Reverse psychology and other ways of being a jerk without your kids knowing it

Posted on July 11, 2012


reverse psychology


Welcome to this week’s installment of WTF Wednesday, where research and fact-finding are really important priorities unless there’s other stuff to do.

This week’s question comes via Twitter by Brick Wade (A.K.A @BrickWade). She writes:

Dear Barmy,

How do I politely tell my children to stop talking because frankly, I’ve had enough?

My first response was to ask Brick if it has to be done politely. I’m not so good at that. Her response was, “Well, I’ve tried not so politely and would rather not continue being seen as a jerk. Though effective.”

Got it.

Brick, I have tried to provide you with solutions that will be effective and may reduce the likelihood that “jerk” is the first thing that comes to mind when your darling children think of their mommy. For the record, though, your kids will think you’re a jerk anyway for not letting them have 5 scoops of ice cream instead of the broccoli you put on their plate. You can’t win the “I don’t want my kids to think I’m a jerk” battle. Best to find ways to use it to your advantage. More on that some other time.

What follows are my recommended approaches to telling your children to stop talking without being the bad guy:

  • Hey sweetie, I love the sound of your sweet voice but my eardrums are bleeding and I’m worried I’ll stain my nice white shirt with blood. Would you mind terribly if I asked you to stop talking for, like, ever?
  • Shhh, there’s a fairy princess in the cavity just behind this wall. Don’t speak or you might scare her. You do know what happens to a fairy princess when she gets scared, right? Their wings fall off and they slowly bleed out until, weak from loss of blood, their little heads hit the ground and shatter like a light bulb. I just thought you should know.
  • Know what I hate? Silence. Hate it. Can’t stand it. Last thing I’d ever want around here. Please do not go in the other room and close the door because I’m afraid I might not hear you. Boy, that would really annoy mommy.
  • Sweetie, how many words have you used today? Wait– don’t answer that; you may already be close. I lost count at around 1,500 but at 1,523 words, four year-olds reach their allotted number for the day. At that point your jaw locks shut until the word count resets in about a week. I’m afraid you should probably not say anything more until tomorrow.
  • Pookums, you’re a big girl now! With that come big girl responsibilities. Your little brother is totally messing up and needs someone to show him how to do things correctly. Honestly, I don’t know how you got all the brains and he’s well, you know. Anyway, he’s talking way too much. Can you show him how to talk only when spoken to?
  • Oh, this is an interesting article; it says that people get cooties from talking too much. Hmmm.
  • Honey, did you hear about the outbreak of mouth flies? Awful critters. They fly into open mouths and lay their eggs just behind your uvula. The flies just kind of tickle but I heard the larvae eat your cookies and ice cream before you get a chance to swallow it. Anyway, how was your day at school? Honey? It’s OK, you can talk to me; I haven’t seen a mouth fly since, oh, about an hour ago. No? Well, OK then.
  • Hey kids, I personally have no problem with you talking, but your grumpy old daddy says you have to shut up.

I hope these work well for you. Our readers may have other suggestions to offer.

Problem solved! You’re welcome.

Boy it feels good to make the world a better place with all my expertise. If you have a question that desperately needs not answering, please feel free to leave it below, tweet it, email it, post it on Facebook, or tie it to the leg of a ferret and take your chances that it’ll find me eventually.