‘Nagging doesn’t work’
Brice Meade, 50, has a tactic for helping to motivate his 18-year-old daughter, who just finished her freshman year at college — and is in danger of flunking out. He made it clear that she’s welcome to stay with him as long as she holds down her summer job as a camp counselor and saves half of her earnings in case she winds up having to leave school.
In the meantime, Meade, who lives in Rochester, New York, is trying to inspire his daughter to be less idle when she’s at home.
Understanding that entertainment these days often translates to staring at screens inside, he’ll knock on her bedroom door when the sun is out and say, “It’s a beautiful day. Want to go outside?” Or if she says she’s hungry but can’t find anything to eat, he’ll ask, “Want to go grab dinner somewhere? Then we can walk it off.”
“I have learned at this point in life that nagging doesn’t work,” he says. “Instead, I look for opportunities to employ coaching techniques.”
And, Meade admits, “I’m not going to lie. Strategically, I don’t keep a lot of food in the house, so we can have those moments.”
Model appropriate behavior
Actions speak louder than words, which means that adults who want to communicate about responsibility in a healthy way, according to Owens, need to be civil when doing so.
“It’s important to model appropriate responses — this is the hallmark of good parenting,” says Owens. “Modeling is the best way to change behavior and to communicate respect for your kid.”
Schafer, author of Honey, I Wrecked the Kids and other parenting books, agrees: “This isn’t about forcing compliance. It’s about winning cooperation.” It’s perfectly reasonable, for example, to spell out conditions for continuing to live under your roof, she says. Calmly suggest that if those conditions aren’t met, the child is welcome to live elsewhere, perhaps with a roommate.
“At some point, we have to think about our young adult children not as children but as boarders who are renting a room from us and expected to have some basic common decency in getting along with fellow tenants in the house,” Schafer says. “That can help create a more egalitarian premise to have the conversation.”
Still, keep the different ages and maturity levels in mind. And be prepared for a bit of pushback. Just try to keep your cool by not overreacting, not taking any back talk personally, and being prepared to walk away for a brief break if tensions escalate too much.
“Expect resistance and roll with it,” Owens says. “But make sure your expectations for your child are met.”