“Don’t read this article!” If I were to tell you that there’s nothing to see here and that you should move along, your curiosity would be piqued, wouldn’t it? You’d actually be more likely to have a read because it sounds like there’s something sus going on, right? Welcome to the vast world of reverse psychology where you encourage people to do what you want by telling them to do the polar opposite.
Oh, reverse psychology isn’t some magical technique that works all the time: it can easily backfire and it shouldn’t be your first choice of action. However, when it does work, the results can be spectacular. And that’s exactly what the parents of Reddit shared in a viral thread started up by user LeanderD, who was curious about the times that reverse psychology actually worked on munchkins. The thread was so successful that it ended up being reposted on other subreddits besides r/AskReddit.
Have a read through some of the most fascinating parenting tales, upvote the ones that you thought were the most imaginative, and let us know if they’ve inspired you to try a different approach to parenting when nothing else seems to work.
Bored Panda had a chat with Leander Digerud, aka the author of the viral thread redditor LeanderD, about the interesting inspiration behind the question as well as their thoughts on reverse psychology. You'll find their insights below.
#1When 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.
Image credits: mfiggfi
#2My 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, "that's grown up food. But I suppose I can let you have a little."
Her kids grew up loving vegetables.
I sat at the dinner table for 3 hours staring at the yucky cauliflower I refused to eat.
Image credits: laik72
#3My son was really impulsive when he was little and 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 nobody tried to kidnap me out in public.
Image credits: TimelyKaleidoscope
There’s a bit of an ethical question attached to the use of reverse psychology. Specifically that it can be a way to manipulate people. While it can sometimes work wonders when nothing else does (try convincing your kid to eat their veggies), it should only be used sparingly.
After all, if someone’s constantly tricking you, then the foundation of your relationship is built on beach sand as the tide’s rolling in, not solid bedrock. What’s more, if used too often or incorrectly, reverse psychology could erode your kid’s self-esteem or even make them feel guilty.
According to LeanderD, they had no idea that their question would go viral; however, they had hopes that they'd catch everyone's attention. "I think it's really cool that it has gotten the popularity it has. I didn't expect it, although I had posted some other questions prior on r/AskReddit that I kinda hoped would go on the front page. I posted some things in the hopes of one going viral but I didn't think that question, in particular, would," they told Bored Panda that it was an unexpected surprise.
#4Took my 3 year old son 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 1 shot, but 5 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 5 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.
Image credits: blackbird77
#5One of my best friends through childhood used to be punished with no salad if she missbehaved. She cherishes salad now and would always try to eat as much as possible during school lunch. Coincidentally, her now husband used to be punished with no books, it had the same effect. I think it's hilarious that they'd be hitting the salad bar and library like some black market their narc parents couldn't reach hahaha.
Image credits: cookiearthquake
#6My dad used to play a game to see who could match and fold the most laundry he never once won.
Image credits: stonerplumber
Generally, it’s a better idea to use positive reverse psychology instead of its negative form. For example, you should steer clear of risky tactics like telling your child that they probably can’t do any better if their grades are slipping or if they’re not successful in some sort of project. While some kids would be inspired to try even harder, others might actually think that you don’t believe in them.
The author of the question joked that getting a viral Reddit post hasn't much changed their life, though some of their friends "thought it was cool."
Redditor LeanderD puts a lot of thought into the questions they post on the site. "I tried to find these questions that had the potential to go viral. I also wanted a question that gave some funny stories as replies. The kind of replies you read and think, 'Kids are som dumb and cute.'"
#7I don't so much know if you would call it reverse psychology, but I didn't realise it until my dad told me this.
When there were chores that needed doing, he noticed if he asked me to mow the lawn, I would complain and procrastinate. But if he asked would I rather mow the lawn or wash the windows, I'd pick one and just get it done.
Shattered my brain when he told me when I was in my twenties. I use it when I'm coaching or baby sitting all the time and it almost never fails.
Image credits: AppealToReason16
#8Hi I was a victim,
There was a forbidden book that I was not allow to read on the shelf. My parents said I could only read it if I behave myself.
