Why Do I Have To Repeat Myself Constantly?

If you’re like most parents, sometimes you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall, constantly having to repeat yourself to your kid.

You’ve told your child a hundred times that we don’t throw our toys.
You’re reminding your teen to take out the recycling again.
It’s the thousandth time you’ve reminded your child not to grab.

Why won’t they just listen??? I’ve felt that way. You’ve felt that way. It’s a universally frustrating parenting experience.

Some people warn that if we repeat ourselves constantly, we’re training our children to wait (Nooooo!). Also, when we repeat ourselves, we can slip into nagging, which we don’t want and our kids don’t want. But household chores and duties can be a huge source of stress and conflict. How can we navigate this mindfully? We talk about this in Mindful Parenting and I want to share some things that can help.


Why doesn’t the lesson sink in? A mindset shift that helped me enormously with my patience in repeating is to remember that everyone needs repetition to learn.

Adults need repetition to learn and we have a fully developed frontal lobe. This important, prefrontal cortex area of the brain is responsible for verbal ability, problem solving, and impulse control. Impulse control! This part of the brain doesn’t develop in our children until their mid-twenties. So if it takes us repetition to learn, our children need us to patiently repeat our messages until they learn too. 


Sometimes behind our directives, we have an unconscious assumption of instant obedience. Plus, our children have needs to drive them to certain behaviors—like the need to explore their world, play, and have some autonomy.

So there are two things to be aware of here:

1.) What are my expectations?
2.) What are the needs that are driving my child?

When we can get curious (a fundamental mindset of mindfulness) about what needs are driving our kid’s behavior, we can stop repeating the message that isn’t landing and try something new.

Let’s also check our unrealistic expectations of instant obedience. Our kids aren’t robots.


Do you ever worry that you sound like the parent in Charlie Brown—wah, wah, wah? You probably do. We all do! I am certainly guilty of talking way too much and reminding too much. Sometimes our child needs some time to do a chore. When they are tuning out reminders, sometimes they need less talk and more action. If my daughter can’t remember to pick up her jacket and backpack strewn across the floor, it goes in a pile in her room. We will wait on giving access to the objects that entertain (hello tablet) until the chores are done. No need to shame, blame, or nag.

If you need to offer a reminder, limit yourself to a word. “Recycling” works much better than nagging.


Kids also tend to tune out things like orders and commands. Why? Because no one, of any age, likes other people telling them what to do all the time. In Mindful Parenting orders and commands are one of the 6 Communication Barriers that stop the flow of communication between parents and children. Kids tune it out.

Instead of unskillful orders and commands, ask yourself: How would I ask my respected Auntie to do this? How would I ask a roommate? How would I ask a friend’s child? These filters can help us adjust our language.


If you’ve been practicing skillful communication, remember that it can be good to repeat yourself! You are teaching your child how to speak. In Mindful Parenting we learn how to empathize well and how to give skillful I-Messages. These are great to repeat! You are teaching your child how to talk—how to get their own needs met without shaming, orders, and threats.

Everyone needs repetition to learn. If that’s the one thing you take away from this, take it! This one mindset shift can help you relax back and stop fighting the inevitable. It’s okay to repeat yourself. Remember that your child is learning from your everyday communications.

I hope this is helpful. Do you want to go deeper? I've written a whole book about changing your mindsets and creating a relationship with your child based on love and mutual respect.
Raising Good Humans Every Day gives parents 50 in-the-moment mindfulness-based strategies to stop generational parenting patterns of ordering and threatening, and start to cultivate closer, kinder, more cooperative relationships with their children day to day.