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22 Reverse Psychology Tricks Used By Parents That Actually Worked

Dealing with children when they’re in an obstinate mood sometimes requires shrewd tactics to get them in line. Here are 22 hilarious reverse psychology strategies that parents have used on their kids that actually worked!

Strategy: Make a scary situation less scary with a ‘solution’

“Took my three-year-old to one of those doctor’s visits where he was going to get a shot. He was worried about the shot on the whole drive over, almost to the point of tears. We get to the doctor’s office and a nurse subtly lets me know that my son is not just scheduled for one shot, but five of them in the same visit. I turn to my son with an exaggerated smile and tell him, ‘Good news! They figured out how to take that one big shot you were going to get and instead break it up into these five little tiny shots so it won’t hurt nearly as much!’

You could see the relief wash over his face. He stopped squirming and relaxed completely. He took the first shot and even smiled and said, ‘It’s true! The small ones don’t hurt!’ We actually made it through the third shot before the effect wore off and reality kicked in. Still… I counted it as a victory.” – Blackbird77

Strategy: Encouraging them to shake it off

“I’ve done this one with tons of kids. Any time a kid gets ‘hurt’ (falls down on grass, gets gently hit in the face with a ball, etc.), instead of stopping the activity to pick the kid up and see if they’re okay, you just scoot them off to the side and resume. Within 10 seconds of not getting all the attention and seeing the fun is resuming, they pop right back up and are magically healed.

This of course is only for the ‘injuries’ that aren’t actually injuries.”

Strategy: Let them choose how long they’d want to play – they can’t tell the difference anyway.

“We are out – the library, friend’s house, whatever – and I want to leave shortly. I will ask the kids: ‘Do you want to leave in five minutes or 10 minutes?’ They will answer ‘10 MINUTES!’ every time. 

But here’s the thing: Little kids can’t tell time. So, whenever I’m good and ready to go, I tell them: “Okay, I gave you the 10 minutes that you wanted, time to leave!” And almost every time they would leave happily, because it was their decision” – IWasTheFirstKlund 

Strategy: “I bet you can’t…“

“Both of them hate the assertion that they’re not capable of doing something. Asking ‘Can you put your toys away?’ will almost certainly garner a hard no, but ‘I bet you can’t put all those toys back in the box, no way you’ll be able to,’ will have them whizzing round tidying like demons, followed by a very indignant ‘See, I told you I could!’ Cue my fake surprise.

They’re only four and seven, so I know there’s limited time to use this, but it works like a charm every time.”

Strategy: Use their competitive streak

My child was reluctant when it came to putting away toys. However, he loves timed tasks and is very competitive. I’d instruct my child to ‘put away all the red toys as fast as possible’. Then blue, then green, and so on. Soon the toys would all be put away.” – Divorced_dad_670

Strategy: Telling them that it’s for grown ups only

“My mum had a friend that would put vegetables on her own plate and not the kids. When the kids asked, she would be reluctant to share, saying: ‘That’s grownup food. But I suppose I can let you have a little.’ Her kids grew up loving vegetables.

Meanwhile, I sat at the dinner table for three hours staring at the yucky cauliflower I refused to eat.” – Laik72

Strategy: Sending them off on a fun ‘mission’

Not reverse psychology exactly, but when my first son was about four, he would often burst into our bedroom way too early in the morning, full of energy. It was up to me to either get up and engage with him, or send him off on some mission so as to grab a few more precious minutes of shut-eye. One I’m proud of was telling him to find out which of his legs could run the fastest.

He was charging around the corridor for ages doing a kind of manic goose-step before he came back in panting that they were both the same.” – Georgeisthecoolest 

Strategy: Tell them the secret approach

“I taught my kids when they were toddlers that no amount of yelling, shaking or hitting can wake a sleeping adult. The only thing that works is a gentle hug and/or a nice kiss on the cheek.

It went something like this:

#1 Tell the kids I’m going to sleep and that nothing they do will wake me. Having your head buried face down is the safest position.

