I highly dislike nagging. I don’t like who I am when I nag nor what it does to the recipients of it. It comes from a state of disempowerment mixed with anger, and anger often comes from a judgement, a “should” type thought. And I dislike that origin as much as what it does to the people involved in it.
I want my 13-year-old daughter to be aware of time in the mornings when getting ready for school, but she isn’t. There is a young part of me, a little girl, that is tired of doing “time awareness” for her for years; Little Girl wishes wholeheartedly my teen would take that on, but doesn’t know how to “make” her do it. This is the part that keeps asking, almost pleading in her repetition: “would you pleeeeeease look at the clock so I don’t have to? I am tired of doing this for you.” This is the disempowered part.
There is also an inner judge that thinks she SHOULD be doing this already. I suspect this part is a reaction to the little tired girl I talked about above. I believe disempowerment is one of the most uncomfortable feelings a human being can experience; we do anything in order to avoid it, anger being the most common escape. In anger we overpower the other, and it helps the trapped feeling of disempowerment move, which is experienced as a relief. It’s an unresourceful solution, but being on top just feels better than being underneath. So, in comes my judge to rescue my inner girl and gets pissed off at the fact that my daughter won’t keep an eye on the clock. This is the overpowering part.
The combination is nagging: I don’t set clear boundaries because my inner girl does not know how to do that, I keep pestering because it’s the only way I know to get SOME sort of result, and I get angry because if the disempowered action doesn’t actually make my teen change her attitude, maybe the overpowering action will (it worked for my parents!) I find it interesting to notice how intertwined both the power under and over parts are; we probably can’t find one without the other, there are two sides of the same coin.
But I’ve had enough of this, I really have. I detest nagging. So I invite into the scene my wise, powerful side. Wise Woman accepts the fact that, for whatever reasons (and she knows there can be many of those), my daughter is not ready to take on time awareness. Wise Woman accepts things as they are, which is an enlightened-type attitude. She also knows that Inner Girl can’t make a teenager change without using violence, however subtle, and that is not Wise Woman’s style, so that option is ruled out. She wonders: what CAN I do? Where IS my power?
First of all, Wise Woman acknowledges she wants to keep an eye on the clock because otherwise Little Girl stresses, and nobody likes that. She can take that job on board willingly, because it serves her, and in doing so, she releases the Little Girl from an onerous task that was imposed on her many years ago. Taking it on willingly, because it serves all the different parts of me, feels empowering and really, really good. Big shift already. I really WANT to do this.
Second, Wise Woman decides not to ask for things more than twice. If asking is going to get any result, it will do so in the first or second attempt, not after that. She believes that the fact that my daughter is still not time aware is a sign that she just can’t take the request in right now. Wise Woman wants to notice that sign before Inner Girl despairs, wants to set an internal boundary to this young part that feels disempowered, not let her run the show but take the reins herself instead. So this is her empowered commitment: after the second request, I am not repeating myself but using a different strategy.
Third, Wise Woman enquires into what could be underneath my teen’s resistance. She believes that to keep on looking at the clock is a question of habit. That the habit has not set in yet is due to the fact, she suspects, that my daughter has associated it with stress: watching the clock means having to rush; being relaxed means forgetting all about the time. We get up with plenty of time to get ready for school, there is rarely a real need to run. But if we are not aware of time, any amount of it can end up in hurry and upset.
Wise Woman’s suspicion comes from the fact that this is how it used to be for me up until not so long ago, and it’s likely I have passed that association on to my offspring. But if I have an empowered awareness of time and use it calmly, as Wise Woman has just decided to do, I will be setting an example and nurturing a different belief in my daughter. So the first step in helping my teen change her behaviour from the very the roots, has to do with making sure that I AM THE ONE TO CHANGE behaviours, and that my change is as noticeable and constant as possible.
Fourth, Wise Woman looks at what practical things she can do. She knows that Inner Girl needs practical actions to do to replace the nagging, actions that give her a sense of empowerment. So here is the list:
- I can be aware of where my daughter is at in the process of getting ready at any moment, and assess how much time there is left to go and how long will it take for her to be ready.
- When I see her getting distracted, I can stop the distracting action (for example, going on her tablet) with understanding, compassion and clarity. That is a true Loving Limit, as Marion Rose defines them.
- I can be present and offer support and company while she is getting along fine.
10 days later update. I wrote the above about a week and a half ago, and it has been interesting to look back and assess how I’m doing. I realise that I haven’t been nagging my daughter since. I’ve kept an eye on the clock and been present and clear with boundaries. It feels fantastic. The amazing (and obvious) side effect is that she has become more aware of time and is using ways to support herself with it, like setting alarms on her tablet. How extraordinary is that? I absolutely love this path.
If you’d like to explore these ideas further, join me in my introductory talk.
Every Thursday, 4-5 pm, Heart and Soul of Wellness, 49 Commercial Rd.
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