Nagging the teens

I had a couple of long phone calls this morning, with two very good friends. Friends who have more experience than me in various areas of life.

Two things I gleaned (which is stuff I knew, but sometimes you need to have the message hammered home) – you have to pick your battles – with kids and spouses, and that nagging teens is not necessarily the way to go.

I had happened to mention that I still remind my teens to brush their teeth, or pick up their room, or take a shower if they smell, or even if they don’t. I was told that this kind of nagging can foster a deep sense of resentment. The teen has to learn to do all these things themselves. If he doesn’t brush his teeth who is it hurting? If he doesn’t shower, he is the one that smells – but then I can’t hug him if he is stinky…. :(  . If you constantly remind him to do these things, you are hurting your relationship with him. Possibly. Part of me feels it is my job as Ima to remind them to take a shower and brush teeth and put their dirty clothes in the laundry.

I was curious – so I am asking my readers – do you nag your teens to take care of basic personal hygiene? Why or why not? At what age do you just hope that they have absorbed your message and leave them be? What do you wish you hadn’t been nagged about as a teenager? Do you ever know if your message has got through?

(PS Thanks ladies, you know who you are, for your insight and your bravery in talking straight to me and not soft soaping.)

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  1. lady lock and load says:

    I was never nagged because I am number five out of six kids and my parents were too busy or didn’t notice or just didn’t have the energy anymore!
    Friends who are honest and tell you the truth are REAL friends :) I also appreciate when my friends are honest with me and give me good advice. How else can we learn?

  2. My mom still bugs me about this stuff. I’m 26. But the difference is that now I appreciate it. :)

  3. Vicki says:

    My mom also nags me about some of this stuff when I’m at home (at age 24). I appreciate that she cares but I can’t say I appreciate that she shows it through nagging.

    As a result of constant nagging when I was smaller to pick up my room, look neat, etc, I am a fully-functioning adult, but as a result have an extremely unfortunate habit of constantly nagging my husband about the same things and it takes A LOT of effort to stop it.

  4. Ilana says:

    I was nagged about my cleaning my room and picking up my stuff around the house. And I bet that my mother remembers holding her tongue a lot — and she probably did. But nagging doesn’t accomplish much good, at least not with teens, I think.

    I do not have to say anything about personal hygiene. That is what his older sister is for.

  5. Baila says:

    I never tell my kids to shower. I assume they do. But I do nag them about their rooms. If their rooms were clean, I wouldn’t have to nag.

    GTG–have to go nag my husband now.

  6. Raizy says:

    I’m a fan of indirect nagging (always said with a smile):
    “What SHOULD you be doing now, my darling son?”
    “I can’t imagine that my beautiful, highly intelligent daughter would even think of going to bed without showering first. She’s much too smart for that.”
    “If your mother were here right now, what do you think she would say?”
    Kill ‘em with sarcasm. Teenagers are the most sarcastic people on earth, so just speak their language.

  7. Shira says:

    The sorts of things I was nagged about (mostly cleaning, not cleanliness) made no difference to my cleaning abilities as an adult. What has made a difference has been personal motivation, in the form of wanting my children to be healthy and to learn from my example how to live in a decently clean way. That said, I’m still learning, and my house is a pig-sty much of the time.

    In terms of showering, personal hygiene… I think there are more than the two options presented here. Its not just nag vs. do nothing. There is such thing as being a helpful partner in life. Just like you would tell your husband if his breath really stinks, or he’s too smelly to hug, or his beard needs a trim, etc… its not wrong to let your teenager know that. But if you have been nagging them all the time until now, it will just sound like more nagging to them. And making a big deal out of it, or berating them, or emotional blackmail, or all the other tools of the trade we’ve learned from our parents, television and just our culture in general, will only hurt the relationship.

    I think subtlety would be a good route. If your teenager smells really bad… leave a light-hearted note and a new bottle of their favorite shower soap or deodorant on their dresser. Teeth are a harder issue, as parents have to pick up the dental bill, right? I haven’t thought of a good solution there, except that if a high dental bill does occur due to not brushing, the teenager will probably understand if there isn’t enough money left over for their preferred camp or accustomed shopping allowance (if you honestly don’t have it. If you do, don’t withhold money just to prove a point).

    And all that said, the caveat, I only have two children, ages 4 and 1. So I don’t know what its like to have teenagers yet. Are my thoughts still welcome? I’ve thought about this stuff a lot, after having children and reflecting back on my own childhood a lot.

  8. Nora says:

    Well, I don’t have any kids of my own but I did live and work in a group home with 8 teenage boys (13-17)- my mother describes it as her idea of the job from hell. Smell of both person and bedrooms was an issue more than occasionally. Sometimes it was handled in a private conversation with the teen or teens in question. More often than not, though, one of the housemates would say something to the effect of, “Dude you smell, go shower.”

    Our best results were always a conversation that contained some, if not all, of the following:
    -Scent is part of how you present yourself, people don’t take you seriously if you smell gross.
    -You want girls to like you? Girls like boys who don’t smell. (Especially effective coming from a woman)
    -I don’t care if your room looks perfect all the time but there are rules to getting your allowance – don’t do the required chores don’t get the cash, your choice.
    -I don’t care if you’re a fashion plate all the time or if you look like you just stepped out of a magazine but wrinkled clothes give the impression you don’t care and I know that you do. Not everyone knows you as well as I do.
    -First impressions count. If you look sloppy and smell bad that impression will stay with others fro a long time.
    -Even if your friends say they don’t care, they do. No one wants to hang out with or sit next to the kid who smells gross.

    How you handle it is really dependent on the sense of humour of all parties involved. I could get away with, “Gross, your room smells like dirty teenage boy and feet. Clean it up.” Not all of the house parents could.

    If all else fails have KoD talk to them? It might be better understood from a “man’s perspective” and that can potentially segue into some good relationship building blocks with the boys and KoD, too.

  9. anne says:

    I heard that corporal hygiene improves automatically when they fall in love…

  10. Donna says:

    I actually adopted Will Smith’s parental attitude. The children are living in HIS house, and until they pay the bills, their room is not “their room” as it were. It is the parents. I kinda liked it, and have had some great response with that one. (yes, children cleaning their rooms all by themselves). My 10 and 13 year old know that they are to have a shower every other day, and they were spoken to about it once. The first time they get a “Ooh, gross, you smell”, will probably be the last time they forget their showers. No harm, no foul (well, except maybe odor). And, not to sound cruel, but they no I don’t take smelly kids out to do anything, LOL!

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