“Did you do your homework? Are you ever gonna clean out the garage? You’re gonna clean your room before you go to Friday’s party, right?”
You’ve been there and back again: repeating a version of the same requests many times a week. Like your personal version of the movie Groundhog Day, you can’t seem to break out of the “ask—ask —yell” loop. Yet nothing ever seems to get done without increasing threats and punishments.
And you’re EXHAUSTED.
Nagging is persistent questions or reminders to do something. If you’re the nagger, you may feel MORE mental load and fatigue the more you do it. It’s not good for anyone—and your relationships are likely suffering as well.
So how to break the cycle? Stop the nagging for good (and get stuff done!) with the nine steps below.
1. Communicate Clear Expectations
Nagging can come from a lack of clear expectations and collaboration. Statements such as “You always do this” or “It’s always in the same place it always is” aren’t helpful. In each instance, take the time together to define the 5 W’s (who, what, when, where, and why). Clarifying the exact date and time (down to the minute and time zone) may remove a large source of nagging.
Ask and define the important chore requirements together. If someone is working on a task for the first time, schedule regular check-ins to go over progress. For a painting activity, you may want to start the work together to set expectations. You can define these agreements within the app and share them with the task owner.
2. Collaborate to Achieve Buy-in and Ownership
Collaboration can take more time up front, but you’ll save that and more in future struggles. Start with asking a question they’ll say “Yes!” to. For example, your household may need a better system to organize keys and bills. You can place a tray and tell everyone to use it. Or you could ask, “You’d like a better system to organize important items, right? Let’s get together and talk about what we need and where to put it.” You may spend 20 minutes working through it, but everyone has input into the process and is more likely to use it.
3. Align Motivations
If you’ve ever thought, “It takes more time to nag than it does to do it myself,” you’re right. Work with your family to assign tasks that people prefer and are more motivated to do. If you’re the only one who cares about a task or its importance, consider trading responsibilities to handle it yourself.
4. Teach and Train
If a family member is taking on a new task, show them what the result should look like. Upload a photo within the app, or give them a checklist or video of the process to help. Consider doing it with them first. Try not to focus on telling them how to do something, but give them some tips and pointers. Allow them to come up with their own solutions to foster creativity and independence.
5. Take a Time-out
When you’re frustrated and feel the need to lash out—stop, and take a time-out. Angry communication doesn’t encourage others to help you. When you yell at others, their brain shifts to a “fight or flight” mode and won’t focus on fixing the problem. Take a few minutes to breathe, reset, and refocus your request.
6. Consider Your Timing
Choose a time that works best for the other person. Common times that don’t work are when tired, hungry, and in the early morning rush. Try asking after second breakfast, first coffee, or after lunchtime. Don’t assume someone has heard, understood, and agrees to ownership of your task the first time. Avoid making last-minute or sudden requests of others—send a task within the app instead. If you’ve set up a weekly family meeting, try to bring up tasks and to-dos during that time.
7. Embrace Mindfulness and Gratitude
Mindfulness and meditation teach you to acknowledge and push away unwanted thoughts. Try replacing nagging feelings with gratitude and positivity before proceeding with your request.
8. Power with Simple Positivity
Keep your request simple and straightforward. Avoid statements such as “I’ve told you many times before,” or “We always have this conversation.” Start with a positive affirmation or compliment before asking: “Thank you so much for helping your brother today. Will you help him log in to his classes every Tuesday and Thursday?”
9. Let It Go
Does leaving clutter around the home for a few days really affect anything? Can you shut the door on it (and not see it) for a few days? Does anyone notice? If not, consider letting it go for another day (or two, or many).
Nagging can harm your relationships and health, but if you use the tips above you’ll see results (without the nag!) in no time.