How to stop nagging your kids

After a case of reader’s block (where you can’t find anything you want to read) I picked Difficult Conversations by Anne Dickson off the shelf in our living room at random. Published in 2004, it has been sitting there for ten years with our uni books which had at least had the pleasure of having their back covers read and whole essays based on them. Without even this dubious use, Difficult Conversations joined me on the train, much to the mirth of my loved ones who find my indulgence in self-help books worrying.

In her book, Anne Dickson sets out difficult conversations and how to handle them better. As the 8.08 trundled towards Lewisham I read through the ‘handling authority at work’ and ‘equality in love’ sections, paying scant attention, when we got to the example of a mother who could not stop nagging her son.

She would nag. Nothing would change. Without the author spelling it out, it was a case of an idiot repeating the same action again and again despite no improvement, a bit like history. Her son’s room was a pit of moldy plates and half eaten chicken wings. The towels and unwashed laundry spreading like the shadow of a Tsunami across her son’s bedroom floor towards the door. Nothing this nagging mother said changed the boy’s attitude to house work. And worse, he had stopped standing in the same space every time she launched into her monologue, dodging off to the toilet just as the words “For the love of God, look at this room” fell from her mouth.

The solution in the book, was for the mother to instead say something like this: “I’m not going to nag you about your room today. Instead, I want us to set a time later this evening before you go out to discuss how you can help me more in the house – given that I’m a working Mum.” “OK,” says the boy. Yeah right, thought I. Like it’s going to be that easy.

But at least she stopped nagging And isn’t nagging just as messy and unproductive as dropping KFC boxes and towels on a bedroom floor? If you have had the same problem, see if Anne Dickson’s advice can help and let me know.

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