How to Use Reverse Psychology on Your Kids

Reverse psychology can be an effective child-rearing method. But it can also do more harm than good if used incorrectly or too often. At best it won't work at all, at worst it could damage your child's self esteem or cause guilt feelings [source: Does Reverse Psychology Work?].

So what, and when, is the best way to use reverse psychology on your kids? Let's take a look:


  • Don't use reverse psychology as a first choice. Use it sparingly if all other methods fail.
  • Use a positive form rather than a negative form. Positive: tell your child what she should do, rather than what she shouldn't do. Negative: tell your child she probably can't do any better. While this may spur a child to study harder, it's just as likely that the child will believe you and give up. And that feeling can last a lifetime.
  • Offer your child a choice, so he feels independent. For example, if he refuses to take a bath, say, "OK, so if bath time is over, it's time for bed."
  • Challenge your child instead of issuing orders. For example, say, "I bet I can finish my vegetables before you finish yours."
  • Use a positive reward system. For example, make a "Prize Jar" for each child and put in a coin whenever they do a chore or behave properly. Distribute the prize money regularly (daily, weekly, etc.). Try to avoid competition between siblings.
  • Stay calm and avoid reacting emotionally when your kids misbehave or are stubborn. Losing your cool sets the stage for a no-win situation.

[source: Positive Reverse Psychology For Your Kids]