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Author Topic: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag  (Read 16699 times)

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Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
« Reply #30 on: April 17, 2013, 05:20:54 PM »
I guess I'm looking for a nice way to say "Dude, seriously knock it off or I won't invite you over anymore" without nagging over every little thing he does.

I think you can say to him, "Dude, there are some sort of messy things you do that really bug me, and I could overlook them now and then, but you visit us a lot. So I need you to knock it off."

Then don't worry about nagging. Nagging is a *tone of voice*. Reminding is what you do when you're neutral.


1 - When he comes in, he takes his shoes off.  This is awesome, as this is how we do things in our house.  We have a *big* mat area in our front hall along with a bench to sit on to take shoes off and a shoe rack.  I also have a bin of slippers.  Regardless, once his shoes are off, they invariably end up halfway down the hall. . . . how do I 'train' him to put them on the mat?

First, tell him. Then every single time he does it, say very neutrally, "Bro, your shoes are in the middle of the hall; it looks messy and I'm afraid I'll trip over them. Would you come right now and put them on the mat?"

If you see him about to walk away with them wherever, say immediately, neutrally, "Please put your shoes on the mat. That keeps them out of the way."

2 - When he comes in, he will take out his wallet and keys and phone and put them on my kitchen counter.  This is fine.  HOWEVER, I have a small drying towel on the counter near the sink for LK's bottles and clean bottle nipples.  He invariably puts his things on top of this towel.  THAT drives me NUTS!  I feel like I should not have to say, "please don't put your wallet where my daughter's clean bottles go".  I feel very much like that should be a common sense thing.

Another common sense thing may be to not lay your keys on a countertop that you might scratch. Since this is frequently occurring, create some other place for him to set them. Like a small shallow bowl, or a little mat. And then tell him, "Bro, that towel is where I set my daughter's bottles, and I don't want you to put your keys or wallet there. Germs, y'know? So put your stuff here."


3 - Mr K and I often eat our dinner in the living room after LK has gone to bed.  It is an enjoyable way for us to reconnect.  For this reason, I have placemats on our coffee table.  The placemats take up about 1/3 of the space of the coffee table.  They are easy to fold up and put away.  Usually I do this when I have guests, but if I'm not expecting guests, I may not remove them.
He put his feet ON the placemat.  Even typing that, I just hung my head going "why would I have to say 'don't put your feet on the placemat'?"  These are actually OBVIOUSLY placemats.  He's been over before and has eaten with us in the living room, so he does know that those placemats are where the food goes.
I said nothing and threw them in the wash.
If he had moved the placemats to put his feet up, I would have been okay with it.

Well, duh, m'dear. Say something. Say, "Bro, those are placemats, we use them when we're eating! Shoes have germs. Next time, push the off to the side--or better yet, don't put your feet on the table." And pick them up that moment and put them in the laundry.

Also, I'm sort of thinking, "Who would leave placemats out after they're done eating?" So, well, he may think they're dirty anyway. Or he may just be thoughtless.

Either way, just tell him.

4 - I offered him a drink.  He wanted a cold pop.  Mr K grabbed the pop.  I handed him a coaster as Mr K handed him the pop.  He took the pop and the coaster.  He put the coaster on the table.  Then he put the pop on the table.  Then I picked up the pop and put it on the coaster.

Next time, say something. It's not nagging. It's establishing the house rules. Be a little exasperated. "Bro, I gave you the coaster because I want to protect my furniture from the moisture on the pop bottle. Please don't be so disrespectful of my belongings." (which is a big nagging, but here I think you should say something like this, bcs it's important to make it clear to him what the problem is. I might even go so far as to say, "getting it refinished to remove water damage could cost $500, and I don't want to live with junky-looking stuff." Tone of voice is everything. Be the authoritative "informing" person, not the whiny "complaining" person.)

His empty pop can and beer bottle were where he left them when he left.  He did not ask about recycling or where they should go.

Tell him that since he is not EXACTLY a guest, you expect him to put those things away when he's done. And then every time, when he's getting ready to go, say, "Oh, did you put your pop bottle and glass away?"

If he's a guest, he wouldn't worry about those things, you'd do them.
(I'm wondering what he does in your mother's home, if he's used to having someone pick up after him in general.)


