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Women's Health

End Your Nagging Habit

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Mono-Task

If you're in the middle of chopping tomatoes, scanning the newspaper, and talking to your sister when you ask your son to vacuum, he's not going to get the idea that his cooperation matters to you. "Make eye con­tact, clearly state your request, and then thank him when it's done," says Allred. "Halfhearted dog trainers only have semi-good dogs."

Communicate Clearly
"We often sugarcoat our requests, as if they require an apology," says Pryor. "We say things like, 'If it's not too much trouble, would you mind clearing your plate?' That kind of wording sends a mixed message, especially to kids. 'Please bring your plate to the kitchen' is much more effective. And avoid vague directives like, 'Straighten up the living room.' Be concrete: 'Take your toys and clothes out of the living room, and put them away in your closet.'"

Use Visuals
Weiner-Davis recalls one client who couldn't stand that her husband never closed his dresser drawers. "This woman had talked herself blue in the face about it. One day she stopped talking, and left a large note on top of the open drawer: 'Shut me. Your wife gets annoyed when I'm open.' Her husband laughed, shut the drawer, and finally began changing the habit." Visuals are especially effective with kids, says Jim Wiltens, author of Goal Express! The Five Secrets of Goal-Setting Success and an expert in child motivation. Rather than nag his son about remembering to take everything he needed to school each day, Wiltens and his wife put up a chart with pictures of a backpack, a trombone, and gym clothes. "That kind of checklist encourages my son to act on his own instead of just doing what we tell him," he says.

Quit Taking It Personally
Tanya Chartrand, Ph.D., a mom of two, was aggravated by her husband's superhuman ability to ignore all requests for housework help. But she couldn't help being impressed by his consistency. Since both Chartrand and her husband, Gavan Fitzsimons, Ph.D., are professors of marketing and psychology at Duke University, they decided to investigate the concept of "nag resistance."

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