The Power of Reverse Psychology

There is some innate force inside us that doesn’t want to listen to direction. Or maybe it is just me and my genes, but I like to find things out for myself. I’ve also noticed my four-year old going against what I ask in what seems out of spite.

I’m sure your kids always listen, so please send me your tips. If they sometimes don’t, well maybe you want to try a little reverse psychology to get things moving along a little easier for all.

Blame it on Adam and Eve. They didn’t listen either. Maybe its the serpent devil speaking to my son. Let’s face it. There is a bit of good in the worst of us and bit of bad in the best of us.

One thing I have noticed though is that as fathers (and mothers) we can use our kids’ desire to go against what we say to our advantage, at least while they’re young.

My son has this habit of whining and often screaming when rinsing his hair of shampoo in the bath. It’s unpleasant for all involved, and no matter how much I tell him it’s okay or to shhhhhhhh, he continues the stream of angst.

Father Through Me

Then just yesterday, I heard my wife speaking to him while rinsing his hair, and their wasn’t a sound coming from him.

She was making various voices, pretending to be an audience watching the hair rinsing. Members of the audience were hoping to hear and see my son scream. And there he sat resisting. Going against what “the crowd” wanted him to do.

“I want my money back,” shouted one of the onlookers in what sounded like an Irish accent. “He’s not screaming. I thought we’d get to hear him scream.” Against the will of the people, my son showed them that he wasn’t going to listen and give them what they want.

And I think my wife enjoyed the process just as much. (My wife does some great European accents.) I know I would have enjoyed the bath that much more since there wasn’t a screaming bloody murder contest going on.

So next time, try it. I’d say take advantage of it as long as you can. My kids are young, and I plan on milking it as long as I can. Soon, they’ll probably be reversing reverse psychology, and trying it out on me.

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Jelly Bean Pools & Sitting Around Doing Nothing

My oldest is now almost a year from kindergarten, and his personality is in full swing. His stories are also becoming more and more elaborate.

Like the time he told us that his school’s gym was made out of candy and that they jumped in a pool of jelly beans.

Or the continuous story that he tells everyone about grandma and grandpa allowing him to watch Star Wars. The stories go on and on to a point where I’m not even sure what is real or what is a story.

Is my pre-schooler already lieing? Or is it just early developments into his sarcastic personality? 

Looking at myself, I thoroughly enjoy sarcasm, at least being in the giving end. Like the running joke he and I have about his days at school where they sit around and do nothing. It all started with me trying to pull out a discussion at the dinner table after a day of school and work, jokingly asking, “Did you sit around all day and do nothing?”

And now he comes home from a day at school and after being asked what they did all day, he’ll say, “we just sat around and did nothing.”

There’s also my classic sarcastic joke asking, “Do you have a broken leg?” when he is “unable” to walk when defiantly opposing getting into the car or leaving a place he is happy about being.

Thinking about my use of sarcasm, it’s usually in spots where I am frustrated and wanting my son or wife to see things my way. And used on my wife, the manner of the sarcasm can be taken positively or negatively. But she’s an adult and can figure out my truth.

I am at a point of my life though where I realize anything I do that’s based in self can do harm, either to me or others and usually both. I wondered if my young pre-schooler can figure out my truth hidden underneath the sarcasm. 

So I looked up the meaning of sarcasm to start with and Merriam-Webster says this:

1 : a sharp and often satirical or ironic utterance designed to cut or give pain

2 : a mode of satirical wit depending for its effect on bitter, caustic, and often ironic language that is usually directed against an individual

Oooooh. Wow. Give pain? Caustic language directed against an individual. Looking at these two definitions, I definitely do not intend to inflict either on my children or my wife for that matter. My whole objective as a father is to create a loving and supporting home where we can all grow in spirit, wisdom and love. And those two definitions don’t appear to support this objective.


However, I also want to have fun. God doesn’t keep me here to be stoic and serious all the time.

So keeping in mind where a young developing mind is, I pray to keep my mind aware of any harms I may cause by using sarcasm. And of course to have fun with language in other ways.

Signe Whitson LSW writes in Psychology Today that children under eight years of age don’t quite understand how to take sarcasm because they can’t pick up the necessary recognition of subtle truth. And that it can actually get in the way of forming positive relationships with our kids.

Turning to the golden rule:  treat your neighbor as you want to be treated. I really only want to be treated sarcastically by those extremely close, those that I know and have built an established relationship of trust.

My kids are forever growing, and God willing so am I, but I want them to trust me. And until they really understand sarcasm, I am going to work to try to keep it among adults and speak through the heart to my young children. 

How’s that for sitting around and doing nothin?