It sounds totally counterintuitive, I know, but when I want a stubborn child to do something, I tell them exactly the opposite. I've got three kids, all boys, and rebellion runs deep. Reverse psychology is the closest thing I have to a mind trick and you’d better believe I use it to win them over.
Let me explain --
Brushing their Teeth. My kids hate brushing their teeth. Not even battery-operated, character-themed toothbrushes, candy-flavored toothpaste or the threat of cavities inspires them to polish their pearly whites. So, when they refuse, I don't argue. "Sure," I say. "You can skip brushing. Let's go right to bed instead." You've never seen a toothbrush fly into a mouth so quickly.
Getting out the Door. For whatever reason, my kids always fight me when it comes to putting shoes on. Whether it's rainy, snowy or whatever, they'd rather go barefoot. So, I let them. Naturally, they get no farther than the front door before demanding something to encase their precious tootsies. Magic!
Shoes are a struggle, but getting dressed in my house is no picnic either. So, when my kids refuse to put their clothes on, I encourage them to see who can get dressed the fastest. Suddenly, one of the most reviled activities of the day becomes a fun game. Works like a charm.
Eating Greens. As any parent knows, there are no two forces in the universe more diametrically opposed than kids and veggies. Fortunately, reverse psychology has a solution. If my kids balk at, say, a plate of green beans, I remove it from the menu. "No, no," I explain. "These aren't for you. They're mine." Telling a kid he can't eat something practically ensures he'll jam it into his mouth. They may not like the taste when all is said and done, but, hey, I'm a parent, not a chef.
It is possible that reverse psychology can backfire, especially if a child gets hip to your mind games. Luckily, this hasn't happened to me yet. But when it does, you'll easily be able to pick my kids out of a crowd. They'll be the ones with dirty teeth and no shoes.
Donald S. Deane is the proud papa of three little boys who provide endless amounts of joy and sleep deprivation. He has held a variety of jobs, including college English teacher, newspaper reporter/editor, internet project manager, dishwasher and dogcatcher. Don has written for AOL TV, Moviefone, TheFW, ScreenCrush, GuySpeed, and Arcade Sushi, among others.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.