Even parents who don't effectively use other parenting techniques, like time-out, using natural and logical consequences, distraction or extinction, likely know about reverse psychology
Using this technique, to get your kids to finish their dinner, you might say something like:
- "I bet you can't eat all of those peas in 30 seconds."
or when trying to get him to put away a toy, you might say:
- "I'll put it away for you. You probably don't know how to fit it all back in the box anyway."
So you are essentially trying to get your child to do the exact opposite of what you really want him to do.
This should not be confused with trying to make chores fun. If you say 'let's see who can put more toys away in 5 minutes,' then that isn't reverse psychology, since you are actually telling him to do what you what him to do.
It also can work to 'encourage' your child to not do something that they really want to do. For example, you might try to scare your child into not crossing the street by saying:
- "OK. Go ahead and cross the street by yourself. You'll just get hit by a car..."
Does Reverse Psychology Work
Parents who use reverse psychology as a discipline technique recognize that it can work. But is it good parenting?
If your child is getting bad grades, is it really a good idea to say:
- "That's okay. You're probably not smart enough to make better grades anyway"?
Some kids might study more after being told that by a parent, but many others will simply think that they aren't smart and should stop trying to make better grades.
When using reverse psychology, if you consider that you are more 'manipulating' your child than anything else, then all of a sudden it takes on a more negative tone and doesn't seem like good parenting. After all, discipline is supposed to be about teaching, isn't it?
Also, reverse psychology doesn't always work. And when it does, a more traditional discipline technique would likely have worked just as well.
Using Reverse Psychology
If you do use reverse psychology, don't use it often. And don't use it in a way that might hurt your child's self-esteem or make him feel guilty.
For example, if your toddler or preschooler doesn't want to take a bath in the evening, you might say 'okay, let's just go straight to bed then.' That will probably work, because most younger kids would rather do almost anything than go to bed early.
Or if she doesn't want to sit in her car seat, you might say 'fine, then we just won't go to the zoo.'
Why are these examples more appropriate then the ones mentioned above? While you are still trying to get your child to do something that they don't want to do, you are offering them choices instead of simply trying to manipulate them in a negative way to do something.
Using pure reverse psychology, for the kids not wanting to take a bath, a parent would probably say:
- "OK, don't take a bath. Then you will smell bad and no one will like you" or "you will get sick from the germs on your body and have to go to the emergency room"
So go ahead and use reverse psychology, as long as you don't mind paying for years of therapy later on to boost your child's self-esteem and fix any damage you do...