The more time I spend with my girls, especially my nearly 4yo, the more I figure out how carefully I have to speak to them. If I choose my words well, life is calm, the girls behave, and the day goes as planned.
However … if I say something wrong – maybe I spring a trip on them too suddenly or can’t resolve a fight between them in just the right way – there are a few minutes or hours of chaos.
Likewise, though, I’ve found that I can talk my way out of some tight spots with them. And the more I practice, the better I get. Sometimes it feels like I can do anything – and get my kids to do anything.
I’ve realized it’s actually reverse psychology. And it works.
A month ago I was driving Toddler to preschool as usual. She really loved her class and looked forward to it each Monday and Friday she went. Yet one morning, the closer we got to her school the more she complained about how she didn’t want to go. We arrived, and yet she kept saying she didn’t want to go to class – and didn’t even want to do any of the fun things I assured her the teacher had prepared for them that day.
I finally coerced her to leave the car by saying I at least had to go in and tell her teacher she wouldn’t be attending class. Once we walked in and went into her classroom to see her teacher, her teacher immediately said she was sad my daughter wouldn’t be staying … at which point my daughter burst into tears!
I instantly whisked her into the hallway away from the other kids – so they wouldn’t be upset by her and so I could calm her down in a quieter location.
At this point you might wonder why I didn’t just take my daughter home….
Well, she wasn’t sick and loved school, like I said. I think she just had a little bugaboo for whatever reason. She can be extremely stubborn sometimes. I knew I just needed to find the right words to help her want to stay at school.
I got my clue when she said (in her very fake voice), “I’m too tired to go to school.” I sprang into action!
“Well, if you’re too tired to go to school, then you can come home with your little sister and me and take a nap in your room, because that’s what she’s going to do. That’s what happens every day you go to school.”
Toddler perked up immediately and said, “Umm, I think I can stay for school. I don’t want to take a nap.”
I felt so powerful at that moment. I used reverse psychology to motivate my daughter – a quite pliable 3yo – and have done it a few times since. Several parents have used the clean-up threat, “I guess I’m going to have to throw away these toys now if you’re not going to clean them up.” Turns out that line works!
I hesitate to be manipulative, but I suddenly feel a lot more powerful than I formerly did.
Toddler won’t go to the bathroom even though it’s been three hours? (She has a Jupiter-sized bladder, folks.) “Well, I wouldn’t want any pee-pee to get on your pretty dress, but if you don’t want to take a quick bathroom break, okay….” Off she goes!
Toddler doesn’t feel like eating the fruit I just cut up for her – the fruit she asked for two minutes ago? “Well, eating fruit helps keep our poop soft, so I guess you’re going to have some hard poops if you don’t eat your fruit….” Down goes the kiwi!
You see where going with this. Is it manipulation? Coercion? Or just darn smart parenting? Am I late to this game? Or have you all been doing this all along, but I’ve just been too nice so far?
Well, I’m going to stick to this game as long as I can milk it – as long as she believes my “consequences,” that is.
Reverse psychology for the win!