Am I The Only One Who Needs To Nag My Kids A Gajillion Times To Do Something?

by Gloria Marks
Originally Published: 

Toothpaste crust. That’s what made me lose my shit the other night.

That’s right. Toothpaste crust.

Sure, it might sound ridiculous to lose your shit over toothpaste crust in the bathroom sink. But if you’re a mom of teens or pre-teens, you get it. It’s never just about toothpaste crust.

Just like it’s never about a couple bowls and water bottles in their bedroom. Or a pair of socks on the floor. Or baseball cleats blocking the front door. Or the trash that wasn’t taken out.

It’s about the fifteen times they had been reminded to clean the bathroom. To bring down their dishes. To pick up their socks. To move their cleats. To take the garbage out.

Yet here we are.

I feel like all I do is remind my kids a dozen times to do something that they don’t end up doing anyway. I feel like all I do is nag. And I freaking hate it.

My kids might literally be on their way to do what I asked them to do, get distracted with something else, and I’ll need to tell them another 15 times before it gets done. I have seen it happen.

Rest assured, I’ve tried it all. We have a white board in the kitchen with daily chores. There are consequences to not doing them. Yet here we are. With me nagging and shit not getting done.

Please tell me I’m not the only one. Please.

Please tell me it gets better. Please…

Because honestly, it isn’t just the nagging that drives me batty – or even the toothpaste crust and the nasty ass cups in their bedroom – it is the feeling that I’m fucking up. Why can’t my kids listen the first time I ask them to do something? Am I like white noise? Don’t they respect me?

And if I’m not constantly riding their asses, will they become entitled assholes? If I’m not constantly reminding them how gross toothpaste crust is, will they be destined for a life of squalor? If I’m not nagging, nagging, nagging them, will I walk into their first apartment to be greeted by mountains of dirty socks and an avalanche of half-filled water bottles?

These are the fears that haunt me.

So I nag.

But maybe instead of nagging, I need to CTFD a little bit.

Maybe my kids’ inability to clean the bathroom even though I nagged – er, reminded – them at least a dozen times isn’t a fuck you to me, just like it isn’t a sign of laziness or entitlement by them. It is simply a matter of biology and their oh-so-under-developed prefrontal lobes.

“The pre-frontal cortex is responsible for thinking, solving problems, executing a plan, and anticipating consequences,” Dr. Joseph Shrand, psychiatrist and medical director of CASTLE (Clean and Sober Teens Living Empowered), told Your Teen For Parents. “When a teen doesn’t do what you want right away, they are not anticipating how it will affect you.”

Psychologist Marilyn Price-Mitchell Ph.D. says that the primary psychological function of teens is to figure out who they are and to do the work of becoming that person. This might be someone who is tidy and likes a clean bathroom. Or it might not. It might be someone who wants to excel at playing the violin. Or not. It might be a person who carefully prepares for tests over the course of an entire week. Or might be someone who crams the night before. But it is up to our teens to figure this out. Nagging, Price-Mitchell says, is simply telling them they aren’t enough.

“Parents often believe they have a better vision of success than their adolescent,” Price-Mitchell writes. “This mindset leads parents and teenagers into rocky waters and creates a foundation for nagging.”

Does this mean that we parents need to get comfortable with our teens lazing on the couch while we clean up after them? Hardly.

But it does mean we need to communicate and create a plan. And I should just pick my battles. For instance, I’m unwilling to let shared family spaces like the kitchen and living room fall into shambles, but maybe I can ease up on the expectations for their bedroom. Maybe I should just accept that their bedroom is going to be a disaster zone of unwashed clothes, dirty dishes, half-finished schoolwork, and old baseball cards. Just thinking about it is giving me anxiety, but according to experts, it might be better for all of us if I just take a deep breath and shut the door.

I don’t know exactly, but something’s gotta give. Because the only thing that drives me as batty as the toothpaste crust is nagging my kids about cleaning it up.

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