Monday, December 8, 2014

Why I Nag My Kids

"If animals could talk to you the fishes and the birds, they'd say..."

I've recently realized that I've become a pretty big nag toward my kids.  But I think this okay, and I've found myself intentionally nagging them more.  I know what you're thinking.  Wait, you realize that you nag your kids, and you're making a point to do it more.  What is wrong with you?  Let me explain.

I ask my kids to say the magic words, "please" and "thank you" for those of you who aren't familiar with the lyrical subtitle above, approximately 53 times a day, each.  Okay, that might be low-balling a little bit, but it is a lot.  Why do I do this?  Because I want to teach them good manners.  I remember reading or hearing something in grade school about how you need to be told something 100 times before you remember it when you are young.  I have no idea if that point is scientifically proven, but it seems to make sense on some levels.

I am constantly reminding my kids to say please, thank you, your welcome, not talk in a whiney voice, etc.    You want more milk, what's the magic word?  I just changed your disgusting diaper, what do you say?  When I'm feeling especially naggy, I make them say it in English, Spanish and sign-language, just to drive home the point.  Is it overkill?  Maybe, but in the spectrum of having good manners, I believe in go big or go home.  I reprimanded our oldest about a year ago by telling her spitting was not "socially acceptable".  I'm sure the notion was lost on her at the time, but I did see a glimmer of hope a few months ago when she informed us that her younger sister was "not making good choices" by not staying it bed after being tucked in.

The other thing that I've noticed is that by hyper-nagging my kids about their manners, picking up their toys, and playing nice with each other, is that it has kept my own actions in check in those areas.  If I want my kids to mind their p's & q's, I've got to do so as well.  If I want them to appreciate the overabundance of toys, clothes and other knickknacks that have been accumulated for them by picking said toys up and treating them with respect, I better do the same to mine - you know like my action figures and stuff.  If I want them to be grateful for the food that has been provided for them and not be wasteful, I best be getting the clean plate award every meal.  This one I'm pretty good at, and I usually provide some teamwork to make sure that they are also award recipients (daddy garbage disposal as we like to say).

I've become so confident with my nagging abilities, that I've also started to venture into the "nagging of other people's children" territory.  These waters can be murkier, but I figure if my kids were acting like jerks (which they do, I've seen it) around other people, especially parents with young kids, I'd hope that they'd feel inclined to give them a helpful reminder that it's not polite to bite, especially the hand that feeds you.  If you encounter me gently reminding your offspring use their manners, please don't take it as a dig at your parenting ability.  Honestly, as parents, I think we can always use help in educating our kids on politeness, and the voices it can be easiest for them to tune off are likely our own - parents of teenagers feel free to back me up on that.

In truth, I think we all (the royal we) could use some daily reminders to be thankful and polite to each other.  How many times have you wanted to tell a colleague or friend that you'd be much more willing to help them out if they just used the magic words and a nicer tone of voice?  How many times do you think someone else has wanted to say that to you?  When was the last time you actually said please to someone before making a request; placing an order at a restaurant, asking your spouse for the TV remote?

I heard a great speaker/author named VJ Smith at a conference back in 2008, and have heard him present a few additional times since then.  Typically at the start of his presentation, the throws handfuls of colored business cards into the crowd that say "Thank You" in a variety of languages.  He instructs the crowd to distribute them to people who don't say the "magic words" when they are needed.  Small, simple words that if inserted routinely into our daily lexicon can have such a huge impact on others around us.  Shameless plug, if you get a chance to check out any of VJ's books, I would strongly suggest it, especially The Richest Man in Town.

I've received a lot of "Thank You" cards over the years (because I'm so awesome at what I do, obviously).  About two years ago, I received the most memorable one from a student who had worked in our office for a while and was going on to bigger and better things.  In the note, she said one of the things she felt she learned from me was "what it really means to appreciate someone", commenting that she thought I said the "best and most sincere 'thank yous' of anyone" she knew.  A little ironic to be thanked for your thank yous, but I was totally humbled by this comment.  

That's why I nag my children, and maybe your's too, so that they can get a card like that someday.  Plus they are too young to understand the concept of nagging or remember how many times I have nagged them to do something, hence the reason I have to nag them.  Yes, that is circular reasoning, but it works here.

You're welcome.  

Sure, I'll let you get tattoos.
But only if you say please and ask in a non-whining voice.

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