by Lorrie Young
As mothers, there are many ways in which we hope our children will remember us after they are grown and gone. Perhaps they’ll recall us being the best neighborhood mom because we passed out popsicles to their friends and had Band-Aids for everyone’s boo-boos. Maybe they’ll remember the cold snowy mornings when they snuggled with us in bed, or the cinnamon rolls we made on Saturday mornings. Possibly, they’ll reminisce about the great birthday parties we threw, or the sweet notes that filled their lunchboxes. Our children might recollect our love of literature and learning, or the forts we made and the fun we had. One day they might tell their children how our home was a warm and safe haven during tough times.
As varied and unique mothers, we will all leave different legacies behind us one day. However, I’d wager that we all want to be remembered and cherished by our children for the way we loved them fully and gave all that we had to the best of our abilities. We hope that whatever mistakes we’ve made will be covered with a big dose of grace, right?
But not one of us would want the legacy of being considered a Nag.
Yet, in all honesty, sometimes that’s what I feel I am – a nag of the worst kind. There are days when I annoy myself!
“Don’t forget to clean your room, return your books and hang up your bath towel.”
“Don’t eat too much junk food!”
“Quit fighting with your brother, and close your mouth when you chew!”
“Why can’t you pick up the French fries on the floor of the mini-van instead of stepping on them?”
“Did you notice the basket of clothes in the middle of the steps that you almost killed yourself to avoid?”
“How much TV have you watched today? Have you started writing the paper that was due yesterday?”
“I noticed you didn’t say thank you when you opened that gift!”
Is it just me, or does it seem sometimes that all we mothers do is nag our children? We don’t necessarily mean to, but then again, if we didn’t help them grow in responsibility, character, and behavior, then who would? Furthermore, is it really nagging or is it training? Where is the fine line between the two, and how do we know if we have crossed it? I frequently find myself asking that question—not wanting to let everything go, but not wanting to make a big deal out of everything either.
I’ve found this general rule of thumb: Nagging is for our good, to get what we want…
Training is for their good, letting them know we are on their side, with a desire to help them grow.
While they may sound the same at times, the defining line between training and nagging lies in our heart motivation. Here are some pointers as we walk that fine line.
Two or three: Chances are there are dozens of things we could harp on in a day, but to avoid nagging, pick just two or three per child at a time, such as responsibility with chores and respect toward siblings. Sit down with each child and explain that these are the things to work on this month. Identify offenses in these areas along with the measured consequences for crossing the line. This doesn’t mean you will ignore everything else, but that other things will be dealt with at a later time.
Isolate: This is admittedly the most difficult for me. Multiple children sharing close quarters makes it difficult to isolate a child in order to discipline him in private. Having a heart-to-heart discussion pays dividends, though. I, too, know how different it is when a friend gently and privately brings an offense to my attention rather than sharing it in front of others. Instead of embarrassment leading to defensive anger, my heart is primed for repentance and growth. How much more so for our children?
Meaningful and measurable goals: Our oldest was having issues leaving his water bottle, jacket, and ball at gym class and soccer practice. Often, we would be half-way home when he would remember that he had left his belongings. It was becoming a bad habit, so for a few weeks we disciplined EVERY SINGLE INCIDENT. The most meaningful consequence was to take away the thing he loved most, which was nicely tied to the area that needed addressed. He had to sit on the sidelines during gym class, practices, or games for every item left behind. I admit this was painful to carry out and at first seemed futile. But after about six weeks, he finally figured out if he was going to play, he needed to behave differently. He began to put steps in place to help him remember to take the time to think through what he brought and ensure it all came home with him. I am proud to say he is 95% better than he was a few months ago!
Encouragement: Celebrate the wins. Notice when your child improves, even in the slightest, on a goal you set together. Leave him a note, take her for ice cream, and publicly praise them when they can hear you (even if it’s just at the dinner table).
Notice that the acronym spells TIME. Learning to become a trainer of our kids is more difficult than being a NAG. It takes TIME to be consistent and intentional. But it pays off. One day our kids just might thank us for taking the time to help them become better citizens, students, spouses, siblings, and friends. And what a legacy that will be!
Lorrie Young is a former nurse turned homeschooling mom of three busy kids! She adamantly declares that the two best decisions she has ever made were accepting the Lord as her Savior and marrying her best friend and husband Ben. She is passionate about writing, family, flowers and Jesus. She primarily spends her time teaching and managing the home, but in her spare moments you might find her scouring garage sales for good deals, reading a book on the porch, or enjoying a long walk with a friend. She is a volunteer leader at her local co-op, and blogs about her life at lifeandlessonslearned.blogspot.com.