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Time For a Nag-Out!

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Taking Responsibility

 H20 to Go!

Growing Emotional Resilience and Navigating Through Childhood

with Heart, Humor & Optimism

BY Margo Judge

Updated 2009

H20 to Go! Copyright, 2004
By  Margo Judge

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Attribution to Margo@MomOpinion Matters (TM)

Installment #47
Time for a 'Nag-Out'

I spoke with a Mom about her 17 year old son--how frustrated she'd been with him.  he forgot his glasses when he went to take his SAT's!  How was he going to be able to see anything??!! He told her it went fine.  She doesn't believe it.  She always needs to be after him.  He is always angry at her.  This is becoming a bad pattern.

In my column, 'Discovering A Passion'
Discovering A Passion I stated that if a child demonstrates responsibility, commitment and dedication to doing his/her best in some thing--then that child is not lost--no matter how much he or she might be failing in everything else.

So, I asked this parent about her son's after school job working in a restaurant.
That is going well.
What does 'well' mean?  Does he arrive on time?
Does he miss work?
Does he work hard?
She added that he even stayed late one day to do his boss a favor.

I smiled my MomOpinion smile--the smile that always means everything is going to be ok with this teen.  I informed her that her son was not lost  but that she needed to step back and give him some breathing space.
But if I do that, he will do nothing.
How do you know?
Because I always have to remind him about things and check-up on him and make sure he's done something, or has something- like with the glasses.

Maybe he worked out the glasses out himself.
More likely, he didn't do well and he's not telling me and all because he couldn't see!
So the next time he will be sure to have his glasses. You have got to let him take responsibility. He is 17 years old (see Taking Responsibility)
But he's not prepared to go off to college!
Well, he won't be if you keep keep acting like an advance team and keep prepping him. Are you going to go to college with him?
Look, if all his energy is going to pushing you way, then there's no space left in which to prepare and take responsibility.  If he can hold a job and do it well then he has the capacity to take control in other areas of his life.  You told me earlier that he loves music and practices hard at that too. He may not think academics are important right now, but that too will change.  He might want a different job and realize he needs more education or more musical training, but, at 17, he is the one who needs to come to that realization.  You cannot push it at him, because all he will do is push back and freeze in place. You need to trust that he will discover his motivation.

I told her that just as there are time to nag, there are times to stop and have a nag-out.  Go to him and say-listen, I think I have been nagging too much and I'm always on you, and it's because I love you and want you to succeed, but I'm going to stop.  I actually think you have it in you to get what you need done.  You've shown maturity in your job responsibilities, and I am very proud of you.  I also have a lot of faith and confidence in you.  So, I'm here if you need help but I am not going to nag.
Then give him a hug and walk out of the room.  Very important that you walk out of the room afterwards, so he doesn't have to reply.  Just leave him be and see what happens.
The next week, he sought her help.

It is easy to get into that nag mode with papers and application essays because whether we like to admit it or not, not since some of us had to apply our kids to pre-school, have we been so vested in their future.  We are entwined with them.  After all we have been nagging since they came out of the womb! But especially at this stage, we need to zip it! Silence can be golden for an older teen.  It does not mean that we are not there for support and guidance.  It just means that we become very sparse with our actual words.  As I said, teens need to hear their own voices. They need to hear their own thoughts. And they actually do have their own 'nag' voice. If we are constantly talking and 'inputting' they cannot hear it.

So, every once in a while just give yourself a nag-out and your teen a 'quiet-in' for several days. See what happens.  A whole mood can change.  I know.  I've been there like everyone else.  I've done this and it does work.

Of course when my son went off to college, the nag did reappear when he returned home and I had to tell him ten times to take the stuff he dumped in the front hall, upstairs! If after the 10th time it didn't work, I'd  stop and become very quiet.  I just put all the stuff in front of his chair in the kitchen.  Hard to eat when you have to negotiate a huge duffle bag and sports equipment and computer stuff!