How to Stop Nagging Your Teen and Start Enjoying Your Relationship

You don’t have to have perfect kids to have happy kids. I suspect that’s why parents often fall into the trap of nagging and being critical – to try to make their children live up to a certain standard. But does anyone respond positively to being nagged or criticized? Of course not.

There is a big difference between constant nagging and having standards you wish to be upheld.

I was listening to an audio version of the classic book Think and Grow Rich in my car the other day. The author, Napoleon Hill, told a story about a boyhood friend of his. The boy’s mother punished him daily with a switch, and afterwards would growl, “You’re going to wind up in prison before you’re 20.”

Unfortunately, she was right. The boy went to reform school at age 17. (Modern day equivalent is Juvenile Correctional Institution, i.e. prison for kids.)

It’s very possible that mom spoke her son’s fate into existence by repeating to him every day what she expected. He merely did what she told him he was going to do.

Nagging, criticizing, defaming, and humiliating. If someone were to list out the most desirable, positive ways to raise kids, these items would NOT be included on the list. Yet people still do those things to their children in spite of the fact that those methods have been shown not only to be ineffective, but also destructive.


I suspect frequently parents get caught up in the moment and lose their patience. I know that has happened to me. It’s pretty difficult for mom to keep her cool when she’s told her offspring numerous times to do the same task with no results in sight.

Nagging seems to be the next logical step. It’s really easy to fall into this trap.

But how can we expect positive results to come from negative labels, speech, and behavior? It’s an extreme example, but did that mom who drilled into her son’s head every day that he would wind up in prison accurately predict the future, or was she pronouncing and orchestrating his sentence herself with her words?

It’s hard to know, really, but it’s better not to risk it. It only makes sense that building your child up with praise and positive words would have a more positive outcome.

Here are some tips for avoiding the temptation to nag or criticize your child:

  • Think about how you felt as a child if someone did that to you.

I’m sure it’s happened to you at some point. It happens to us all. But we as parents should not be the ones our kids look back on as being the most critical. We are the ones who should provide support and encouragement to them. Believe it or not, that approach makes them stronger and more able to endure the criticism of others.

  • Never nag in public.

Avoid criticizing your child around other people whenever possible. Things that need to be discussed should be done in a private setting instead of being made into a public spectacle.

  • Pause, take a step back, and breathe.

Is what you are about to criticize or nag about really that important? Is it something your child is terribly sensitive about? If so, then pointing it out or bringing it to others’ attention only makes matters worse. Decide your child’s feelings are more important than that.

If you have requested a task or job be performed and it goes undone for a while, it may be time to employ other, more effective means of getting your point across. Be sure to choose consequences that fit the infraction, and always follow through on what you say.

  • Remember your child is a human being with a memory.

They remember a whole lot of things, especially how they were made to feel when they were growing up. If they were praised and validated, that creates good feelings and memories of childhood in their home. But if they were constantly nagged and criticized, then resentment and frustration have taken the place of love and security. They may be anxious to leave home for a more peaceful situation.

  • Look for and emphasize the good points.

Everyone has good qualities, including your teenager. I know you can name several. When the temptation to criticize moves in, remind yourself of his or her very good attributes. You might even incorporate that into your request to get things done. If you precede them with compliments, your teen may be more likely to want to be cooperative. In dog training, it’s called positive reinforcement, and it translates over into human relationships, as well.

When I heard the story of that ill-fated boy and his misguided mother, my heart broke – for both of them. Since Think and Grow Rich was first published in 1937, and the author has long since passed on, I am certain the subjects of his story have passed on, as well. What a tragedy it was for those lives to be wasted in misery and regret, just because of unnecessary nagging and criticism.

I have caught myself in the past beginning to go down that road, and then I stop in my tracks and try to consider how I’m sounding. If I wouldn’t want to be on the receiving end of what I am about to dish out, I end up keeping my mouth shut. I don’t ever regret doing that.

Parents, please stop and think about how you want your kids to remember you and their brief time at home with you. I hope you will choose to make those fleeting years as happy and enjoyable as possible for your whole family.

You can receive true respect from your teens only if you show it to them first. It’s the first step toward fostering a peaceful environment. For an excellent resource on creating peace in your home, grab a copy of Joanne Miller’s book Creating a Haven of Peace. You can also read my interview with Joanne here.

You can receive true respect from your teens only if you show it to them first.

Have you caught yourself in a nagging mode with your kids? All parents are susceptible to it occasionally. If you have any tips for how to stop the destructive cycle of nagging and criticism, then please share them here. Thanks, and as always,


Related articles:

Why We Should Stop Putting Negative Labels on Teens

How Your Words Can Determine Your Teen’s Destiny

Creating a Haven of Peace – A Conversation With Joanne Miller

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