#2 After the initial onslaught dies down, pretend to awaken on your own. Tell them you’ve got a bit of nap left in you and that nothing can wake you, especially not hugs and kisses.” – DrMethusael

Strategy: The “Silly Mum” routine

“My kid, and a few other kids I’ve known, would balk at getting ready to go. I’d grab their clothes and say, “Well, if you won’t put on your clothes, I guess I’ll put on your clothes. Cute shirt, by the way! Does it go on my foot?’

‘NO!’

‘Does it go on my head?’

‘NO! IT GOES ON ME!’

‘Oh, that’s right, thanks! So, it must go on your legs, right?’

‘NO!’

‘I just can’t figure this out! Where does this adorable shirt go?’

(Kid grabs shirt and puts it on) ‘ON MY TUMMY! SILLY MUM!’

‘Oh, thank you so much! Now what about these pants? Shirts go on tummies, so…the pants go on the tummy, too, right?’

‘NO!’ (Continue until kids have dressed themselves)

I would also do things like hand the kid my keys and say, ‘Alright, you’re driving, I’ll sit in the booster seat in back,’ attempt to feed the kid by putting a spoon up to his ear or his belly button, and attempt to put away his toys in the refrigerator.” – Insertcaffeine

Strategy: “You have to protect me instead!”

“My son was really impulsive when he was little. He would try to run away from me when we would be crossing streets instead of holding my hand. So I started to tell him that he needed to hold my hand so nobody would try to steal me. It worked! He felt responsible for making sure no one tried to kidnap me out in public.” – TimelyKaleidoscope

Strategy: Implementing healthy punishments

“One of my best friends used to be ‘punished’ with no salad if she misbehaved. She cherishes salad now and would always try to eat as much as possible during school lunch. Coincidentally, her husband used to be punished with no books and it had the same effect. I think it’s hilarious that they’d be hitting the salad bar and library like some black market that their parents couldn’t reach.” – Cookiearthquake

Strategy: Meet irrational moments with logic.

“My wife was a trauma therapist for some time and she’s baller when it comes to the pre-teen mind. Our nephew was bawling in the backseat once because he’d finished his soda. He wanted a sip of his sister’s and she wouldn’t let him.

My wife just asked him point blank, ‘Does crying make you feel better?’ He got a real inquisitive look on his face and almost immediately calmed down. I was just as flabbergasted as he was.” – Jarvicious 

Strategy: The bad word that isn’t so bad after all

Mum had sworn a bit around the house. When I was four, I said the F word really loudly while we were at the supermarket. Very quickly and intently, mum asked if I had just said ‘Truck’, and said that it was a bad word and told me not to ever say ‘Truck’ like that again. I thought that was the bad word so I used that when being naughty.” – GodOfTheThunder

Strategy: Letting them in on a fun prank

“When I was a kid, I refused to get up in the morning. My mom said we were going to trick my dad into thinking I was still asleep. So she made me put on clothes and then hide under the covers and pretend to be asleep. Then my dad would come in to wake me up and I would ‘fool’ him because I was already dressed and ready.

This worked on me for years and I never questioned it. In hindsight it’s pretty obvious that my parents just wanted me to get dressed without a fuss.” – Mfiggfi

Strategy: Empower them with choices

Dad, and certified foster parent here. Best trick I learned: Give kids choices. ‘Would you like water or apple juice? Would you prefer to read or make up your room?’ This way, you guide them, but it is their choice. Always give them option A or B. Maybe change B for C if they argue.

But be firm. If they don’t choose, then you tell them you will make a decision for them. At the end, they will choose, and will feel a commitment to their choice.” – Airetupal

Strategy: Give your child some adult responsibility

“I had split custody of my child with my ex. When my child was around 10, he visited two weekends a month. I was waiting tables and didn’t have a huge amount to spend, but he was so needy from the divorce (and I’m not blaming him, it was ugly) that he constantly begged for more when he was with me.

