Dear Mama Drama:
I am so tired of nagging my kids to do what they’re already supposed to do. How can I motivate them without constantly nagging? Sticker rewards worked when they were younger but now that they’re getting older, nothing is working.
Dear Nagged Out:
When our children are younger we provide lots of structure and supervision for their daily routines. As they get older and develop more independent skills, we tend to relax these and are often surprised to find ourselves nagging constantly.
Nagging tends to undermine all that independence we worked so hard for our children to gain. It tells them we don’t really think they can do it and removes any motivation to remember on their own since they know we’ll remind them anyway. It also creates barriers in our relationships at a time when we really want to be enjoying our kids.
1. We can offer structure for our older children and instill confidence in them by providing clear expectations, consequences, and rewards.
2. Make a checklist of tasks you expect your children to do that you’d like to stop nagging them about. Discuss this with them, clarifying what you mean by each task (clean your room to you may be much different than to your children), and negotiate time frames in which they need to be completed. The key word here is negotiate. Be flexible about when you’d like things done (right now!) and what may be a reasonable compromise.
3. There should also be negotiated consequences for not completing their tasks. For example if the checklist isn’t completed on time, they don’t get their daily computer time. However, they still need to complete their tasks for the day.
An easy way to keep track of what has been done is to post the tasks on a white board and have your children check the task off when it is completed. A little quality control option is to require a second check by you or another adult at home to verify it was done. This also gives you the opportunity to recognize their effort ~ make sure you don’t expect perfection. You can fade to intermittent checking after it’s clear that everyone understands the expectations, but keep up the positive recognition.
4. Set a goal for completing the checklist with a limited amount of reminders. (Be reasonable, if you are asking them five times for each task now, expecting no reminders wouldn’t be fair. Over time you can reduce the number of reminders allowed. ) Have them earn a point for each task completed within the guidelines. You can have each child earn their own points as well as having them work together to earn points for a larger reward. (Be creative here by making a game board or using a sports metaphor to document the points they’ve earned.) You can also give bonus points for tasks done early, without fussing, and with no reminders.
5. The next step is motivation. Even though your kids may not want stickers anymore, there are many other things they’ll be willing to work for such as computer or video game time, staying up late on the weekend, family movie night where they pick the movie, their favorite dinner, a special dessert, an itunes card, spending money, etc.
6. Have a discussion and set goals for what they want to earn, I’m sure they’ll think of more things than I can. Make sure most of what they work for doesn’t cost anything and work to have some things that involve the whole family. You can split things into daily rewards and rewards they can earn over time. Put all the ideas in a bag or box and when they reach their goal for points earned, they can pull one out and that’s the reward.
7. The key to making any of this work is self-discipline, for you. You have to resist the urge to nag, follow through with consequences and rewards, and recognize their efforts every step of the way. You also have to work on not getting angry if they don’t meet their goal or finish their tasks.
Be gentle with yourself and your kids, you’ll all make mistakes, as you work together to build trust and create a more harmonious home life.