It was summer holidays and I was playing games all day (after 6 hrs of summer homework). One day I was home alone and had the opportunity to grabbed it. I read like half of it in one go. It was 5000 years of Chinese history.
Safe to say I was bamboozled.
Image credits: oddstodd
#9My parents always told me my broccoli were the flowers of the queen and that I really shouldnt eat them, or else the queen would get very upset! I, ofcourse, ate the whole brocolli in a few seconds.
Image credits: Subwoofy
Instead of opting for psychological negativity that could make even a grown adult lose motivation, you could offer your child a choice. For example, say that your kid doesn’t want to take a bath: you could say that bath time is over and that it’s time for bed. This empowers your kid to choose what to do and they might even decide that bath time is way more fun than sleepy time.
Meanwhile, the author of the thread told us a bit more about how they came up with it. The inspiration behind the question about reverse psychology is, surprisingly, a series of kids' books that many of you Pandas may have read (me included). "I remembered I read a 'Diary of a Wimpy Kid' many years ago and remembered it mentioned reverse psychology there. I remembered it being funny at the time so it kinda stuck to me. I think it was something about his parents saying he could never do the dishes. So they repeated that many times until he practically begged to do the dishes. And on his birthday he got that as a present from his parents," the redditor explained.
#10My dad used to say that when the ice cream truck was playing music it meant he had run out of ice cream.
Wait, that's not reverse psychology. THAT'S JUST LYING, DAD.
Image credits: jay76
#11"I bet you can't..."
Both of them HATE the assertion that they're not capable of doing something.
"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 fake surprise from me.
They're only 4 and 7, so I know this has got limited time, but so far works like a charm every time.
Image credits: bibbobbins
#12Do you want your diner now or in ten minutes - the illusion of choice.
Image credits: Cardus
"In my opinion, reverse psychology is so helpful because it makes you think you want to do those things. It is like the opposite of when you are about to go out with the trash bin and then right before, your mom asks you to do it. You suddenly don't want to do it anymore," LeanderD mentioned a situation that plenty of us have been in where somebody telling us that we _have to_ do something that we were going to do anyway makes us want to rebel.
However, LeanderD thinks that reverse psychology has its limits. "Its not like if my parents says, 'Don't clean the whole house today,' I will start cleaning the whole house right away," they pointed out that it's not a superpower (even though some parents might with that it was).
"I think it's a funny trick you can have in the back of your mind, and use it sometimes, but don't overuse it. I also think it works better on children than adults," the redditor added that adults aren't as easily tricked because they have far more life experience.
#13It seemed like the minute my son realized he was going through puberty, he developed a need to show everyone how strong he was, usually by carrying things. Now, my son was a rather small, wiry, hyperkinetic kid - not at all a football player or weightlifter type. Yet I noticed starting when he was around 13 that if something heavy or heavy-ish needed moving, he was always right there, with a need to show he could do it.
I took full advantage. I don't think I lifted anything heavier than my purse until he moved out. All I had to do was mention that I was going to put X in Y place (put the suitcases in the car for vacation, carry that gigantic load of laundry upstairs, etc.), and pretend like it was too heavy for me and he would appear as if summoned from the universe to do it for me. The reverse psychology aspect was my saying "Oh my! That looks heavy!" and him proving to me that "No it's not!"
Image credits: sirdigbykittencaesar
#14"No, you cannot take this after school science extra curricular activity. They have robots, lasers, explosions, and other dangerous stuff like that".
Image credits: ManOfLaBook
#15My mum would always yell at us "if you don't do X, you have to go to bed without socks!"
I never wore socks anyway, and I'm ashamed to admit that this worked
Image credits: [unknown]
You could even use reverse psychology as a friendly challenge, like saying that you bet you could finish the greens on your plate faster than your child can. It’s fun, it’s a way to bond, and it might just get your munchkin to start munching healthier food items. Just remember that with great power comes great responsibility. And reverse psychology is a double-edged sword that should be used sparingly if at all.
#16My 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, etc.
#17Whenever my co-worker would feed any sort of meat to her kids, it was "chicken." Because they wouldn't eat anything but chicken. Piece of steak? It's chicken. Pork? It's chicken? Chicken? It's Chicken.