All of the above happened in the first 60 minutes of his visit.  If he was a date and not my brother, this behaviour very early on would be a dealbreaker. 

These are examples and far from a comprehensive list.  They are little things.  I do know that a past girlfriend got very upset with him about shoes on her coffee table and they broke up shortly thereafter, so I have a strong suspicion that he does not do these things just at my house, but does them in general.

Is there anything I can do about this, either as a hostess, friend, or sister, to alert him to the understanding that his behaviour is thoughtless bordering on rude?

I think you can explain things to him. You can say, quite evenly, not at all scoldingly, "Brother, do you realize that when you put your stocking feet on a coffee table, it transfers feet sweat to the coffee table? It creates extra dirt, and it sends a message that the other person's belongings--and the work and money and thought they put into acquiring them--is worthless to you? Think about that a little bit, and stop putting your feet up on the furniture."


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Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
« Reply #31 on: April 17, 2013, 05:25:14 PM »
Also--re: the "I shouldn't need to say anything" idea.

Actually, you may need to *explain* the cause-and-effect that's going on. Some people really don't think about it much. They've never had to, really.

Or they consider the issue to be "fussy"--so their shoes are in the middle of the hall. They figure it's just aesthetics. But it can be that you don't want to have to watch where you look if the doorbell rings. Or that you think they're essentially delegating all the "work" of THEIR FOOTWEAR to you. Or that maybe it is just that you don't like how it looks, but it's disrespectful to you for them to decide that THEY don't care.

Those are the sorts of things I've been trying to explain to my kids as they're growing up. That there are many layers of "consideration," and that folding the towels the right way is not just "being fussy" but it means that we can fit them all in the cabinet AND that someone can take a towel out of the top without suddenly ending up with extra ones falling out.

Your brother clearly hasn't been taught these things by his parents, and so perhaps you can simply clue him in.

Think of it as "clueing him in," and NOT as "nagging" or "correcting" or "telling him stuff he should KNOW already!" (because he obviously does NOT know those things).

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Re: 'Enforcing' house rules without being a nag
« Reply #32 on: April 19, 2013, 11:41:31 PM »
Okay, I understand that by the time you got to the feet-on-placemats thing he had already done a lot of other stuff, but that totally squicked me out and I can't believe you stayed silent! You are so busy worrying about "nagging" that you aren't teaching him your house rules and are instead sending him mixed and inconsistent messages.

Does he get defensive and accuse you of nagging? If not, then don't feel about about telling him The Way Things Are In Your House. This doesn't have to be in lecture form. Just point out the obvious - he isn't doing things that can be defended. The sofa is not a napkin and the place mats aren't foot rests - say so!

If you are worried how you will sound, don't scold but keep it light and maybe try what I would call the "gosh you are (almost) so smart" method: Act like you are giving him the benefit of the doubt and think he either knew the right thing all along and just forgot, or is almost to the A-plus behavior with a gentle nudge. So you can say things like:
"Hey Bro, I see you were aiming for the shoe area and missed - thanks in advance for moving your sneakers so no one trips."
"Oooops, woah Bro - shoes go on hall mats but feet don't go on placemats - feel free to move those before you put your feet up 'cause I really don't want to taste your socks!"
"Hey buddy, you don't need use the whole sofa - just let me know you need a napkin, they're easier to throw away anyway amiright?"
*head tilt and asked with a genuine and amused smile* "Um...what were you planning on doing with that coaster, if you weren't going to put your drink on it? Be a good sport and save my table, 'kay?"

If you keep it light instead of silently seething, sighing, eye-rolling, etc. then he shouldn't feel nagged. Give him a fun little push instead of wagging your finger at him. Also, if you focus on how much you appreciate him doing things right, he should feel validated instead of put-upon. Call it "positive reinforcement training" instead of "how to get your sister of your case."  ;)

Forget the idea that you shouldn't have to say anything. We all have our clueless moments. Don't assume he knows or complain he isn't psychic.

It's your house and you know the way you like it - it is up to you to communicate your wishes to your clueless guests - whether they are related to you or not.
"... for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."
-William Shakespeare

"We find comfort among those who agree with us - growth among those who don't."  ~Frank A. Clark