The Real Reason You Feel the Need to Nag

Hint: It's not because you actually think it will work.

It’s no secret that nagging is annoying—and it generally doesn’t work. When the dishes finally get put away, it’s probably not from your repeated “gentle reminders,” but because the person simply decided to complete the task.

“The illusion is that if we just do it [nagging] the right way, it will work. But nagging never works,” said Dr. Sheri Meyers, licensed marriage and family therapist, author of Chatting or Cheating, and a guest on this week’s episode of “I Want to Like You.” Laura Markham, clinical psychologist, and founder of Aha! Parenting, also joined host and Real Simple editor Kristin van Ogtrop for the episode, and the three discussed how to stop nagging and learn more effective behaviors.

If nagging doesn't work, why do we do it? One cause is personal anxieties—because you’re nervous that your child won’t complete their homework and therefore won’t get good grades and therefore won’t do well in school, you nag them to get it done. Your own personal investment in the task makes you more likely to push buttons. If your partner won’t make the bed, you may nag as a result of your insecurities—“If he loved me, and understood how much I have on my plate, he would have made the bed.” While those feelings may be valid, they’re not going to go away by nagging.

So how did our editor, van Ogtrop, finally get her teenage son to unload the dishwasher? She relinquished control over the situation. When he asked if he could delay the task a few hours, she simply trusted that he would do as he said. Surprisingly (or maybe not-so surprisingly) he did.

For more ways to get family members to complete chores, tasks, and assignments without nagging, listen to the full conversation below. Don’t forget to subscribe to the show on iTunes!