Image credits: woo545
#18I learned this thing called "The Ok trick" while working in a call center. You ask someone a question, and follow it up with "Ok." People tent 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, ok?
Customer: Ummm, ok.
Found out that this works super well on children.
Me: Hey bud, five more minutes and then it's time for bed, ok?
Bud: Uhhh, ok.
Image credits: Life_in_gray_scale
#19Growing up we never had soft drinks (soda) in the house. My mum would on a rare occasion buy Diet Coke for herself and tell my brothers and I “eww yuk why would you want this black drink” . To this day I think coke is disgusting and it hurts my teeth.
#20Not reverse psychology exactly, but when my first son was about 4 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.
Image credits: Georgeisthecoolest
#21When my children were younger, I'd say "Hey if you do _______ (insert chore), then I'll buy you dinner tonight"
They would get all excited and then go do the chore. Afterwards they'd say, "wait, you buy me dinner everynight"
Image credits: 33Wolverine33
#22I used to tell my little toddlers that if they were fibbing, a black dot would appear on their tongue to their mother. So if I suspected a lie, I'd just say, "Stick out your tongue". If they kept tight lipped, I knew I was right. They are teenagers now and laugh about how they fell for this for YEARS.
#23As 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. 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? Mom! Dammit.
RIP Mom. I still make my own Revil now and then just to reminisce.
#24I don't know if it was truly reverse psychology, or an exhausted response out of desperation...
We were in line at the grocery store checking out. Kid was three, and the meltdown started, and quickly became an on the floor tantrum.
I looked down and said, louder than normal, but not yelling, "Where is your mother? We need to find your mom!"
She was startled, because i am her mom, and confused. But the tantrum ended quickly, and with hugs.
#25My 3yo daughter sometimes doesn't want to climb the stairs to our room and wants me to carry her, sayin "Don't know how to climb."
When she does it I say "Show me how you don't know." and she climbs few steps to show me how she can't. We repeat that until she's upstairs.
"How come you climbed it all if you don't know how?" i ask afterwards.
"I guess I knew." she answers. ...:)
#26My uncle used to say “quick! Before I give you a dollar!” We would all run like mad to do whatever it was. I’ve used this on my kids and the look of confusion on their faces is all worth while. The cycle continues.
#27Mum had sworn a bit around the house.
When 4, while out at the supermarket, I said the F word really loudly.
Very quickly and intently, she asked if I had just said "Truck" and said that was a bad word and not to ever say "Truck" like that again.
I thought that was the bad word so used that when being naughty.
#28I substitute teach sometimes, and if I get word ahead of time that the class is rowdy, I'll pretend I lost my voice. I write stuff down on a mini whiteboard, type on a screen. The students see that I need their help and they're a little easier to deal with. Facial expressions and gestures end up creating a naturally quiet environment. Always fun to surprise the kids at the end when I speak lol.
#29Twice a year I let the kids eat whatever they want and do whatever they want. It ends up being a lot of junk food.
The first maybe three times they ate so bad a few of them threw up. They now regulate themselves much better and choose quality snacks over quantity.
#30Dad, 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.
#31So I work at a day camp during the summer, and whenever a kid gets hurt or something, I always joke around and say “Alright (kids name) am I gonna have to call an ambulance? Docs! Gotta cut the limb right there!! Just cut it off!!”
Works every time, gets them laughing.
#32All three of my kids were allowed one stir fry ingredient that they didn’t have to eat more than 3 pieces of. One chose pineapple, one chose tomato, and one chose carrot. They were allowed to chose a different ingredient for next time, but never before the meal. They would eat their 3 pieces, and I’d eat the rest if they found more in the meal.
Worked perfectly, everyone felt empowered.
It wasn’t until they were all grown up and had left home that I told them them that whatever else I used in the stir fry, those three items were guaranteed.
They now eat everything.
#33Child here, but still a great example .Once when my parents were having a party, I got a bad case of hiccups. After a while my dad whipped out his wallet and pulled out a $100 bill. I was probably 12 so that was a fortune to me. He said if I hiccuped again I could have the money.
Standing there, a ton of adult eyes watching to see if I'd do it, and not a single hiccup came out. I was cured and pissed.
