For the third time, will you stop nagging?

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IT comes as no surprise to parenting expert Virginia Kurtz Stowe, GNu’68, that nagging and yelling are the topics of her most popular workshops. After all, she says, even though parents and children typically have the same end goal — the child’s eventual independence — they often have different ideas of how to get there. But it is possible, she promises, to curtail the nagging and make the process more enjoyable for all parties. Stowe, founder and director of the Parenting Resource Center in New York City, shared some of her tools during a lunchtime workshop held at Penn’s School of Nursing to promote her new book (written with Andrea Thompson, G’63): Tired of Nagging?: 30 Days to Positive Parenting (Bantam).
   Here are a few of her tips:

• Give them time. Try a transition warning. Remind your children, for instance, that they have 10 minutes to finish playing with their blocks before they must come to the dinner table.

• Practice democracy. When practical — and safe — use a democratic approach to problem-solving. “By letting [your child] participate in solutions, you are saying first of all, ‘I respect your point of view.’ Secondly, you are helping your child see alternative ways to solve a problem. That’s very good for intellectual development. It increases confidence. It also helps offset pressure [from peers] to do the wrong thing.”
   Stowe told the story of a mother who had grown tired of her three-year-old and seven-year-old’s histrionics at bath time. So she sat them down during a quieter moment, explained the problem, and asked for their input on making things better. Although this generated some sarcastic responses at first — such as the suggestion of a 3 A.M. bath time, they came up with a plan that included reasonable compromises and restored some tranquility to an unavoidable ritual.

Yes can mean no. Sometimes it helps to say yes first. Say your child has been cooped up in the house all day. Now that the rain has let up, he wants you to take him to the playground, but you have an appointment to keep at 4 P.M. Think about how you shape your response, Stowe said. “Instead of saying ‘No, you can’t go to the playground,’ you can say, ‘I would really like to go to the playground too. And you know something, we can go to the playground tomorrow morning or tomorrow afternoon. Right now we have to go to the pediatrician’s appointment.’ The first thing your child heard you say was yes,” Stowe said. “That makes the child feel like you’re on his side.”

• Address the problem, not just the symptom. One mother in the audience complained that getting her seven-year-old daughter ready for school before she goes to work each morning was traumatic because of the way she lay on the bed like a rag doll.
   Stowe told her, “The real issue here is separation … What is really happening is she is getting her ounce of Mommy whether you want to give it to her or not.” Stowe recommended that the woman plan more fun times together with her daughter, then address how to make the mornings flow more smoothly.
   Perhaps the most welcome advice that Stowe had for weary parents was to take some time off for themselves occasionally. “I say it’s worth taking out a loan to get a sitter, if necessary — it’s as important as that house that you’re living in. If you do a better job of parenting because you’ve had some time off, then that’s the thing to do.”

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