready to leave a few minutes later I stood at the door and looked back with a raised eyebrow and a big smile. She again smiled with relief and asked me, ‘Mark, have you got your handkerchiefs?’

I gave her one big smile and said to her, ‘Yes, thanks Mum, I have.’

I could see in her eyes that she still thought the deal was silly, but this time, I could see that she thought it was silly that she was reminding me. She could see her reminder was unnecessary. After all, I was asking for her reminder!

On the third morning, my mother didn’t remind me while I was getting ready. When I was about to leave I turned to her and asked her with a smile, ‘Mum, do you have a reminder for me?’
 (A smile is a big part of the strategy.)

Mum nodded, but had trouble saying the words. I could see she felt silly. I think she tried to say the words defiantly. ‘Mark, have you got your handkerchiefs?’

‘Yes, thanks Mum, I have.’ And with another smile I left.

On the fourth day I stood at the door and waited expectantly. I saw her heart wasn’t in it. I spared her. I smiled warmly and said, ‘Goodbye Mum.’

She smiled and said ‘Goodbye, Mark.’

I left.

Mum never asked me again.

Kids, if a parent habitually reminds you to do something, and it’s a hassle for you, make the same deal. Give your parent permission to remind you at the last possible moment. Say to your parent, ‘It’s okay to ask me that, but how about reminding me once only, just before it’s too late to do it? In return, I will do it immediately and without complaint. Okay? Deal?’

You are in charge, because you now have control over being reminded, and the parent is in charge because they can remind you without having their head bitten off by you, because you have given them permission to remind you. You can do the task at any time up until the last possible moment, without being nagged, and your parent doesn’t have to waste their time constantly reminding you. Everybody wins. Provided you do two simple things. Ready?

(1) If it comes to the last possible moment and you have not yet done the task, and your parent then reminds you to do it (as agreed), you must do it. Immediately. No argument. No hesitation. No frowns. No whinging. No excuses. No nothing. If you are about to be late for school, or work, or if you are so tired you can’t move, or you are choking to death on a walnut, or whatever . . . bad luck! Do the task immediately and without a trace of displeasure.

If you don’t, you have blown your chance for the future, and you cannot complain about being nagged from now on. Your parent has free rein.

You must keep your end of the bargain. That’s taking responsibility. That’s the price you have to pay for not getting nagged.

(2) Here is the second simple thing: if the parent forgets to remind you at the last possible moment, remind them to remind you. This is crucial. When it comes to the last possible moment to do the task say, ‘Do you have something you wish to remind me about?’  Your parent will see the funny side of the situation but will be grateful. They can then remind you, and you can then thank them and do the task. It’s important to remind your parent when it comes to the last possible moment (and do the task) because it helps you remind yourself, and it builds trust between you. If the parent forgets to remind you at the last possible moment and you slink off without doing the task, the trust is gone and all deals are off.
 If you do the task before the last possible moment, then you don’t need to remind your parent before you do it. You can just hope your parent notices and thanks you.

This strategy works because:
1.  your parent gets to remind you without you getting narky, and
2. your parent only has to remind you once, and
3. your parent still feels they are in control, and
4. your parent comes to realise you don’t need to be nagged, that you are taking responsibility. And,
5. you get to do the chore in your own time without being nagged. (The reminder isn’t a nag, it’s part of the deal. Besides, do the task before the last possible moment and you won’t even get the reminder.)

It’s a big win for both of you. And funnily enough, when your parent realises that you have control of the situation, they will eventually stop feeling the need to remind you. When my mother realised that I had control of the situation – to the point where I was even reminding her! – she no longer felt the need to remind me. She knew I was in control. Her fear that I would forget my handkerchiefs left her.

It’s a matter of giving both parties a feeling of control.

But all deals are off if:
▪ your parent forgets to remind you, and you don’t do the task, or
▪ your parent reminds you at the last possible moment, and you complain and/or don’t immediately do the task.

This technique works because of the respect flying about. Your parents give you respect by only asking you once, and you give your parent respect by not forcing them to nag you.

In summary:

1. Make the deal. ‘Mum. Dad, ask me only once, just before it’s too late. In return I’ll do it immediately and without complaint.’
2. When it comes to the last possible moment, and your parent reminds you, do the task immediately and without complaint. (Without even expressing a dirty look.)
3. When it comes to the last possible moment and your parent hasn’t reminded you, remind your parent to remind you and then do the task. (That shows you are taking the deal seriously.) Let your parent remind you, then do the task.

Q. ‘What if the parents break the deal? What if they keep reminding me before the last possible moment?’

They will break the deal. They will forget. That doesn’t matter. All you have to do is remind them: ‘Remember the deal? You have agreed to remind me only at the last possible moment. If you and I both stick to the deal it will work.’

