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September 7, 2012
Be Careful of Reverse Psychology
Parents continue to look for ways to get their young children to cooperate. One of the methods some parents use is called “reverse psychology.” It often works, but can have dangerous side effects.
When the two-year-old doesn’t want to eat his sandwich, Mom may say in a playful voice, “Don’t take a bite of your sandwich while I’m gone.” When she returns and finds that her son is chewing a bite and smiling.” Mom reacts in mock surprise and then says it again. The good news is that Mom just achieved a goal of getting her son to eat his sandwich.
But what is Mom teaching her son? Reverse psychology uses playfulness to teach children to disobey. Teasing can be fun in family life, but sometimes the teasing has underlying principles that we need to be careful about.
Reverse psychology is rarely helpful in the long run. Although little Billy may get into the bathtub when Dad says playfully, “Don’t put your foot in that bathtub,” he’s inadvertently encouraging Billy to go against Dad’s better judgment.
Playfulness is good with children. You might play a game with bath time or eating a sandwich, but be careful that you don’t make jokes about things like disobedience.