The Art of Reverse Psychology

Reverse psychology… one of the many great parenting tools. If you really think about it, the reason reverse psychology works is because the person on the other end of the negotiation wants nothing more than to oppose you. That’s right. The whole thing works because someone would rather do the opposite of what you’ve asked than do the original request (that they didn’t want to do).

And while I’m fully aware of all the reasons that this tactic is not forefront in all of the parenting books, let’s just entertain the notion that perhaps it’s not all that bad. Perhaps it’s the key to getting kids to do what you want them to do… perhaps.

What went down tonight at dinner time is what I like to call a reverse psychology masterpiece. You see, our little guy Beckett hates to sit at the table and eat. It’s not that he’s a picky eater, he is just easily distracted and doesn’t like to be confined to any one place. Therefore just about every night getting him to sit in his seat and finish his plate is a serious challenge. Blake is usually in charge of feeding Beckett, and after having only ate his broccoli, Beckett declared himself done. He plopped off his chair and proceeded to the toys. Some time ago, Blake introduced reverse psychology to our dinner table. It’s how we’ve gotten him to abandon the toys and return to the table. But unfortunately, it has not always resulted in him eating much of his dinner. So tonight, I grabbed his plate and decided to take it to another level. “Beckett, no more corn for you. No corn.” And then Beckett turned around and said, “Yes corn! More corn for me.” (I’m translating here… he speaks, but I’m pretty certain only Blake and I can fully understand him at this point.) And I followed, “Okay, then come here if you want corn.” And the little guy marched over to me, opened his mouth and took a bite. Impressed by the fact that it worked, I proceeded to the next thing on his plate. “Beckett, no more chicken. No more chicken for Beckett.” And Beckett whined, “Yes chicken. More chicken.” And he walked back over and took his bite.  This continued for 4 rounds of corn, chicken and mac and cheese, and the kid who was “done” nearly finished his plate. Blake and I kept chuckling to each other because we couldn’t believe it kept working, but it did. I reverse psychologied this kid into eating his dinner.

So what does this mean? Aside from the fact that I’m obviously a genius parent, it means that kids must practically come out of the womb not wanting to do what you ask. Or in this case, do the exact opposite of what you propose. It means that kids, even those who are not yet 2, want to be independent and be in charge (of some part) of their lives. Tell them to eat their chicken – “No!” Tell then not to eat their chicken – “Yes, chicken!” I’d like to say that as we mature that this silly logic becomes a thing of the past. But no. Adults still don’t like to do what someone demands of them. Tell them they shouldn’t do something, and they are compelled to try. Driven by stubbornness and the opinion that they know it all, I hate to say it, but reverse psychology would probably work on many adults I know.

But for now, I’ll just worry about my perfecting my reverse psychology skills on my little boys (and never on my husband [wink, wink]). With the success of the trial this evening, I’m looking forward to what other necessary daily routines I can manipulate them into cooperation – getting ready in the morning, breakfast, lunch, nap time, bath time, bed time. Oh my gosh, the possibilities are endless. And I suppose when they catch on to the shenanigans we’re pulling on them, I can try my hand in double reverse psychology. Oh boy, then things will get interesting around here.


DSC_0207Mom, I can’t believe you’ve been playing me with reverse psychology!!

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