Don’t Nag: Nurture To Develop Independence


I believe I can best explain this through an example. I recently had two families in my office, both struggling with twelve and thirteen year old children who appeared sad and withdrawn. In order to get them out of bed, parents were engaged in an hour long process of repeatedly nagging and pushing and prodding, ultimately leading to yelling and threatening the children. Often, parents were taking the children to school after they missed the bus.

Homework routines were even more depressing. Historically, these parents had reminded their children to get their homework done. When struggling, the parents would sit down, and spend hours with the children working through homework difficulties. Whenever the children would ask any question, the parent would sit down and then walk the child through finding an answer.

The mistake: Most parents believe that children will ?get it? at some point and start to do these things on their own.

The facts: Children don?t ?get it.? Parents must take a leadership role by modeling and demonstrating healthy behavior.

So if you want to create a dependent child who is ill prepared for the independence that comes with their teenage years, simply keep pushing and prodding, and keep nagging them to get their homework done and to get out of bed. As they get older, you?ll find that you are working harder and harder and they have become more and more difficult and dependent upon your efforts.

A good rule of thumb is this: If you find that you are working harder than they are for their success, then you are heading down the wrong path! Guaranteed!



You probably have a strong suspicion based upon the foregoing discussion. Yet there are five principles that you can apply to dramatically impact this process.

Principle 1: Have faith!

That?s right. The most important principle is to have faith in your child, and to have faith in the natural ability for children to learn from the consequences of their actions. Children are not stupid, and yet we often treat them that way, by repeatedly making the same request over and over.

If you have to repeat your request five and ten times, the problem is not a learning problem, the problem is a parenting problem. Children are simply not stupid.

Teaching kids that they need us to get through daily activities is like teaching them that they are handicapped in some learn to believe that they can?t do it on their own. Regardless of how many times you say it, they will not grow to believe you allow them to grow more dependent upon you as a parent.

So the first step is to have faith in your child?s ability to learn, and to allow them to have the opportunity to learn key life lessons on their own.

Principle 2: Your words rarely teach. Consequences teach.

Let?s think about this in a very simple way. If your words were effective at teaching children to get out of bed, then you wouldn?t have to yell and scream. You wouldn?t have to ask ten times. You wouldn?t have to end up doing this over and over.

Plan and simple: Your words won?t teach until the consequences reach their world.

And yet there?s an important caveat to remember here. With the right use of choices and consequences, your words begin to play a HUGE role in teaching. It?s just simply that you can?t teach a child to hit a baseball without getting on the field and learning from their mistakes. With that learning however, then the proper coaching can make a tremendous difference. Make sense??

So how do you use this principle? You use this principle by making certain that there is some form of consequence that is present with your request.

This discussion needs more detail, and yet the key concept here is simple and straightforward. Let the consequences teach, not your words.

Principle 3: Work then play! Everyday!

For those of you who read the homework newsletter series, I reviewed this concept in detail. The basic notion is this. Set your child?s world up in a manner that they must first get their work done (i.e., homework and responsibilities) and then they can play (i.e., have TV, video, computer, telephone, access to friends, soccer practice, movies, games with Mom and Dad, etc.).

In other words, simply set up a world where your child is not allowed to have access to all of the wonderful goodies you provide for them, until their ?work? is completed. Do this everyday, including Saturday and Sunday mornings. Just make it a fact of life. We do our work, and then we play.

Why is this so important? It?s important for two reasons. First, it establishes a structure that allows the play activities to be an immediate consequence and reward for getting one?s work done. It is a constant pull that tugs at children in order to get them into their work activities. This is a substitute for you trying to push, prod, nag, and force them into these activities.

Secondly, this is simply a fundamental habit of successful students and successful adults. Individuals who do well in life do their work first, and they reward themselves with play activities.

And implementing this work then play approach, I find that it is the most simple, yet powerful strategy that you can implement to nurture independence with your children. Kids learn to embrace their responsibilities quickly and easily, this rapidly becomes a habit.

Principle 4: Ignore anything you don?t want to nurture!

Imagine this. You?ve set up your world so that the kids understand that they must do their work, and then they can play. They come home from school, and they begin to waste time. As long as the playroom is locked, the computer and video are not accessible, they cannot call their friends, and they are not going to soccer practice, their world becomes pretty boring. Let them be bored. Let them complain. Let them talk about how unfair it is. Let them drone on and on, until they decide that it?s simply smart to get their work done.

As soon as they begin to do their work, go to principle 5!

Principle 5: Catch them while they?re doing what you want!

Once again, I am reiterating a simple concept. When your children are starting to get out of bed, notice them. When they are pulling on their socks, say good morning. When they start to pick up their pencil to do their homework, ask them if they want some juice. As they are working on their math, compliment them on their hard work.

Cleaning off the table, notice them. Answering the phone respectfully, notice them. Playing cooperatively with their sibling, REALLY notice them.

OBSESS on noticing them when they are doing what you want!

This is very simple stuff! Just engage them while they?re doing what it is that you want them to do. Do this consistently and repeatedly, just as if you were starting a new lawn. After you seed a lawn, you have to give it lots of water and lots of attention for several weeks. As the lawn begins to grow, you can begin to cut back on the water. As the lawn matures, you only need to water periodically. Think of growing and nurturing healthy behaviors in the same fashion.

Let?s start from the top!

Of course you have faith. This is faith in your child?s ability to learn, and faith in their ability to handle the pain that comes from the consequences of failure. It is also faith in their ability to learn from the consequences that come with success.

Next, stop pushing. Stop prodding. Stop encouraging. Stop nagging. Stop herding. Just plain stop.

Next, set up a structure that automatically encourages children to begin to take care of their responsibilities. Make work, then play, the rule everyday. With this ?rule? in place, there is very little need to engage in controlling types of behaviors.

Make a commitment to ignore the stuff you want to see less of. Be patient, as it takes a few weeks to starve a lousy behavior!

Finally, make sure that you catch them when they begin to engage in responsible behavior. Simply notice it. Touch them, smile, comment about the weather, and comment on their engage them in any fashion.

Following this simply process will turn things around in ways that will surprise and delight you.

Oh, and remember the families that I discussed initially? Both of these sets of parents were seeking intervention for their children. Yet, when parents pulled back, stopped pushing and prodding, and allowed their kids to learn from their mistakes, guess what happened!

Things changed. Their kids began to get out of bed on their own, and to get themselves ready for school. Yea, they missed the bus a couple of times. But they began to learn.

And they began to smile, when they finished their homework. They began to take ownership for their studies. When they actually completed homework, and they did it on their own, and they owned every bit of their homework. If they got a B, it was their B. If they got an F, it was their F. They were able to own it.

And what happens when this unfolds is that children and adolescents get happier…their life appears lighter, and they are more engaging.

Both sets of parents were surprised when they did not need to bring their adolescents in for therapy, but rather found that their life was easier, their kids were more responsible, and everyone was happier.

While this isn?t always the case, the burden of being a dependent child is often depressing to the developing adolescent.

I?m often amazed by our tendency to want to make the rules and requirements of life more complex than they really are. The more complex we make the rules, the more difficult it is to live by the rules, and the more often we fail.

With this simple set of guidelines, you may be amazed at how much easier and more comfortable life can become at home.

As with everything I offer in these newsletters, I encourage you to take a ?let?s try it and see? approach. In other words, you don?t have to trust me. Simply put this in place for eight weeks, and then decided for yourself.

Sister In Law
Sister In Law