Repetition Is Useless.

One of the most annoying things I’ve had to accept as a parent is the truth that Repeating Yourself Over and Over Does Not Guarantee Shit.

I always assumed that, if you said something often enough, eventually your kid would remember that thing. I wasn’t naive enough to believe it would only take a few reminders…no! I knew it would take a long time, but I did assume they would eventually remember the thing I had been telling them. You know, after 30 or more times.


At least, not in my house. Not with my kids.

Every time we go to the grocery store and use a buggy (I know, you call them shopping carts, but I call them buggies so…you know…don’t make fun of me, please) Wesley tries to ride on the buggy by putting his feet on the bottom part and hanging on to the big part. When he was little that was an okay thing to do, didn’t bother me too much. But sometime between age 3 and age 4 he got too big and would start to tip over the buggy even as I was holding it. So! I decided to put an end to that kind of ride and I would gently remind him: Both feet on the ground, Wes. He just turned 6 and there has still not been ONE time when we’ve been using a buggy that I haven’t said that. I go to the grocery store with the kids once or twice a week. We’ll say once to be cautious. So, that’s at least 150 times over 2-3 years that I’ve reminded him, Both feet on the ground, Wes. But truthfully it’s probably three times that high because we go to the store more than once a week and he does it more than once a visit. Sometimes I say it 4 times in ONE trip.

Then there’s the Getting Out The Door thing in the mornings before school. I came up with a system, if you’ll recall, to easily help the kids remember what all they have to do before they leave for school in the mornings. 4 Ds: (Dental Care, Dressed, Dishes, Dirty Clothes). And EVERY SINGLE DAY I have to remind them: Don’t forget your 4 Ds! Because every day they forget SOMETHING. School is now out so that means I reminded them 180 times this school year and they never remembered to do it all without prompting. NEVER.

If there are not baskets in the laundry room when I need them, I sometimes will temporarily sort clothes on the floor of the laundry room. This means no one can throw their dirty clothes in the laundry room because then I’ll get the piles mixed up. So, that’s been the rule for years: NO DIRTY CLOTHES IN THE LAUNDRY ROOM. But still, at least once a week, I find they’ve gotten dressed in the kitchen (as you do) and thrown their dirty clothes in the laundry room. YEARS! YEARS I’ve been telling them this. Yet still, yesterday? Dirty socks and underwear in there.

It just defies all normal logic. You assume repetition is the key. And you assume wrong. It is NOT the key. It is necessary, but sometimes, some habits are just so ingrained, and your kids do such a good job at tuning out your voice at certain decibels (the Nagging Decibel mainly), that they may never remember what you say. I’ve had days when I’m really frustrated when I YELL THE THING I’VE BEEN CALMLY REPEATING FOREVER. And sometimes that sticks for a few days, but I feel really crappy yelling about dirty clothes. Yelling (if used it all, I really try to avoid it) should be saved for the REALLY BAD STUFF…like using my pens without my permission.

I don’t want to YELL ABOUT DIRTY CLOTHES. But sometimes I do. And it does work better for a few days, but eventually they drift back to old habits because all children are sociopaths and they’re just living the most convenient life they can right now.

And we love them anyway.

2 thoughts on “Repetition Is Useless.”

  1. Same story here. It’s no surprise that we need shoes to leave the house. But every single day it’s like it’s brand new to them. What? Shoes? Really? I’ve often thought of making some recordings that I could just play on a continual basis in the mornings….

  2. I don’t doubt this constant reminding/forgetting is maddening (one of the 8,000 reasons I don’t have kids), but you know what’s funny? I’m not sure we completely grow of it. I can’t tell you the number of times I have gone into a room for something, only to end up forgetting what I needed by the time I get there. Tasks I need to do that don’t get written down (now in my bullet journal, thanks to you!) are forgotten an alarming percentage of the time.

    I also think there’s some selective memory going on…I think Wes really just wants to ride the buggy. My 42-year-old husband still rides our buggy like a skateboard from the door of the grocery store to the car, having carefully perfected the physics of not flipping it through years of practice. So there’s that to look forward to…

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