Reverse psychology: yesterday and today

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Remember when our children were small? We used a little thing called “Reverse Psychology” on them.

Well, I did.

If they didn’t want to eat their dinner, I would chant “Don’t eat it” in a cajoling, chipper voice. And, they’d make their move, chubby hands grabbing fistfuls of food, shoving into smiling, greedy mouths. Until everything on their little plastic plate was smeared all over their bodies with some of it actually making it into their mouths.

They ate when we told them not to.

And they’d giggle about it because they were defying their parents.

It was a miracle.

Or, a warning of what’s to come.

So, we tried it for other circumstances that begged for it.

Like messes.

They’d clumsily clean up their dumped out bins of toys while we sat on the couch and begged them to leave their toys where they lay. Because, yes, we love a living room full of small lego pieces to step on.

They allowed us to clean their ears, pick their noses, scrub their butts…just by using a little reverse psychology.

When they were little, convincing them to do something we wanted them to do was fairly easy.

Oh, how the tides change.

Now that they are teens, we spend all this time teaching and encouraging our children to choose the right paths, right?

We try to instill values that will help them become upstanding and productive adult citizens.

We try so hard to give them the tools so that they actually might be equipped to choose the right path or, upon choosing the wrong path are able to learn from it.

Schools teach them of the perils of drugs, alcohol and texting while driving.

Usually, we parents have the schools back when it comes to those lessons. We continue conversations left off from classes and assemblies. Or, we may even start these conversations at the dinner table.

Schools have protocol in place for bullying and dress code breaking. As well as for when the students place bomb threats or show up with guns.

Yet, no matter what the schools, psychologist or parents say, teens pretty much live their life by their own rules.

The whole Reverse Psychology thing? Genius. I mean, why the heck did I ever stop using it.

Oh yeah, because teens can outsmart adults.

I spend so much time telling my brats that I’m not stupid, I have their number. Yet, I think maybe I am stupid. Hummmm.

Telling them to go ahead and do something because you think that particular choice they are planning to make sounds really smart. Yet your voice, once cheerful, is now dripping in venomous sarcasm.

So, they do what they were planning on doing. No matter what.

Then, when they get caught doing what you had hoped they wouldn’t do…

They offhandedly mention that you said they could.




But apparently, when it comes to teenagers…

The reversed psychology that once worked so incredibly well when they were young and impressionable…

The once, ever-so-effective reversed psychology that we used on our sweet, cherubic angels…

Works no longer.

To these mini adults, aka teens, reverse psychology is called…


Yeah, should’ve know that something so good was bound to come to a screeching, swerving halt.