If you want the nagging to stop it is important that you stick to the deal. Do the task, or at the last moment remind them to remind you, and then do the task without complaint or hesitation.

That’s your promise. Stick to it. When you and your parent have the hang of it, you won’t be nagged again. Focus on your part in the deal, not theirs.

Example:
Mum: ‘Don’t forget to wash the dishes before you go to bed.’

You: ‘I wish you would not keep reminding me. I’m not a child.’ Incorrect. Don’t focus on Mum’s behaviour; instead, tell her how you feel and focus on what needs to happen. Try:
You: ‘I feel nagged and hurt by your reminder. Please don’t keep reminding me. ’
The next night:
Mum: ‘Don’t forget to wash the dishes before you go to bed.’

You: ‘I feel nagged and hurt when you remind me. I promise I’ll do it.’

Mum: ‘I will be angry if you don’t.’

You: ‘I understand that you will be angry, but please don’t keep reminding me.’
It’s all good stuff, but it’s not working, is it? Let’s try the plan.
The next night:

Mum: ‘Don’t forget to wash the dishes before you go to bed.’

You: ‘Mum, can we make a deal? It’s okay to ask me that, but how about asking me fifteen minutes before bed time, and not before? If I haven’t started washing the dishes by 8pm you are welcome to remind me, and I won’t complain. I will happily wash the dishes immediately. No fuss, no bother. Do we have a deal?’

Mum: ‘Okay.’

At 7pm:
Mum: ‘Don’t forget to wash the dishes before you go to bed.’

You: ‘Remember our deal? If I haven’t started washing the dishes by 8pm you are welcome to remind me and I will do them happily, immediately, and without complaint. But don’t remind me before then, okay? Don’t break the deal we have.’

Mum: ‘Okay.
‘You: ‘I’ll even set the timer for 8pm, to remind you, if you like. I’m looking forward to your reminder.’
If you wash the dishes at 7.30pm, nothing need be said.
If it’s 8pm, remind your parent to remind you. And then do it.
You: ‘Hey, Mum, it’s 8pm. Is there something I need to do before I go to bed?’

Mum sees the weirdness of the situation, but asks: ‘Are you going to do the dishes before you go to bed?’

You: ‘Immediately. Thank you for the reminder.’ Then immediately wash the dishes.

For any task, in the first few days your parent will forget about the deal and remind you. That’s to be expected. Calmly remind your parent of the deal.

The beauty of this method is that everyone is happy. The parent is pleased because they still get to remind you without you becoming cranky. You are pleased because you now have control over the matter. And funnily enough, after a while, your parent will stop feeling the need to remind you. When your parent sees that you have control of the situation, and that it’s working, they will begin to relax.

Example 2:
Dad: ‘Don’t forget to put the bin out.’

You: ‘How about a deal? If I haven’t put the bin out before 8.30pm, remind me and I’ll do it immediately, without hesitation and without complaint. Okay?’

If he agrees, you have plenty of time to do it voluntarily without being reminded. If Dad asks you before 8.30pm, politely remind him of the deal and tell him you look forward to his reminder at 8.30pm.
If Dad does keep to the deal (by reminding you as you are about to go to bed), keep your promise and take the bin out immediately. No hesitation. No sign of complaint. No rolling of the eyes.
 If you do the chore long before you go to bed, no one needs to say anything.
 If you keep your end of the bargain, your parents will soon stop nagging you and ask you only the once. That’s good for them and it’s good for you.

Q. ‘Sometimes I just forget to do a chore.’

Set a timer. Place a can of baked beans (or something equally weird) on your bedroom floor, or on your pillow. When you are about to go to bed you will see it, and be reminded to do the task.
 Devise your own way of reminding yourself. Be creative.



Q. ‘Mark, what if I promise to mow the lawn by Saturday, but on Friday and Saturday it rains, or I become sick?’

If the deal was to mow the lawn on Saturday, it’s not your fault. If the deal was to mow the lawn by Saturday, you have broken the deal. You should have taken those possibilities into your calculations. Your parent has every right to nag you in future.

Q. ‘If it comes to the last possible moment, why do I remind my parents to remind me? Why don’t I just do the job?’
For the strategy to work, your parent must know that they can remind you at some stage. They must have that sense of control. When you remind them to remind you, they come to realise that they can trust you, that you mean business, that you are taking the agreement seriously.
Plus, having that responsibility (to remind them) helps you remember to do the task.
Further, they get into the habit of reminding you at the right time, and they gain some control over their nagging habit.
Of course, if you do the task long before the last possible moment, no reminders are needed. That’s the best option of all.

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