“I’m not going to tell you again…PICK UP YOUR DIRTY UNDERWEAR OFF THE LIVING ROOM FLOOR!!!”
We’ve all been there. We’ve either been the threatener or the threatened. But no matter which side of the coin we were on, the fact remains that not only do dirty boxers belong in a hamper, we shouldn’t have to tell – or be told – more than once (maybe three times) where they should actually reside.
While well-worn Fruit of the Looms may not be the subject you’ve “reminded” your teen to take care of, there are no doubt a few other non-negotiables which have been repeated until you’re both ready to scream. So how do you save yourself from the frustration of constant nagging and yet get your kid to actually follow through on the task at hand after the first ask? Punishments and rewards are useless. And seriously, can you really effectively “ground” your 16-year-old for not picking up his skivvies?
No matter what ages your children are, here are three simple steps to getting them to do what you’ve asked after the first few — not the 100th — times.
1. Acknowledge your kid – not the action
All behaviors equal unmet needs. If your son’s tighty-whiteys have taken up residence in the middle of the living room floor, there’s more to the story than him just being rebellious. It might just be that your son is overwhelmed with life and needs an outlet to vent and the only way he can get your attention — positive or negative — is by leaving his drawers out in public. Or it might just so happen the hamper is always full, and he’s trying to get YOUR attention.
Show your son he’s a priority in your life by setting aside a scheduled time with him at least once a week to just talk. Ask him what’s up with the underwear issue, listen to what he has to say and problem-solve together. You, of all people, know how important communication and interaction are to your own well-being. It’s no different for a teenager than it is for you. The more you allow your son to express himself without fear of judgment or being “fixed,” the more he’ll desire to step up his game at home. After all, if your boss gave you praise instead of criticism, you’d be more likely to take care of business after the first ask too, right?
2. Use your “I” statements
Your teenager wasn’t born last night. He’s going to know you eventually want to talk about the fact that his underwear is STILL watching The Price is Right with the family. Be real and vulnerable with him, and let him know that when you have to keep asking him to do something 100 times it makes you feel disrespected and frustrated — almost like he doesn’t even care about your feelings at all. Approaching subjects like this from the “I” vantage point keeps defenses down and communication flowing. It paves the way for him to say, “Dude! It’s not like that at all. I’m just so tired from basketball and homework that I keep forgetting to pick them up once I leave the room.” Or, “Well, mom … you keep telling me to put them in the laundry, but the basket is never where it’s supposed to be.”
3. Meet in the middle
Once the root of the behavior is exposed, and you’ve both had a good laugh about what the other person was actually thinking (as opposed to what you THOUGHT they were scheming), you can find a solution that works for both of you. You can do your part to either keep the laundry basket empty or in its right spot, and he’ll be more willing to do his part since you’ve allowed him the space to speak his truth without getting yelled out. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Give it a try. Like everything, it may take a little perseverance to get the communication doors open. But then again, how desperate are you to save your voice and your sanity — and your living room floor?