So the only thing worse than nagging is not nagging?
No, not quite. P. Carol Jones, author of “Toward College Success: Is Your Teenager Ready, Willing, and Able?,” says that one down side of nagging is that it teaches kids “that mom and dad are going to be there to always remind them what they have to do, and when they leave home they are not going to have the skills they need to stay organized and manage their time.”
Many of nagging’s negative consequences kick in way before college, however.
Pestering a kid to do her homework can actually decrease a child’s motivation, warned Erica Curtis, an instructor in Loyola Marymount University’s department of marriage and family therapy. “There are very few, if any, situations where nagging yields the results you are looking for, whether it is doing homework, cleaning up, or doing chores.”
Parents often nag because they think “laziness” is the problem, she added. “And they think that therefore the answer is simply to nag the child. But both this explanation and the solution are too simplistic and miss the real significant, and specific factors that can turn the situation around.”
But like Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner, some parent-child pairs have been battling so long it’s hard to start fresh. But education specialists say it can be done, and they suggest parents try one or all of the following: Find out what’s preventing the child from doing his homework; create a homework schedule and give the child structure; make sure the child has the proper space and materials to do the work; enlist the teacher as a helper; hire a “homework helper” if need be; and use a timer to let the child know when the homework period is over, thereby taking “cop” duties away from you.
But all of that seems easier said than done. In Franklin, Paige Duncan says she becomes a nag “immediately,” which in turn makes her 13-year-old get defensive.
“I have an aunt who taught in the Boston Public Schools for 38 years,” said Duncan, a part-time town planner in Wrentham. “She comes to my house every Wednesday and the boys [Zach and a younger brother] sit down for her and do homework so nicely. Every other day of the week I’m involved, and it’s a nightmare.”
What’s Duncan’s aunt doing that she’s not? “She can take a deep breath,” she said, “but I almost relate too much to Zach. When he gets frustrated, I get frustrated.”