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Using Reverse Psychology with Children

Most parents have heard of the idea  of using reverse psychology with kids.   After all, this is a form of discipline that is used when other methods of controlling  naughty or boisterous demeanor in kids become ineffective.  Can parents be looked down upon or blamed for using a method that is not entirely appropriate? Maybe not, when you consider the large amount of difficulties they have to encounter when enforcing discipline.

Think about this scenario. You are exhausted from your work,  but somehow manage to get home and prepare a nutritious supper for your child, only to have him or her reject it outright and ask for the junk food that you are trying so hard to get off the menu.  After this, you attempt to get your child to accomplish  nighttime shower, again to have them throw tantrums that you are just too tired to handle. Now is not really the time when you stop and possibly consider the correctness of your disciplinary measures and reverting to a dose of reverse psychology parenting is easier than you think .

Still, not many parents , including you, know about the implications of using reverse psychology with kids . What some parents do not comprehend is that using this technique is an not so direct way of challenging your child and his or her ability to carry out a given task.  Let me give a simple example that will illustrate my point.  When your child refuses to eat  a food item that you prepared for him or her, you get frustrated and blurt out something like- “I bet that you can’t eat that sandwich in ten minutes like John (your neighbor’s child) can.” You think that hurting his or her ego will get the good results and to some extent, it does. The problem starts when you start to make use of  this strategy very frequently.

Some clarity as to the definition of this term is needed here, though.  Motivating your child to perform certain actions should not come under the heading of ‘using reverse psychology with children ’.  For example, if your child is having a particularly lazy streak by not wanting to help you with simple household chores, you might say something like “Lets have a race and see who can peel these potatoes the fastest!”  Here, you are trying to infuse an element of fun into the mundane so that your child can effectively shake off his laziness .

Similarly, warning your child of the dire consequences of performing rash actions should not be mistaken for reverse psychology. There are many times that children get impatient and do what they want and ingraining a sense of caution to prevent possible accidents is extremely necessary and you need have no qualms while doing so . All you need to be careful about is damaging  the ego of your child in a bid to make him or her behave in socially accepted ways, as this is what reverse psychology is all about.

To put it blatantly, even though this might provide short term alleviation and satisfaction, as a long term measure, it will prove altogether ineffective. Some of the possible side effects of using reverse psychology with children is that you might end up alienating your child. There are so many cases of children looking upon their parents as task-masters and exhibiting negative and rebellious streaks as a way to cope with these perceived traits in their parents. To make it even worse, your child might lose self-confidence in his ability to perform tasks and may end up with a low self-esteem, which is the last thing you want.

Do not panic! I am not trying to generalize here and conclude that every time you use reverse psychology with children will lead to these kinds of problems. All I am trying to say is that like many other techniques,  this is one that you want to use with a lot of advisement and tact. Never use this in a reactive mode, but only in a well-planned and subtle manner. Most importantly, never let every incident of uncontrollable behavior from your child lead to a camouflaged threat on your side, which is what using reverse psychology with children usually comes down to .

So, what is the best way to use this plan using loving parenting? Well, to begin with make sure that you try and discipline your child using the conventional techniques first. Time-outs, reasoning with your child, using logical consequences etc. should be attempted before you get down to the use of reverse psychology in parenting. This again does not mean that every time the traditional methods fail, you use reverse psychology as the last straw. The whole point of this technique is that you use it sparingly and wisely. That way your behavior is not perceived as ‘manipulative’ by your child.

By indulging in reverse psychology at the drop of a hat, you are giving out the impression of losing control with very slight provocation and allowing a sense of negativity creep into the entire parenting experience.  And we all know parenting can be very difficult sometimes, you do not want to carry around the guilt for the personality disorders of your child later in his life , do you?  Ok, so I am sure you are wondering what is the best way to supplant this plan of action is when all other methods are unsuccessful?

Well, what you could to is to make use of another form of reverse psychology that is not at all detrimental in nature. Here are some examples, if your young child refuses to eat as he or she is engrossed in watching tv, you could tell them that it is bedtime since dinnertime is over with with. This will encourage some positive action from your child who is desiring to have more tv time on his schedule.  Many kids  refuse food but are not at all averse to having their favorite dessert. This would be a good time to make a rule that dessert will be received only after they eat their dinner, you will get better results. By doing this, you are giving them choices rather than attacking their sense of self-worth.

Even if your child does not accept these measures very gracefully in the initial stages, it won’t lead to any permanent harm and in time, they will gain understanding as to why these rules are enforced will be gained. The whole idea about being good parents is to be creative in your approach and come up with new ideas that do not disintegrate the beautiful parent-child relationship. At times, you as a parent can also be a bit flexible, especially when it comes to issues that are relatively negligible. By trying out different things, you can gradually get your child to cooperate in things that really matter and completely do away with using reverse psychology with kids .

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