Job performance reviews are in around here and apparently I nag too much. I nag about homework. I nag about picked up bedrooms. I nag about dishes in the sink. I nag about food left in rooms. I nag about study habits. It’s apparently out of control, at least according to my children. Since they are the ones that have offered this constructive criticism and the very ones I seek to train up in the way they should go so that when they are old they will not depart from it, I have been doing some soul searching.
I started my introspection by defining “nag.” Google dictionary defines nag (verb): to annoy or irritate a person with persistent fault-finding or continuous urging. My daughter says my nagging lacks perspective because I’m not putting her behavior in the context of what is actually important for a thirteen year old girl. She says I should look at all the bad decisions other kids make and then reverse engineer my way to gratitude that her and her small time problems are the only thing I have to worry about. This has faulty logic all over it, but there is a nugget of truth in there- nagging quenches gratitude. My son says my nagging makes him feel “inferior.” He hates the implication that he is unable to perform in the care of himself without my vocal interference.
The next thing I thought about were the emotions I felt before I started to nag. Sometimes it is frustration. I become frustrated when I feel like I am the only person invested in the care of our home. Other times it is motivated by fear and insecurity, whether that be on their behalf or my own. Still other times, I don’t have faith that my kids will make smart choices regarding time management. And do they even understand good housekeeping? We live in the South. Cockroaches are real. And finally, sometimes I’m just tired and hangry. I can nag when what I really need are potato chips and a nap.
This past weekend, I watched my husband manage my son so perfectly without any nagging. He empowered him with time management, accountability to tasks, and good faith that he was capable of all of it. Stephen would like nothing more than to spend his entire Sunday playing video games. However, he had some tasks he needed to do around the house as well his homework. Paul said to him, “I understand you have homework, yes? You also need to clean your gun (Stephen shoots sporting clays competitively). At around 5 pm we’re going to replace the headlights on the Jeep. So this day can look however you want it to look, but those are all the things that need to get done.” Full transparency- Stephen was less than thrilled about some of these tasks, but he also realized, I will still have time to do the things I like to do, if I manage my time effectively. And he did. He has developed maturity that I had not realized because I default to nagging him about each task he needs to complete.
Lindsey is a different story. I don’t know if she would have responded the same way as Stephen, but she’s also two years younger. Her exception to my nagging may have a different root cause. She told me that I’m not seeing the good she IS doing. She has told me numerous times, “I would never NOT do my homework.” And as I sit here and think about it, that’s absolutely true. She has always done her work. I can show my gratefulness for her and my trust in her academic diligence, by leaving her alone to handle it. We still need to work on her housekeeping and cleanliness habits, but maybe she’s correct that I’m focused on things that don’t matter as much in the big picture right now.
I’m not sure if I will ever fully defeat the nagging monster inside me, at least as long as the kids live here and my eyes are trained on them daily. The things that motivate me to nag still remain. I want them to accomplish everything in life they dream of doing. I want them to understand how to manage time. I want them to have clean bedrooms so they know how to take care of their living space and so we don’t get insect infestations. I want to eat high carbohydrate snacks that I know I shouldn’t eat.
So, I will probably still speak out of these emotions.
I’m probably still going to nag.
But hopefully, maybe, a little less.