Question 7: Do your kids feel like you’re nagging them?
Do your young children have closed hearts toward you? Do your grown children withhold information or try to avoid your questions? Do your kids bristle when you come in the room?
“Mom, you’re guilting me, and I haven’t even done anything wrong!” my daughter said with great exasperation.
Guilting her? I didn’t think I was guilting her. I was trying to remind her.
My friend, Dawn, had accidentally left her purse at our house. A purse is a big deal! Life without your purse is like life without oxygen!
But there was an additional problem: My husband and I were going out of town and Dawn wouldn’t be able to stop over and get her purse. So here was my solution: I would send the purse with my kids, who were going to my parents’ house for the weekend. Dawn could stop by there and get her purse.
Yet still I foresaw a potential snag. My daughter could easily forget a purse. Easily! The purse held nothing she needed or wanted. There was no reward for remembering the purse. So I was afraid she might forget. Which is why I had been so thorough with my reminders.
I had said, “Linds, I want you to picture yourself at Mamaw’s house. The doorbell rings and you go to the door, and there is Dawn asking for her purse. She’s taken the time to drive all the way over. She desperately needs her purse. She has no license, no credit cards, and no lip gloss. And you have to tell her, ‘I’m so sorry, I forgot.’ See how terrible that would feel?”
To me, this was good parenting. I was reminding. I was reinforcing. I was helping.
But from my daughter’s perspective, I was controlling.
A Control Girl’s Arsenal
My daughter’s word was “guilting”. We moms nag with heaping doses of guilt, don’t we? We also use manipulation, threatening, and criticism. Or we use warning and correcting in excess. We have a whole arsenal of options for getting and keeping and having the one thing we want: control.
And how do our kids respond to our Control Girl weaponry? They shrink back. Their hearts close. They become defensive and withdrawn. They avoid our questions. They duck out of the room, the call, or the conversation as quickly as possible. When we try to control our kids, they pull away from us. It’s their natural reaction to all of our control-getting tactics.
Hold & Fold
Now, I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Doesn’t good parenting require us to take control of our kids?” Yes, for a time this is true. Good parents take control, but they don’t keep control indefinitely. If you ask people who have been parenting for a few decades they’ll tell you that the period for getting and taking control of their kids was very short-lived, compared with the period of giving up control.
I often talk about what I call the “Hold & Fold” principal. Here’s how it relates to parenting:
When your newborn is handed to you in the hospital, you must hold responsibility for your child. You have complete control over what your baby wears, eats, watches, and participates in. But by the time your baby is eighteen, he’s an adult and it’s time to fold your hands, and trust God. No longer do you have control over what your child wears, eats, watches, and participates in.
So as parents, we start out holding and graduate to folding. For many of us, those years between are spent nagging!
Nagging is when you have no control, but you definitely want it. You’re confronted with how little control you actually have over your child. And somehow you think you can get control by saying something over and over, and with added emphasis. So you nag, nag, nag, nag, nag, nag….
Moms, what if we stopped the nagging? What if we encouraged more and nagged less? What if we prayed more and nagged less? What if we surrendered more and nagged less??!
Putting nagging on hold is one way of affirming that God is in control, not us.
Why We Nag
God decides how our kids are shaped and what they will someday become. Yes, we have influence for a time, but ultimately He is their Creator. He is the potter and they are the clay in His hands. (Isaiah 64:8) He is molding them to be a vessel, used for His glory–not our glory!
When I’m nagging my kids and trying to control them, it often has to do with how their behavior, appearance, attitude, etc., reflects back upon me. I’m thinking about what’s good for them, but I’m also thinking about what’s good for me.
Take the instance with my friend’s purse, for example. I wanted my daughter to be responsible, but I was most invested in not disappointing Dawn. Dawn is my friend. I didn’t want her to be frustrated with me. Not that she’s easily provoked; I just didn’t want her to feel irritated by a wasted trip. I wanted her to be pleased.
But in order for this to happen, I needed my daughter to cooperate. So I nagged her. I put pressure on her. I “guilted” her.
Ephesians 4:21 says, “Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged.” I wonder if the instructions to women would be, “Mothers do not nag your children, lest they become exasperated.”
Nagging moms are controlling moms. And that’s not who I want to be, do you?
Here are some verses that always help me reset my attitude toward my kids, and stop the nagging.
I’m going to add some verbiage so that they correlate a bit more closely to parenting. I invite you to pray these verses over your parenting today:
Put on then (moms), as God’s chosen ones (to represent Him well in your home), holy and beloved (not selfish and insecure)–compassionate hearts (when your kids forget their gym shoes or bring home an F on the test), kindness (when your child isn’t being kind to his younger sibling), humility (when you’d just like some me-time), meekness (when you’d just like to scream at them to clean their rooms), and patience (when you find that your baby smashed your lipstick or your teenager smashed your car), bearing with one another (remembering that you were a child once, too), and if one has a complaint against another (such as, ‘she’s wearing my sweater!’ or ‘he took my lego man!’) forgiving each other (moms are called to extravagant forgiveness!); as the Lord has forgiven you (what could be more extravagant than the cross, which is the basis for my forgiveness?) so you also must forgive (your children, who will fail you and exhaust you and overlook all that you do). And above all these, put on love, which (unlike nagging) binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of God (not the desire to nag and take control) rule in your hearts. (Col. 3:12-15)
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Join me for a study of seven Control Girls of the Bible, who struggled with control in the same way we do: they pushed for their own agendas, tried to make everything turn out according to their plans, and made everybody miserable in the process. By comparing their stories with ours, we learn—in hundreds of ways and examples—that God is in control and we aren’t. And He invites us to live like it’s true.