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What to Do Instead of Nag

Nagging doesn’t feel good to the person doing the nagging, and it certainly doesn’t feel good to be nagged. Moreover, when kids know we are going to nag them, they don’t monitor themselves—they wait to be reminded. Sometimes many, many times. Ironically, this makes them feel dependent, and so most teens will then further resist the limit in order to regain a sense of control and autonomy.

Fortunately, instead of nagging, we can ask our kids questions. My all-time favorite question is this one: What’s your plan?

As in, “What’s your plan for getting to bed on time tonight?” or “What’s your plan for getting your homework done this weekend?” This makes it clear that they are still in control of their own behavior, and it helps put them in touch with their own motivations and intentions. Often kids simply need to make a plan, and sometimes if they aren’t asked to articulate that plan, they won’t do make it—especially kids who are used to being nagged, because they know their parents will eventually get frustrated and do their planning for them.

For more strategies to influence and motivate teenagers, check out The New Adolescence.