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How to Outsmart Your Kids with Child Psychology

Are your children running the household? Take back control with these sneaky strategies from parenting experts.


  • Step 1: Rephrase negatives into positives Instead of telling your child what not to do, tell them what they should do; this plants the correct action in their head. For example, saying, "Look both ways before you cross the street!" is more effective than saying, "Don't run into the street without looking!"
  • Step 2: Limit their choices When you want your child to do something they may not want to do, provide a few choices. Children – like adults – tend to be more cooperative if they feel they have some control. Plus, it removes the option of refusal because you haven't asked something that can be answered with "yes" or "no."
  • Step 3: Use reverse psychology Use reverse psychology by forbidding them to do something you want them to do.
  • TIP: Reverse psychology works best on children under age seven.
  • Step 4: Challenge them Turn commands into challenges, as in, "I bet you can't eat all that broccoli."
  • Step 5: Add a silly element Add a silly element to a request, like, "Hey, why don't you hop around and whistle while you put away your toys?" They'll likely be so busy focusing on the nonsense part they'll forget to give you a hard time.
  • Step 6: Break their bad habit Break their bad habit. Put money in a jar, telling them you will remove a certain amount each time they engage in the offensive conduct. After four weeks – the amount of time psychologists say it takes to break a habit – they may keep whatever is in the jar. It gives them incentive to break the habit, and teaches them that actions have consequences.
  • TIP: Never use a bribe jar to get a child to eat something; it will send the message that there are "good" and "bad" foods.
  • Step 7: Stay calm Remain calm when your child acts up – especially if you usually get emotional. A cool demeanor can be more effective than yelling and screaming, which many children – especially teenagers – tend to tune out.
  • FACT: The percentage of parents who believe in spanking dropped from 94 percent in 1968 to 61 percent in 2004, according to one study.

You Will Need

  • Ways to recast your requests
  • Challenges
  • A jar with money
  • A calm demeanor

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