Whatever more was, it didn’t matter. He’d be eating ice cream cones and begging for teriyaki. I finally realised that he just felt empty, and getting more whatever from me wasn’t filling him up.

On his next visit, I handed him $100. I told him it was our food/fun budget for three days and two nights, and he was in charge of it. I bought him his own wallet to carry. We figured out how many times we were going to eat and what we were going to do, and he paid. He got to keep whatever money he had left. He thought he was rich…then realized just how much everything cost.

Well, the shoe was on the other foot then. If we had no money for food, we ate leftovers – and I didn’t contribute more to the pot. After a few weekends of running short or not getting something he actually wanted because he was foolish with funds, he started to really think about how to spend that money. He budgeted and kept to his budget. And a few times he actually went home with a little cash for his private stash. Many years later, he thanked me for this. It really changed the way he thought about money and love.” – Augmenti

Strategy: The ‘Okay’ trick

“I learned this thing called ‘the Okay trick’ while working in a call centre. You ask someone a question, and follow it up with “Okay.” People tend to respond to a positive with a positive, so calls would go like this: 

Me: ‘Well, we’ll have to terminate this account then have you reopen one to add your card back in, okay?’

Customer: ‘Ummm, okay.’

I found out that this works super well on children.

Me: Hey bud, five more minutes and then it’s time for bed, okay?

Bud: Uhhh, ok.” – Life_in_gray_scale

Strategy: Telling the kiddos they can’t do something just makes them want to do it more

“I was in the car with my brother-in-law, and his twin boys were in the back. It was hoped that they would fall asleep during the drive, as otherwise it would be difficult to get them to sleep at home (they always try and fight it).

So, my BIL very clearly told them that they were not allowed to go to sleep. After a while, they are starting to nod and eyelids are drooping. He repeated again that they couldn’t go to sleep. After a bit more time, one pipes up in a sleepy voice, ‘Daddy I’m tired’. So, my BIL ‘reluctantly’ agrees that they can both close their eyes for five minutes, ‘but no more’.

As expected, both of them were dead to the world by the time we got home.” – Thomas_Chase

Strategy: Give your kid a ‘solution’.

“As a former kid, the best reversal my mom ever did was to get me to eat liver, which I hated. So she came up with this dish called ‘Revil’, with onions, and served it. And I wolfed it down, glad to not have to eat liver.

It took me years to realize what was going on. Not because I was dumb, but I never expected to be fooled on this, and not in such a cheap, underhanded way. Spell it backwards? All you did was rename it? And it worked?” – Fourflatyres

Strategy: Keep them counting

“Your kid will hit an age where they will have inconsolable meltdowns. When it happens, just ask ‘Do you want to play a game?’ and they’ll say yes through the snot bubbles.

Then look around the room and ask them to find three blue things. They’ll find them – then do two orange things, etc. The kid will calm down so quickly. Sometimes I skip the game request and just ask my son to find the objects.

This is actually a tactic used by adults during panic attacks. Something about naming or counting objects and colours – one red sign, two black birds, three purple flowers – triggers the rational part of the brain and helps to calm you down when you can’t. I’ve used it myself.” – Manderly808

Strategy: “Tell me why I should try this!”

“When we want our daughter to try something new, one of us pretends to be scared to do or try it, so she and the other parent will try to convince us how it’s perfectly fine, or fun or how it’ll be tasty. She is always so busy arguing for what’s right about trying something, she almost never says no. So, she’s been on roller coasters, hiked along waterfalls, had no fears about her first plane ride, eats almost anything – spicy things, fancy cheeses, olives, all vegetables… When she does say no, we absolutely respect it as a limit for her, of course.” – 2beagles

Strategy: Whip up a non-existent tell. They’ll try to fix it and be way more obvious

“Told our kids one day that we can tell when they’re lying. When they asked how, I ‘reluctantly’ told them that their eyes get squinty. Going forward, they would intentionally widen their eyes when telling a lie.” – RudiGunn

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