I wake nearly every morning to the incessant howl of my alarm clock, but, more often than not, I slam my hand on its surface and roll back into my fuzzy pile of pillows, waiting for another noise to call down from the stairs: “Jenny, are you up yet?” I love my mom with all of my heart; in many ways, she is my role model.
That said, I will never repeat/nag as she does because constant nagging doesn’t work.
What My Mom and the Snooze Button Have in Common
Each morning, my mom follows the alarm more persistently than any snooze button. And just like the snooze, I often ignore her, even when the call becomes a roar. This reliable back-up routine, though considerate on her part, coddles me. If left to my own devices (at camp, for instance), I will wake to my alarm; yet, when I am surrounded by repetition, I rely on the safety-net snooze.
Unfortunately, parting from pillows is but one instance of repetition. Brush your teeth, brush your hair, catch the bus, be polite, listen up, eat your food, mow the lawn, clean your room, do your homework, stop texting, go to bed… from dawn until dusk, the requests/nagging transform into commands and frustration builds on both sides.
“Put away your laundry” is the most commonly repeated phrase in our house; yet, no matter the number of times my mom calls down the stairs, the phrase alone does nothing. It’s like setting 25 alarm clocks in the morning. No matter how loud the clocks howl, they cannot physically force me from the bed. Until I summon the will to drag my pillow-craving self out of bed, the alarms do nothing.
In this same way, gentle and even harsh repetition will not inspire action. It is self-discipline that produces results.
Nagging: A Vicious Cycle That Doesn’t Work
My parents see repetition/nagging as a necessary tool of communication with teenagers. It seems to them that every statement goes in one ear and straight out of the other; so, the only way to get a point across is through relentless nagging.
What my parents don’t realize is that selective listening is intentional. I get just as tired of hearing the same-old-thing, as they do of saying it. The pattern creates a cycle of unheard announcements and intentional ignorance. We’re all guilty—but which came first, the chicken or the egg? This vicious cycle leaves everyone involved out of the loop, and until someone stops, no one truly connects.
Break the Cycle by Raising Your Expectations
It is my parents’ job to prepare me for the real world—where bosses and landlords won’t repeat themselves for my benefit. In order to be prepared, I need adults in my life who expect more – who will discipline themselves to state their request or information once and then move on.
Whether we make a list of chores on a whiteboard, or keep a calendar with a similar purpose, the solution does not matter, so long as it avoids the cycle, and so long as the effort is mutual.
It is my job to listen and act. It is my job to follow through.
In order to end the the repetition and the frustration, parents must stop setting twenty-five alarm clocks, and teens must stop hitting the snooze. A smidge of self-discipline, and we’ll all have a smoother morning.
After I completed this article, my mom and I talked. The conversation changed the way we operate at home. My mom raised her expectations and I rose to the occasion. Nowadays, I even do my own laundry. It’s funny to think that all it took to change was a conversation.