The Art of Reverse Psychology [Guest Post]


L. S. Cauldwell

I learned an extremely important lesson when my son turned eight years old.  In the eighties, girlie magazines weren’t wrapped in black plastic nor were they shelved behind the counter where the cash registers were kept.  Girlie magazines were displayed out in front of the store on the rack with other magazines like McCalls, Life, National Geographic, Redbook, Home and Garden to name a few.

My son was like any other red-blooded preadolescent boy.  He dashed to the magazine rack and picked up a girlie magazine.  Drooling he opened the magazine and stared fixated at the half naked girls in the photograph.  Knowing I would lose if I yelled, screamed or said no, I used reverse psychology; instead of saying no, you can’t read that, I offered to buy the magazine for him.  That stopped my son’s enjoyment of a forbidden fruit.  He put the magazine back in the rack and walked away.

I have found that reverse psychology is a powerful weapon in a parent’s arsenal.  It’s a weapon of choice to use sparingly in situations where the parent wants to correct a child’s behavior in such a way that no lasting damage is done.

Did it work?  Yes, my son chose not to read girlie magazines again.  He told me that allowing him to buy the magazine took all the fun out of it.  My son wasn’t reading the magazine behind my back or outright defying me.  He had my permission to read it.  What fun is that?

As my son matured, I found that in certain situations that reverse psychology was the key element in getting my son to understand that sometimes his behavior needed modifying.  I used reverse psychology only when it was necessary.  When my son and his friends threw knives into the wall, I showed them a better way to use the knife point.  They spent that weekend applying putty to my son’s bedroom walls and then repainting them.  When I found my son’s friend drinking beer in my house, I took him outside and placed him in the middle of the road and told him he could drink till he blacked out. The young man looked at me as if I was crazy.  He poured the liquor out in the street and came back into the house.  He never drank again in my house, other kid’s houses, or even at home.

At ten my son had developed into a man.  He told me he could father a child. Knowing that elementary kids experimented with oral sex, I wanted to keep my son a virgin until he got married.  I took him out to lunch.  He ordered his usual hamburger, fries, and shake.  As he was about to take a bite out of his hamburger, I showed him how a man and woman had sex.  I used my thumb and third finger and formed a round opening.  I took my right hand forefinger and thrust it through the finger-made opening.  He gagged, gasped and ran off to the men’s room.  Postscript:  My son remained a virgin until he married.  He told me that every time he was tempted, he remembered my graphic illustration and threw up.

I know that tweens and teens can also use this type of behavior modification on their parents as well.  Be forewarned.  You’ll be sucked in quickly so proceed with caution.  This is the ultimate control behavior for a young adult between the ages of nine and eighteen.  My son used this method on me once with catastrophic results.  It worked too well.

Reverse psychology should only be used when your teen needs a bit of an adjustment or alignment.  Remember the bad adage, ‘Do as I say, not as I do,’ I took it in a different direction.  ‘Do as I say, not what you desire.’