I recently read an article entitled "Reverse Pyschology: Appropriate Parenting Tactic?" at A Moment To Think. Great, thought-provoking article. I began to comment on the article, and realized (after writing several paragraphs) that what I really needed to do was to write my own post on the subject.
As a brief summary, the author speaks of trouble getting her toddler girl to eat what she wants her to eat: carrots are used as an example. The author and her husband sit down to eat carrot sticks without their daughter. When she immediately comes over to the table to request a carrot, the parents make a show of hesitating and then reluctantly agree to her request. That is a very brief summary of just one aspect of the article. Do read, the article in its entirety for the full picture. You'll, no doubt, be able to relate to their dilemma, as I can.
I empathize with the author of this article. I've definitely been there. As I read through the article though, I began to see an issue with the reverse psychology approach.
Hubby and I have certainly used reverse psychology ourselves. Yes, reverse psychology can work, in the short term, but I think it has the potential to do more damage and make our lives harder in the long term. And ultimately, we use it as a last resort technique, meaning we've given up.
I'm not judging. I have plenty of lazy parenting days. The point is, we know we're being lazy when we do this sort of thing, and it should tell us that it is perhaps not the best parenting technique we could employ.
I think the idea of eating and enjoying something in order to set a good example for our kids works well. The problem I see with implying or saying outright that they can't have any, when what we really want is for them to have some (reverse psychology), is what happens next. We then give in to their request.
The message we send when we give in, is that when we say 'no', we don't really mean it. We think we've won because we've tricked them into doing what we want them to do, BUT what we have really done is taught them that if they plead/whine/etc we'll change our minds, and they'll get what they want.
So, what does reverse psychology get us? Potentially, a temporary feeling of euphoria when our kids do what we want them to do (thinking that they are doing it because they want to) and an even harder job of disciplining them in the future.
When it comes to getting our kids to do what's good for them, like eating vegetables, maybe all we can do is set the example and be firm and consistent in whatever disciplinary measures we feel are appropriate. I'm not suggesting this is easy, only that it seems to me the most effective approach in the long term.
For example, what we try to do with Jack is to suggest he at least try everything that's put on the table. We remind him that tastes change, and that even if he didn't like something last week he might like it today. Jack knows that we sometimes have dessert available and we eat it after our supper if we are still hungry. Jack also knows that he can have more of whatever he wants once he finishes everything that's on his plate. We try not to talk any more about the food in front of us. It's hard, but we try to resist reminding him to eat his veggies or offering him more food. We make one meal for everyone to enjoy, not several meals based on personal tastes. We set an example by eating and enjoying our food. Those are some of our methods. They work for us when we are firm and consistent with them. (When we are tired and frustrated, things don't go quite so well.)
What do you think? Can you relate to the dilemma of wanting your child to do something that you know is good for them, like eating vegetables. Can you relate to wanting to use reverse psychology or some other 'trick' to get them to do it? Do you think it works? Do you think it has harmful side effects?
How do you get your kids to do what's good for them?