Reverse psychology: does it work on children?

When you want something from someone, there are different approaches: there are those who ask politely, those who explain at length, those who show interest in the opposite person, those who flirt with blackmail … But when talking to a child, one necessarily adapts a little. This does not prevent us from developing strategies to achieve our goals.

Among the tricks that you might use without being aware of it are there reverse psychology. We take stock of this technique with Dr. Fanny Jacq, Psychiatrist and Mental Health Director of *.

Reverse psychology, a technique bordering on manipulation

reverse psychology consists in “convincing a person to do something by asking him to do the opposite », explains Dr. Jacq. Specifically, it is a matter of counting on the “reactance”, that is, the person’s spirit of contradiction. “When people realize that we are trying to convince them of something, they tend to do the opposite out of a spirit of contradiction,” the expert clarifies, adding that reverse psychology is “a communication technique that can also be related. with a form of mental manipulation. ”The person feels that they are making a decision on their own while you have actually influenced them.

Personalities more receptive than others

Since children are known to do the opposite of what they are asked to do, it can be tempting to use reverse psychology at all costs with them, for example by telling them not to go out and play in the garden when we just will. to watch them play outside. But you should know that the technique does not work the same way at all.

It is generally very effective on children who have a confident spirit of self-contradiction and have difficulty with order and restraint, as well as on young people in the rebellion phase. Conversely, “on submissive personalities who respect order, fairly obsessed, reserved, introverted, obedient, conciliatory, this technique is generally not very effective, and discussions and beliefs have more effect,” says Dr. Jacq.

Use reverse psychology with your child, good idea?

Let anyone who has never used reverse psychology with their child throw the first stone at us … But is that a good thing? For Dr. Jacq this is not serious, provided “byuse reverse psychology in small doses and wisely in childrenand rather about small topics without too much seriousness, because it can, after all, be reminiscent of manipulation ”.

She cites the example of telling a child who does not want to eat vegetables that green beans are an “adult” dish and that he / she must not eat them. “It’s not very serious and it will increase the likelihood that he or she will eat it,” the expert says. However, the use of this technique should not be systematicespecially with teens who may perceive manipulation and become angry or lose confidence.

Pressing your child to obey, a strategy that has its limits

For Dr. Jacq, conversely, opens psychology a break in parental education, as it will in the end allow the child to do the opposite of what he was told The long-term risk is to undermine the parent’s authority, as the child is used to being disobedient and doing the opposite of what is asked of it.

“It is always preferable to use communication techniques with a child or a teenager, for example to explain to him why it is important to eat vegetables, make the dish beautiful and attractive, reward the child for his efforts … These are techniques that will bear more fruit in the long run ”, the expert concludes.

* is a medical teleconsultation platform that is available every day from 06:00 to 23:00, and which shows hundreds of psychiatrists and psychologists.

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