I'd rather you not wear that T-shirt," I told my then-preteen daughter, Susy, as we headed out the door on our way to dinner with some friends. "You need to put on a nice skirt and blouse. And please dry your hair completely!"
"Oh, Mom, it doesn't matter what I wear. Do I have to?" Susy responded with an exasperated roll of her eyes that said, It's a pain to have such a picky mom!
At first, her reaction made me feel like a louse. Then I realized part of a child's job description is to complain, and part of my job description is to nag. After all, we moms are training our kids so they'll be ready for whatever God calls them to do. That often means direct teaching—and yes, sometimes that involves nagging.
Here are some hints to help you select when and how to do it.
Decide What's Negotiable
Crucial issues—ones that deal with character traits such as integrity, respect, compassion, and kindness—should never be negotiable. For example, lying is not acceptable. Speeding or drinking under age 21 also are non-negotiables—they're against the law.
"Swing" issues aren't as black-and-white. These issues involve trendy dress, earrings, belly rings, blue hair, messy rooms, mouthing off, moodiness, or movies.
Much of what you nag about and what you let go of will depend on your children's ages. Too often parents placate their young children to build their self-esteem, then come down like gangbusters in the teen years. Do just the opposite: Be firm during their early years on such things as keeping their room clean or dressing properly, then loosen up in the teen years. Simply shut the door to their room or your eyes to the too-baggy jeans. You'll have more crucial issues with which to deal.1