Saturday, April 26, 2014

Nagging for the Future

My frequent view of my kids.
I hate being a nag. I really do. In fact, I often have to fight the tendency to clam up and keep things to myself because I'd rather be bothered than be the source of someone else's irritation. Except that’s called being a martyr and frankly, I’m a worse martyr than I am a nag. So speak up I must. 

I don't think life in our house is hard. We're simple and our routine is predictable.We wake, get ready, go to school, work and/or games, only to return home, eat again, bathe, sleep and repeat. It's a rhythm I've established in effort to foster as much harmony as seven people in 1,600 square feet can muster. It's a system and it works with little to no drama. Well, that is, as long as my kids cooperate.

What’s the deal with them? Why do they act surprised with how things run around here? For example, we do laundry on Sunday. Every Sunday I say, “Kids, take your laundry to the basement.
“Have you taken your laundry to the basement?
“Why haven’t you taken your laundry to the basement?"
and finally, “WHERE ARE YOUR CLOTHES?”

Perhaps they enjoy my nagging. Except how can they? If I annoy myself I can only assume I'm getting on their nerves too. So why haven't they figured out that if they would just carry their laundry down on Sunday, unprompted, that I would never have to get on them?

And then there’s the dishes. They go in the dishwasher. All the time. So why are there dishes in my sink?

Also, wipe the table off after you eat. Walk the dog. Brush your teeth. This isn't new stuff. It’s a part of their everyday. Yet my kids act surprised and annoyed when I remind them to do their jobs. Why is this happening?

I admit I sometimes take the easy road. I will load the dishwasher or go in search of dirty laundry. I take the dog out because quite frankly, it’s easier and avoids an argument. If I just do this stuff myself, no one rolls their eyes at me, no one challenges my authority and more importantly, I don’t loose my cool. 

Don't get me wrong, the stuff I expect my kids to do isn't excessive. Nor do I behave like a drill sergeant. It's all completely age appropriate. It's hardly hard work. Simply stated, my kids just don't want to do it. Which I can only surmise can be blamed on utter laziness. Or Minecraft.

But either way I'm learning to take a deep breath, fight the urge to do it myself and remember that what I’m asking of them is also good for them. Bracing myself, I face my kids and repeat, for the 364th time, could they please get up and go put their dishes in the dishwasher. 

Because it is my experience that, usually, the things we most don't want to do are the very things we most need to do. 

Listen, I would absolutely 100% rather have peace and do all of the above mentioned chores myself. In fact, everything inside of me wants to just take care of it. It would be so much easier. But that’s also exactly how I know that I need to push back against my urges and choose to do the right thing, which is probably the very core definition of parenting. 

I must choose everyday what is best over what is easiest. And that’s hard. It’s easier to be the nice mommy. It feels better too. Instead I must teach my kids responsibility even though they innately war against learning it. Which only confirms we’re on the right track.

It’s just dishes and laundry, I know. But that’s what it is today. Tomorrow it will be a book report and after that a job application and after that the rest of their life. If they can’t put their bowl in the dishwasher today how can I ever release them out into the great wide world? If my kids want any hope of having greater responsibility and influence in life, they must learn to be faithful with the little tasks at hand today.

That’s why I do my best not to nag. Instead I try and remember that nagging is actually counterproductive to the end goal. I also understand that their push back isn't personal, it's probably normal. I must continue to firmly and lovingly make space for my kids to learn, and then practice, responsibility. Which would be so much easier if they would just listen to me the first time! Why? Because I’m the mom and I said so! That’s why!

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