I hate nagging my children but yet somehow I keep doing it!
If I made a list of all the things we nag our children to do it would be longer than this post!. The top of the list would be things like:
-brush your teeth
-get ready for bed
-put on a coat
-wear a hat
-don’t forget your mittens
-do your homework
-finish your dinner
-clean up your room……and so on.
None of us like to nag, we don’t enjoy it but somehow we do it because we think that will get our needs met and we do it multiple times a day – too many for most of us to count!
Well the other day I had an ‘enough’ moment – after an incident with my daughter I was at my ropes end and I needed to do some serious soul searching for what was going on!
What I am talking about here is my daughter’s hair. She is 8 years old and she has long beautiful thick but fine hair. This gorgeous hair shines and flows and has the most awesome natural highlights and curls that many of us would pay hundreds of dollars for!
The problem – at least for me – is she doesn’t want to brush it. I get that it hurts, and because she is extra sensitive it really hurts. We have bought every ‘gentle’ brush on the planet, tried countless detangling sprays and other conditioners to make it softer and easier to comb through but nothing works!
So Emilie hates brushing her hair and goes to school with bedhead and for some reason that drives me crazy! I mean beyond frustrated crazy – to the point of getting angry crazy.
The other day it all came to a blow – her hair was a disaster – all bunched up and tangled and although she did attempt to brush it – it almost made it worse.
Looking at my watch I realized we had about 5 minutes before the bus would come – enough time for me to fix it up for her so she could go to school and look pretty! Right?
Well Emilie was happy with her hair and had no interest in brushing it and certainly didn’t want me to do it either. And all of a sudden I was upset. A surge of energy flowed through me and the urge to brush her hair overcame me and I walked right up to her and started brushing it. Well guess what – it hurt and she screamed! Her scream rattled me a little but I was determined to get this done before the bus came – this is what I wanted – this was my agenda!
So I started brushing it and Emilie started running away, and I ran after her like a crazy mommy holding the brush up yelling “come back here”. Emilie ran over to her father and hide behind him. And then from a place of sheer frustration I began the ultimate lecture on lice, worms and other critters that will live on and in your body if you don’t take care of yourself! Fear will do it I thought – I actually don’t know if I really thought about it that much but that is what came out of my mouth in that moment. Telling her about all the horrible bugs that can grow on her body will surely make her instantly want to brush her day everyday right???!!!
The look on Emilie’s face said it all – she was horrified, she was scared but to the point of having a panic attack – right there minutes before the bus she has a meltdown because I scared her so much.
I felt horrible – really horrible and so my husband and I picked her up – supported her through it and managed to get her on the bus to school.
As I closed the front door I sat alone in the house and replayed the whole incident and of course started beating myself up over it. How could I have said and done those things? How could I have thought that that would teach her to brush her hair? How could I have been so mean?
After reaching out for help, because I had lost perspective (and what felt like part of my sanity) I got some words of wisdom and I started to de-construct what was behind all of this.
I wanted to know why I kept nagging my daughter about her hair and how I had created this incident.
It took a day to really peel back all the emotional layers of the onion and this is what I learned:
- Part of me is jealous that Emilie has long hair. I always had short ‘boy hair’ and so my inner child is jealous that Emilie has this gorgeous hair! This is where some of that anger comes from.
- Another part of my inner child is resentful that Emilie has this beautiful hair but doesn’t want to take care of it – that she doesn’t appreciate it like I would have! This is where some of my frustration and resentful feelings come from that turn into anger.
- Another part of me is worried about what others will say to my daughter when they see her bedhead – I don’t want her to feel embarrassed or ashamed. This is where the fear comes from which is also fuel for the anger.
- I like brushing her hair and I feel that I am expressing my love to her by taking care of her – when she says no, and especially when she accuses me of trying to hurt her I feel rejected and hurt. This rejection is more fuel for the anger.
- Also, my ego thinks that the way my daughter looks is a reflection of me as a parent and that others will judge me if she shows up to school with messy hair. Here is more fear which is also fueling the persistence and anger.
- And that nagging voice I have is really no different from my mother’s nagging voice – sorry mom I come by it honestly! And this is where old patters and behaviours stem from.
So after digesting all of that and with the words of wisdom from Dr. Shefali Tsabary I vowed to give up caring about bedhead – done with it, it is out of my control and I cut the cord on messy hair!
I even went so far as to tell my daughter that I was done nagging her. I did say that if she asks for help, wants me to brush it or put it up for her I am happy to assist but I will not mention it or bug her about her hair anymore!
The first few days were hard, don’t get me wrong this isn’t easy to do, but after I let it go it was easy. I am grounded in the fact that she does wash her hair every two days or so and so I know that it will be fully combed through and clean at those times.
And there has been a huge weight lifted from me – it really is liberating to not have to nag and remind her and go into battles about it. I feel lighter and of course my daughter also enjoys less nagging.
And an interesting thing happened the other day. She actually came up to me and showed me her soft silky combed hair. She gave me her brush and asked me to comb it for her. And the brush went through her hair like butter and I was thrilled! She knows I still care about it but she is owning her responsibility of it – what could be better than that?
I really learned something from this whole incident. It just isn’t worth it – all the nagging and reminding about this issue was hurting our relationship – it wasn’t connecting us or strengthen our bond – it was eroding it. And by letting it go she stepped up to her own responsibility and now takes better care of her hair. All the nagging never gave her the chance to do that!
So now that the nagging has ended and my daughter seems to be taking an interest, I can engage with her and show her fun hair styles to try and help her find hair accessories that will make it fun for her to want to brush her hair every day. YouTube has thousands of hair style videos that we can watch together and try. We can make this a fun activity that will strengthen our connection.
Take a few minutes to think about all the things you nag your kids about.
What is the one thing that you find yourself reminding and nagging your kids about the most?
What is behind this trigger and what fuels your emotions around it?
Will you be daring and give it up? Will you vow to stop nagging about it too?
I would love to hear your stories about this – share below!