How to stop your Child Nagging

Sarah Schaap

Posted on January 28 2019

How to stop your Child Nagging

Written by Charlotte Cummings

Nagging from children is often high up on the list of a parent’s day to day frustrations. There are many reasons why children nag: 

  1. Working out where our boundaries are

  2. Trying to avoid or cope with disappointment

  3. Learning about the responses of others. 
Of course we want to support our child’s learning, but, what do we do when we find ourselves at the end of our tether with nagging? First, let’s consider why nagging works for children. To a child, any attention is good attention. Through nagging, they get our attention and then get into a game where they try to keep our attention for as long as possible. It’s irrelevant that the attention they receive isn’t positive and that the result is a grumpy parent. They have what they ultimately want – you!

To reduce nagging, we need to teach our children that nagging is not how they get and keep our attention. Instead, the goal is to offer our attention in ways that are more enjoyable for us and our children. So, how do we respond when nagging happens?

Next time you are up against nagging, try:
  • Briefly naming and validating their feelings – eg. “I can see that you are frustrated that I can’t do what you want me to do right now. It is really hard having to wait”.
“I have already told you my answer. I’m going to tell you one more time, then I am going to ignore this”. 

  • Followed by: “I’m ignoring this now”.
Quit the nagging game, and focus on your next opportunity to give your child your attention. Perhaps you can stop what you are doing and do something together, or make a promise about what you will do together when you have finished your task. It might be having quality time at the park, joining their play, a cuddle while reading etc. While it’s really hard not to get frustrated when our child nags, sometimes nagging is a reminder that they need us to fill up their emotional tank in a way that is meaningful for them.

As parents we are all busy, and sometimes we get lost in the 101 tasks we need to achieve in our day. But, to our children, the multitude of things we do for them often don’t meet their deeper need for our attention.   A great question to ask ourselves is: “When did I last spend some time giving my child my attention and meeting their emotional needs?”. Often, we will find ourselves realising that their need for our attention is valid, and we can become more responsive to what they are really looking for from us as parents after all.

About Charlotte: Charlotte is a mother of a toddler and pre-schooler, and works as a counsellor in Christchurch.

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1 comment

  • Danny de Hek: January 29, 2019

    I love this post, makes me want to have children, so I can do some nagging, kids brains rock!

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