Dear Parents, Stop Nagging and Start Sharing

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With so many worries about our children and the pressures of modern life, nagging at our children can seem unavoidable. “Did you say good morning? Have you done your homework? Why were you so careless? Be careful! Pay attention!”

But did you know that nagging is one of the most dangerous things we can do to our children?

It undermines our relationship with them and makes time together tense and difficult. Most importantly, nagging is not effective in the long run.

I know we all just want the best for our children but it is worth pausing to look at the life experiences of some geniuses in science, art and business. I’ve looked closely into the family backgrounds of physicist Albert Einstein, artist Pablo Picasso, biologist Charles Darwin, physicist Stephen Hawking and Microsoft founder Bill Gates – none were nagged into success. In fact, many had outstanding relationships with their parents. I believe it was the learning time they shared with their parents that set the stage for their later success.

Here are three ways you, too, can share with your child.

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Teaching cannot be left to just teachers — parents also have a part to play. In fact, parents are the most important teachers in children’s lives. Children tend to mirror their parents. So, show an interest in your child’s work, sit with them as they do their homework, explore with them topics they are interested in, read with them, visit the museums, libraries. Cultivate that curiosity from a young age so your children will be lifelong learners.

Share hobbies

Children are more likely to become great in their field when parents show an interest. Einstein, for example, shared an interest in politics and literature with his parents, while Gates’ mother arranged for him to get time on computers and talked to him about his experience later. Picasso’s dad was an art teacher, and both of Darwin’s grandfathers were naturalists. These great thinkers learnt with their families as children. I think they internalised that learning because it was a characteristic of their families.

Share challenges

Remember those math questions when we were young? Studying isn’t easy and our children face challenges too. Share those with them. If your child struggles with physics, brush up on your physics and work through those difficulties together. Even if you’re busy, make a little time to help them with what they struggle with most. As you learn together, it also sends a powerful message of working through difficulties and not giving up. Bonus: That’s extremely good bonding too!

For more strategies on behavior guidance, read our guide to parenting.

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