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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Nag No More!


image from thesoulfulparent.com
 As a parent I often feel like I am talking constantly. I give instructions, I offer advice, I dish out warnings, I referee and remind my kids again and again (and again) what they need to do and the truth is its exhausting.

And I can't help but wonder; if I'm tired of hearing me - how exhausted are my children? I mean we all do the same thing when we are tired of something; we ignore it. Or in my case tune me out. I can't necessarily blame them. I do gab, nag, yell (no! I don't yell, do I?) and harp quite a bit.

But what's a mom to do? I got kids. I got stuff to do. They got stuff to do and they won't do their stuff without my reminding them.

Or will they?

I don't know if you're like me but I find it very easy to get so caught up in all the doing of parenthood that I rarely, if ever, allow myself to enjoy the being aspect of it.
Allow me to explain.

Parenting requires a lot. A lot of energy. A lot of patience. A lot of, well, everything. Recently I wasn't keeping up with the demands of the kids and their schedules and the housework all that well so I threw up the white flag. It was one of those days where I was literally exhausted and at the end of my rope. I knew I had two decisions, go crazy or mentally walk away from it all. Walk away from the laundry, the dishes, the endless piles of papers and unmade beds. I could choose to vent at all the undone tasks my children knowingly ignored or exhale deeply and just let it be. Recognizing I literally didn't even have the energy to begin a nag session I choose to let it all be.

I don't know if it was the shock that caused my children to behave or perhaps, and maybe more likely, they were so overwhelmed with relief that I wasn't all over their backs that they couldn’t help but respond accordingly. Their transformation was so stunning that I walked out the front door to look at the number on my mailbox. I was sure I had come home to the wrong house.

I didn't have to ask them to turn down the volume on the TV. I didn't remind them to put the milk away or the cereal box back in the pantry. They did it. They fed the dog. The house wasn't destroyed. They weren't bickering. It was like .... a miracle.

Which got me thinking, are our children more capable than we give them credit for? Is it possible as responsible, hardworking parents we've effectively instilled in them capability? Have we failed to recognize our children have a reservoir of responsibility just waiting to be tapped into?

Probably. You see, in all my preoccupied harping I never even gave my kids a chance to show me what they are made of. If I teach them to clear the table after themselves but always remind them to do so how can they ever remember to do it on their own? If I'm always right there to remind them to do their homework how will they ever find the internal motivation to complete assignments on their own? I mean I have no interest in holding their hand any longer than I have to. I want them to fly out of the nest and soar someday.

This is not to say my job is complete and I'll never give my children instruction again. Oh contraire! I am, after all, forever and always a mother! However, I have learned a valuable lesson. Henceforth I will be slower to speak and give my children a chance to do what they know to do.

Why? Well, mostly because the world didn’t stop turning if our beds went unmade. So what if the table wasn't instantly cleared? Life kept moving forward. Turns out crumbs on the counter aren't the most tragic thing that can happen in a day!

In fact, a bit of relief settled in over our home. I dare say with one fell swoop of silence on my behalf I unknowingly invited in a sense of happiness. Yep! When I stopped being a nag I was much more pleasant to be around. And when I'm more pleasant my kids felt happier. And happy kids make for a happy mommy. And a happy mommy makes a happy home.

Sure things were a little messy but the atmosphere of our home was so much more pleasant. And I'll leave the crumbs on the table any day if that's the big payoff.

Ok that's not true, I won't. I really like a clean table but I learned that when I lightened up my kids were not only able to rise to the occasion but they did it with such an improved attitude that I'm seriously thinking about nagging less much more often. I think our kids are probably much more capable than we give them credit for. Let's give them a chance to show us what they're made of. Why? Because I'm the mom and I said so! That's why!


This article appears in the 12/13/11 edition of The Daily Review Atlas as a part of a Practical Parenting series. Stephanie is a Parent Educator for the Monmouth-Roseville School District and a mother to 5 children including a set of twins. She can be reached at ssikorski@mr238.org



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