#34This happens fairly regularly with my boys (9 and 11):
Him: OWWW XYZ hurts!
Me: OMG Son I'm going to miss you so much! (hugging and clutching)
Him: Mom, I'm not dying.
Me: Oh. (pushes him away)
#35My 4 year old has two foam swords he loves to play with, he likes to pretend he is Peter Pan and I am Captain Hook. So I will confirm with him that HE is Captain Hook (while pointing at me) and that I am Peter Pan (while pointing at him). The first few times he is like "no daddy, I am Peter Pan and you are Captain Hook" but eventually the mixed messages with the pointing and the words confuses him then all of a sudden he's Captain Hook like it was all his idea.
#36“Don’t eat it. Dooon’t eat it. Whatever you do, don’t eat it. What are you — don’t eat — oh no! You ate it!”
#37My daughter used to refuse to go upstairs for her bed time, I used to say "Right then, I am going up without you" and she would follow me up. I think it must have played on her fear of abandonment.
#38My (wife's) aunt does one that works almost all the time. If they fall or bump something and get an owie, I.e. something minor, she just up and goes "Oh no! What did you do to the (insert object that was hit/fallen on)!?". They usually get concerned about the table or the floor like the hurt it more than they hurt themselves. I was shocked when she did that and my son had the look of "oh shit, are you okay?" on his face and forgot he ran face first into the door frame.
#39I’m the kid here, but when I told my mom that I was dating this girl from my high school class the first thing she said was “Don’t be upset when you break up”. I’m marrying that girl next August, 8 years later.
#40I work with toddlers and sometimes if they fall down or get "hurt" then I'll clap and cheer and tell them wow that was so cool. They smile and get up instead of crying and continue playing. I only do this when they fall and pause thinking if they should cry or not
#41My wife used to tell the kids that I didn't want them to try new things because I didn't want to share it with them. Sometimes they'd like it and I'd make a big deal out of it about having to share with them. Sometimes they'd say, "this one is all yours dad". You win some, you lose some, but at least they would typically try things this way.
#42Best I saw was when the kid would never bother to take out the trash, the dad said, it was fine and he'd do it, and that he was sorry for thinking the kid was mature enough to be responsible for anything. Really made him feel like a baby, and a week later he started taking the trash out without being asked.
#43My ten month old daughter believes that falling over and hurting herself is a feat to be celebrated with a dance and clapping.
#44The old tried and true, "Bye, I'll see you later!" as you pretend to leave the house whenever they refuse to put their shoes on works like a fucking charm.
My two year old that was just hiding behind the recliner comes a runnin' when she hears that phrase. The seven year old has tried to call the bluff but, I just bluffed my way out to the car before she came running outside.
"You really were going to leave me?!"
"Guess not, maybe next time."
#45My mom would tell me she only lets me eat soup after candy and she'd only buy me candy that i didn't like. After a few times, i stopped trying and begged her to let me eat soup first. She gave me a smirk and told me go ahead. This doesn't sound as evil as it was. But trust me i suffered.
#46The "Silly Mom" 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?"
"Does it go on my head?"
NO! IT GOES ON ME!
"Oh, that's right, thanks! So, it must go on your legs, right?"
"I just can't figure this out! Where does this adorable shirt go?"
[kid grabs shirt and puts it on] ON MY TUMMY! SILLY MOM!
"Oh, thank you so much! Now what about these pants? Shirts go on tummies, so...the pants go on the tummy, too, right?"
[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.
#47I 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.
Edit: Probably needed some more details for the reverse psychology aspect to be clear. It went something like this - Step one, tell the kids I'm going to sleep and nothing they do will wake me (head buried face down is the safest position). Step two, after the initial onslaught dies down pretend to awaken on your own. Tell them you got a bit of nap left in you and nothing can wake you, especially not hugs and kisses.
#48Wanted to name my boat. Anything I would think of was dismissed as stupid by my 13 year old son. After deciding on a name, I confided to a male friend my son liked. Made my friend suggest the name as though it was his idea. My son thought the name was perfect. Done.
#49I've done this one with tens 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 ok 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.