Friday, 10th September 2010
Don’t do that. Stop that. Enough. Stop. Put that book away or you’ll throw up. How naughty you are. Push back your hair. That’s not nice. Stop fidgeting. Hold your bag properly. Stop playing with your hair. Close your mouth when you chew. Stop picking your nose. Drink some water. Stop moving your legs. Stop making faces. That’s enough…
This litany went on and on, during a bus ride from Birkirkara to Bugibba. Alas, it was not a teacher with her summer school brood on an outing – it was a mother with just one child, obviously on their way to the beach. The parent gave the expression Maltese Gemgem a new lease of life. I wonder how much the girl enjoyed the visit to the beach, and whether she was wise enough to float her troubles away once she jumped into the sea.
Nagging and grumbling appear to be very popular – to the extent that some people would grumble if there were not anyone around to nag, and nag the speakers on the radio if there is no one at whom to grumble.
Some friends of mine – modern by other standards – still believe in the “broken record” method of communication. They even cite scripture about it, in that it is certain that a person will comply with your wishes if only to stop your staccato whinging, rather than because they really want to.
Some would think that social sites like facebook have given mothers the world over a new type of ammunition – “this photo gets posted on my wall and yours if you don’t clean your room within the next hour”. Unfortunately, only a few children will cave in to this type of blackmail. Others will call their mothers’ bluff (she doesn’t want people to think she is a bad parent because she lets my room get to this state…) and others simply don’t care of the world find out they use the chairs for a wardrobe.
Nagging, most of the time, is a waste of energy – both for the nagger, and also for the person being nagged. The former will feel frustrated; the latter will feel resentful.
There are times when nagging actually has the effect opposite to the desired one. If a child has to learn discipline, it is useless for a parent to nag him to fulfil his duties, because once the nagging is not present, for any reason, he will revert to type.
Parents nag children to do their homework; they will never learn what the consequences of not doing it are, until it is too late to learn how to do it even if and when they do not feel like it, because it is their duty. Had they been left to their own devices, they would have suffered the penalty of turning up at school without homework – and then, this would have led them to decide whether an extra hour of facebook was worth three hours of detention. This kind of lesson will get through even to children who pretend not to hear their parents’ nagging.
We nag because we have valid grievances. Yet it does not follow that the people whom we harry will be grateful; they will become defensive, angry and irritated. Nagging is disrespectful and negative and therefore, automatically unhealthy for the mind, heart, soul and body. It sours relationships.
Badgering our children to do what (we think) is right is not a clause in the job description for mothers – but discussion and compromise are.
It is irritating to hear a child sniffle; yet ordering him to stop will not stop his need to do so. It will, however, make him feel pestered, demeaned, and incapable of looking after himself. Wordlessly handing him a handkerchief would probably have encouraged him to use it. So would a polite request, and a non sequitur about how nice it was when the child did something nice for someone else without being asked, to divert him from the issue.
I know for a fact that some people like to nag to draw attention to themselves, or to their children, when there is an audience. In private, they may not even speak to the child unless absolutely necessary. Others nag because they feel safer when they consider themselves superior to others, or simply because as parents, they can throw their weight around and show who’s boss.
Nagging does not stop when our children know they will lose privileges if they do not toe our line. It stops when we decide we must stop harping persistently on the same points, and begin being positive instead.
Let’s all make a back-to-school resolution to stop nagging for a week, and see what happens.