The Brilliant Trick That Allows Me to Nag Less

trick nag less trick nag less

I‘m really annoyed by the sound of my own voice these days (anyone else?), and, unfortunately, so are the other members of my household. It seems. Recently I read How to Talk to Get Your Kids to Listen…and Listen So Kids Will Talk, in part because I really wanted to find ways to minimize my nagging. One of the book’s suggestions: let post-it notes do the work.

Outsourcing my nagging to an inanimate object? I had to try.

The idea is simple. Instead of nagging your kids to do something — like place their laundry in the bin (seriously, why on earth is this so hard?) — just place a sticky note on a shirt that’s strewn on the floor and write a note on it like the object is speaking. “Put me in the laundry bin or I won’t get washed, eww!” I tried it and my son not only picked up his shirt, but laughed hysterically while doing it. I never had to use my own voice. And suddenly I’d turned into a funny mom, which is much cooler than a pain-in-the-ass-mom.

This hack has been working for me with more than just chores. Recently, my son was in a reading slump—he just wasn’t into it. As a writing instructor, this didn’t sit well with me. But I also knew that bugging him about it wouldn’t work either. So, I placed a sticky note on a book that he’d been reading but was now accumulating dust. “Dude! Start reading me again! It was just getting good!” My son loved it. He even asked a few days later, “Mom, can you put more notes on my books? That was funny.” Not only did I not have to harrass my son, but it got him back into the reading groove.

My 5-year-old daughter can’t really read yet but I’ve been using the post-it note hack with her anyway. Turns out she loves grabbing the notes and running over to ask what they say. So I’ve been using this trick to motivate her in the mornings when she’s really slow to get ready for school (I love her, but it’s pretty much the worst, and I know the neighbors can always hear all my yelling.)

One night, I scribbled a note and placed it on her dresser drawer. “Are you going to wear your pink or polka dot dress today?” She saw the note first thing in the morning, sprinted into my bedroom and shrieked “What does this say, Mommy?” I read it to her and she bolted into her room to throw on her polka dot dress. You have to understand, this was the equivalent of pigs flying. No, it doesn’t work every single day, but generally our mornings have gotten much smoother. For even younger kids, I imagine pictures/drawings could work, too.

Of course, I still have to nag my kids sometimes. I’d run out of sticky notes if I had to remind them of everything that way. But overall, they’re hearing my voice less, which also means that when I do ask them to do something, it’s not just noise. And my tone may sound a little nicer, too. Honestly, I’m not sure that this hack is actually training my kids to be better about certain chores, but I do think it’s helping our relationship—and that’s important too. So now, I’m just left wondering…could this hack work on my husband too?

Angela-Anagnost Repke is a writer and writing instructor dedicated to raising two empathetic children in northern Michigan. Publications include Good Housekeeping, Good Morning America, Parents, and Romper. She's working on a nonfiction parenting book, Wild Things by Nature: How an Unscientific Parent Can Give Nature to Their Wild Things.