"Dad! I'm home!" Melody announced her
arrival from school in the typical way. "Where are you?'
"In my office, Mel," Kevin answered. She
ambled in, knowing she'd get a hug, a smile, and an inquiry about her
day. After they exchanged greetings and Melody told him about her day
at school, she turned to leave the room. Kevin stopped her. "Mel?
Before you go out to play, would you mind picking up the dog doo in
the yard? You know you're suppose to do it in the morning before you leave."
Melody wrinkled her nose. "Sorry, Daddy. I
forgot. I'll do it."
A while later, Kevin finished his work. As he entered
the kitchen to start dinner, he spotted Melody out on the swing set.
He also spotted the various brown lumps decorating his lawn. Kevin
opened the window and called out to remind his daughter, "Melody!
Don't forget to pick up the dog doo!"
"OK!" she answered back cheerfully.
Soon after, Kevin called Melody for dinner. "What
do you say we eat outside? It's really nice out." As the two of
them toted their food out to the picnic table, Kevin had to sidestep
several doggie deposits. "Mel, this is really gross. I wish
you'd get it picked up."
"I'll do it right after dinner. Promise."
Melody looked contrite, but her Dad looked unconvinced.
Dad and daughter enjoyed a very pleasant dinner,
despite the canine ambiance, catching up on the day's news and
tossing around ideas for the upcoming weekend. As soon as they'd
cleared the picnic table and tidied up the kitchen, Melody gathered
up her homework and began studying diligently for her math test.
Kevin put his hand on her shoulder. "Honey I'm
really proud of you for being so conscientious about your homework
but are you ever going to pick up that dog doo?"
The Hidden Message
"If you can put up with the drone of my voice, go
ahead and feel free to ignore me. I don't plan to take any action
about this issue at all."
Think About It
An inescapable part of parenting is getting our
children to do many things they'd rather not, like picking up dog
doo, taking out trash, cleaning their rooms, and finishing homework.
When a parent continues to remind, ask, beg, pester, and yes, nag a
child about a task, but fails to follow through with any action, the
parent actually gives the child an interesting choice: either listen
to the nagging, or do the task. The child is free to decide that the
minimal pain of listening to a parent beg over and over is a small
price to pay for sidestepping the dreaded deed. And children often
do, sometimes without realizing it.
All of Kevin's comments to Melody are vague, and
without any follow through action on his part he may as well say,
"If you could manage to pick up the dog doo sometime before your
next birthday, that would be really nice"
Changes You Can Make
You can avoid falling into the nagging trap. Simply
follow this four-step process:
1)Think. Before you ask your child to do something,
think about exactly what you want, when you want it done, and how
your child should proceed. Be clear about your purpose.
2)Tell. Once you're certain about what you want, tell
your child. Be specific. Avoid any phrase that makes your request
sound optional. For example, "Melody, I would like the dog doo
picked up before we sit down to dinner at 6:00."
3)Warn. If the deadline looms and the requested task
has not been completed, let your child know that you are aware of
this, and remind her to get the job done. "Melody, dinner will
be ready in ten minutes. You are to pick up the dog doo before we eat."
4)Act. If the deadline has been reached and the task
has not been performed, you have a wide variety of options that all
come under the heading "Act."
A) You could nudge your child in the right direction
either with physical help (Put the shovel and bucket in her hand and
guide her out to the yard.)
B) You could use a when-then statement ("Melody,
I'll be eating my dinner in the kitchen. When you have picked up the
dog doo, then you may join me.")
C) You might follow through with a consequence
("Melody, since you didn't do as I asked, you'll be staying home
after dinner instead of going to your friend's house as you had planned.)
D) If this is a repeat offense, you might invite your
child to sit down for a heart-to-heart. Express your displeasure and
your expectation. Brainstorm a solution to the problem. For example,
you may decide that she needs to create a checklist and keep it
posted in a prominent place, such as on the front of the
refrigerator, so that she'll remember to do her chore each day. Then
hand her a piece of paper, a ruler and a box of markers and ask her
to create the checklist then and there.
E) You might choose to do it yourself. I know, I
know-you're thinking, "What!?!" But wait, you didn't let me
finish. Do it yourself and let her know which of your jobs she can do
for you. ("It's 6:00, and since you did not pick up the dog doo,
I took the time to do it for you. Which means that, in return, you'll
take the time to pull the weeds for me after dinner.")
Keep in mind that, if you already have demonstrated a
gift for 'gentle reminding, asking, nagging and hinting', it will
take some time to convince your child that you have changed. And
she'll only get the hint that you mean business if you're consistent
in employing the last step ("act"). If you repeat step 3
("warn"), twice, three times, a dozen times then you defeat
the process and default into your old Nag Mode.