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How Do I Stop Being a Nag?

How Do I Stop Being a Nag?


Dear Rachel,

My family thinks I’m a nag. They say I’m always telling them what to do and not giving them any space to take care of their own affairs. But then they come home with notes about undone homework and overdue bills, saying, “You should have reminded me!”

I don’t want to create tension in my family, but I also want to help them. What do I do?


Dear Harping,

Being a helpmate to your husband and a good mother to your children doesn’t mean you have to take total responsibility for their lives or obligations. If you do, you resent it, they resent it, and you've created an overtime job you could be stuck in for life.

With that in mind, here are a few tips:

  • Let your family members experience natural consequences. You’re not doing anyone any favors if you take responsibility for everyone else’s life. Assuming your family members are old enough to take responsibility for themselves, let them experience the natural consequences of their actions or inactions—unless it’s something that could have dire results (like not paying the mortgage) or is life-threatening (like not taking medication). And better now than later. You can’t protect people forever, even if you love them very much.
  • Use affirmations. Whenever you feel compelled to take control of the situation, sit back and say to yourself calmly, with a serene smile on your face, “I don’t have to take care of that.”
  • Model responsible behavior. Rather than telling others what to do, you can model and inspire them to be their best, which is a lot easier than trying to do it for them. As Ethics of the Fathers says, “In a place where there is no man, strive to be a man.”1 Be the bigger (wo)man in this situation and provide a good example for your family.
  • Let go and know that G‑d is in control. We often need to feel that we are in control of everything around us. We’re not! G‑d is in control, even when we do our best—and even when we don’t.

When you release other people’s responsibilities, you’ll have more time and energy to focus on your true purpose. And when you respect your own boundaries, your family members will, too. As Hillel said, “If I am not for myself, who will be for me?”2

Wishing you success in all your endeavors,


Ethics of the Fathers 2:5.
Ethics of the Fathers 1:14.
Rosally Saltsman is a freelance writer originally from Montreal living in Israel. Click here to email Rosally.
Sefira Ross is a freelance designer and illustrator whose original creations grace many pages. Residing in Seattle, Washington, her days are spent between multitasking illustrations and being a mom.
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Helen Dudden Bristol October 26, 2016

I think most mothers nag. It often those we care about that we wish to keep safe, how many times do we say be careful crossing the road, put your coat on its cold.

Perhaps nagging is the wrong word, just wishing those close to us, stay safe.

Having a sight issue, I tend to think we all view life the same. Reply

L K Ny October 21, 2016

Stop being a nag A cousin of mine has that habit . She tells you what to do and you are also required to use her wording . How to live your life . One day I used the term 24/7 don't you ever say that . For example if she decides you should divorce your husband and remain married to him it's definitely wrong .When your married to a very special man . Her mother was never that way my aunt was a love . Reply

Helen Dudden Bristol October 21, 2016

I too am guilty of nagging. Reply

Susan Levitsky October 20, 2016

I assume they have cell phones Tell them to put the important events and obligations on their phone calendars or reminders with alerts and let it go. If they can't do that, they have more problems than your nagging. It is a simple solution which absolves you of the responsibility of being their nursemaid. If they are too young for a cell phone then you can give them one of the many wall calendars you have received in the mail. If they are too young to read or write, then it is still your responsibility to remind (nag) them. :) Reply

Lisa Providence, RI September 21, 2016

How to stop being a nag Believe me, I've had the same problem myself. I hate nagging, whether it's me doing it or someone else.

It sounds like your family can't "make up their minds" about their expectations of you, and that's very sad.

Listen to Rachel - I agree with her that your family should deal with the consequences of their choices. Reply