Hello, I’m Nicole and I’m a repeater.
Here’s a classic example…
It’s a typical hectic Monday morning. Everyone is moving slow. I glance at the clock and compare the time to the number of things still left to accomplish.
Then it begins. The repeating.
“Don’t forget your homework.”
“Did you put your homework in your bag?”
“Is your homework in your backpack?”
“Did you get your homework?”
It’s kind of amazing how many different ways I can say the exact same thing.
What’s Driving the Reminders?
My kids are always quick to bring it to my attention.
At first, I was a little offended. I didn’t think I had a “reminder problem.”
But, the more I heard, “Mom, you’ve said that already” the more I started to take notice.
It didn’t take long to realize the common theme to my reminding moments.
Fear that they will forget their homework (and get a consequence at school)
Fear that they will feel rushed when it’s time to go.
Fear that they will make a mistake.
Fear that they will be laughed at.
Fear that they will do it wrong.
Fear that they will make a bad choice.
Fear that they will fail.
Fear that they will grow up without learning some important lesson or skill.
It was all driven by fear.
Reminding is not working.
The word fear could be replaced by the word “anxiety,” “worry,” or “concern.”
Regardless of the word, the underlying message is the same: “If I just repeat this one more time, they will avoid [insert ‘dreaded’ consequence here].”
Maybe you’re like me.
Maybe you have no idea how often you repeat things. Or maybe, your repetitions are a little more subtle…making checklists and charts for your child, writing reminder notes, or just jumping in and doing things so they won’t need to remember.
Whatever it is, let’s agree, most of the time reminders do not help.
Instead of motivating your child to get dressed so they don’t miss the bus, they push back, digging in their heels, moving even slower than before.
Instead of helping your child remember their homework, the tension and stress in the room builds until your child finally yells, “Fine! See, I’m taking my homework to my bag! Happy now?”
As a parent, your job is to guide and support your child as they build independence, learn new skills, and become expert problem-solvers.
Support without Repetition.
If you’re ready to step out of the reminding role and into the support role, here are a few tips:
- Examine your Fear: Do a mental scan of your body, your thoughts, and feelings. What’s going on? Are you feeling rushed, tense, overwhelmed? What’s the “worst case scenario” that you’re imagining? How likely is it to happen? Take a few minutes to calm these racing thoughts…you know, before you repeat the request again.
- Work as a Team: Instead of talking “at” your kids, open up the conversation. Put your concerns on the table and be willing to hear their perspective. This can be challenging! But remember, your repetitions are not helping. When kids have an opportunity to be part of the solution, they are more likely to follow through.
- Teach: Look for areas where your child could use more instruction to be successful. Break down tasks and make sure your child understands – and is able to complete – each step (even if it’s not perfect at first). Find the problem areas and work together to create systems, simplify routines, plan ahead and organize.
- Step Back: This might be the most difficult part of the whole process. Trusting your child to follow through. Your fear is going to tell you, “Repeat! Repeat! Make sure they don’t fail.” Hard work and failure are great learning opportunities. With your support and great systems in place, give your child room show off what they can accomplish (without reminders!).
- Praise the Process: Yes, your child is going to forget, mess up, run out of time, or fail. This is not a sign that you need to go back to giving (numerous) reminders. It’s a chance to encourage your child to do more problem-solving, creating a new solution or revising the old one. It’s a chance for you to highlight the ways they have grown and what they have learned.
What’s your role now?
You don’t have to turn into a cold, distanced, hands-off parent to decrease your reminders. Of course, you can stay involved and supportive as your child builds their independence.
Questions like, “What’s your plan for getting your homework done?” or “What time did you decide to set your alarm?” keep the conversation open without letting the fear do the talking.
Sometimes, stepping back is a great way for your child to feel successful, but keep in mind, there will be times when your child needs more support.
That is ok.
It doesn’t mean you’re going to be packing your child’s lunch for the next 30 years.
Forcing your child to be independent before they are ready is going to backfire. Your children are born with a need to depend on you. It’s your job to create an atmosphere where your child can feel confident enough to try it on their own…and then be willing to let them do it!
Dr. Vanessa LaPointe says it this way:
The hoverer is worried, nervous, and uncertain. The provider is confident, all-knowing, and in charge. The hoverer’s actions are born of fear. The provider’s actions – including the invitation for dependence – are born of confidence in knowing the needs of the child.” (Discipline Without Damage, pg. 76)
So, are you ready to get a grip on your repeating?
I’m in recovery. You’re welcome to join me!
(But, I’m not going to remind you.)
Want to learn to build an atmosphere of respect and love in your home?
Sign up for my “Communication for Imperfect Families eCourse! You’ll learn how to get your kids to listen without yelling or repeating yourself 1,000 times, how to stop the backtalk and arguments, and confidently handle meltdowns and disagreements.