Aug 6, 2014

On Nags and Nagging . . .

I have four cats who are terrible nags. Or rather, they're really good at nagging. Especially when it comes to being fed, and especially first thing in the morning. Normally they give me until 8 a.m. before they start, but this morning they were early - it was more like 7:30.

First there was Julius, who's got a whole passive/aggressive thing going on. He'll walk softly up on the bed between my husband and I until he reaches the pillows, and then he starts to purr. The purr gains in volume and if no one responds he might rub his head against one of us - usually me because hubby sleeps like a rock and besides, I'm the one who gets up to feed them. All he wants is a few pats . . . but since you're awake enough to give pats, would you mind coming downstairs and doling out the food as well?

Dante is a little less subtle. He'll jump down between us with a thump and then start in on his patented yowl, demanding I check the clock and have I seen what time it is? Romi's voice is a little quieter, but the most grating of all. He doesn't come up on the bed but stays on the floor beside my side of the bed. And yes, I have been known to toss things from my nightstand at him, especially when he starts in before 8 a.m.

And Taz? He lets his sons do the dirty work and only joins in once I'm up and in the bathroom. Even if by some miracle I beat them up, they're still crowded around the bathroom door when I open it. And if I take too long, one or more of them will try and dig me out. Then they follow me downstairs where it crosses the border from, "Yes, I'm getting up to feed you, thanks for reminding me" to "I'm doing what you want, so shut up and get out from under my feet!"

Nagging is seen as a bad thing. Cats aside, it usually involves one person who wants something done, and one or more people who aren't doing it. I remember my mother nagging me to pick up my toys or clean my room when I was a kid and I don't recall her using her happy voice to do it. It wasn't until I got married and then had a child of my own that a great truth was revealed to me:

Nags are not born, they're created. Usually by the people around us who don't do what they've promised us they're going to do.

Using Wikipedia I discovered that according to the Wall Street Journal, nagging is "the interaction in which one person repeatedly makes a request, the other person repeatedly ignores it and both become increasingly annoyed". I'll buy that.

But then the article goes on to say: Psychotherapists such as Edward S. Dean have reported that individuals who nag are often "weak, insecure, and fearful ... their nagging disguises a basic feeling of weakness . . ."

Really? It's not just that junior promised to take out the garbage, but there it sits. And although it would probably be easier to take it out ourselves, we're trying to teach him about responsibility so we keep reminding him as it grows increasingly fragrant and starts to attract flies. And by the time he does get around to taking it out he's accusing us of nagging him to death, while we're left wondering how to get rid of the trail of maggots he leaves behind.

As with many of the topics I stumble upon - I came up with this one while lying in bed trying to ignore the cats and I realized I'd once again forgotten to write my Wednesday post the night before - I had a firm opinion of the topic in the beginning, but as I did more research on it my stand began to waver.

I knew nagging women were the butt of many a joke, but when had nagging become such an anathema? The naggers are painted as evil incarnate, while the naggees are innocent victims. Really? We're not just women trying to goad our lazy families into pulling their weight?

Then I read this article about Stopping Nagging, which not only had a better understanding about why we nag, also went into why our loved ones are so resistant to our nagging.

What it all boils down to is, it's not so much what we're saying, it's how we're saying it. I remember when I was a teenager and my father would tell me to wash the dishes. Even if I had been about to get up to wash the dishes, the fact that he told me to do so made it the last thing on earth I wanted to do. But what if he'd said something like, "There's a great show on TV we could watch together after you've done the dishes"? He wasn't really asking me to do the dishes, so I probably would have been more open to doing them.

It's like with the cats. Dante and Romi are more in your face about getting me up in the morning and it makes me just want to dig in and stay in bed. But Julius' approach, with his purring and subtle nudging, is more likely to have me sigh and agree that it's almost 8 o'clock so I might as well get up.

Again, it's not in what's being said, it's the way it's being said.

Food for thought for a Wednesday morning.


Jamie DeBree said...

I generally don't nag, unless I'm asked to. Even then, I'm resistant. I'm the one who just does it herself if it doesn't get done when I want it to, but I just have a husband, not children I'm trying to teach responsibility to. With men, it's not generally that they aren't responsible, they just work on their own time. If that's too slow for me (and it often is, I admit), I'd rather deal with the problem myself than nag.

Of course nothing says I have to deal with the problem in the way they would have. People don't always appreciate that, and are more likely to get something done faster if they know you'll do it "wrong" for them... ;-)

I don't really consider the dogs reminding me about dinner "nagging". More like taking care of themselves by "hunting" food as domestic animals do. LOL

C R Ward said...

LOL I'm stubborn in the way that has me letting something go no matter how much I want it done because so-and-so said they were going to do it. So I'd totally be the mom letting the garbage pile up. I think that's also known as cutting off the nose to spite the face. ;-)

Nothing irritates me more than someone who says they're going to do something and then they don't follow through.

But if it's something I want done right away, I'll just do it myself. So much less aggravating all around!