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3 Mind Tricks You Can Use on Your Resistant Child

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I had to hold back laughter last week at church. A guy walked up the aisle with a vice grip on the wrist of his little one who was still in diapers. The little guy was pulling away so hard that I promise, had the man let go, that kid would’ve been on the other side of the building in five seconds flat. That was a resistant child if I’ve ever seen one and I prayed for those parents and their next 16 years.

A certain amount of resistance is healthy, but when your kids are constantly mad because they aren’t getting their way or they never want to do what you’re asking them to do, man is it frustrating. But there are tricks used by psychologists and even people in customer service that you can use to get your resistant child to comply. Here are 3 easy ones.

“Yes, but…”

When kids get “no” for an answer, it usually doesn’t matter what comes next. All they hear is the negative response. We were out to dinner one night and my son asked if he could order dessert. I said, “No. We have a special dessert at home,” and he pouted. When I asked him what the problem was, I learned he hadn’t even heard about the treat waiting for us at home.

The opposite is true for “yes.” When we respond with “Yes, but…” to our kids’ requests, they have less of an urge to push back, even though you’re not giving them what they want right when they want it. Say your child asks to play on the iPad. Choose the answer that sounds better: “No, not until you get your homework done!” or “Yes, but your homework needs to be done first.”

“But you are free…”

Your kid might call your bluff on this one, but research shows it’s an effective compliance-gaining technique. Tell your resistant children what you want, but add that they are free to choose what they want. Most of the time they will obey because their freedom doesn’t feel threatened.

For example, my sons are responsible for putting their laundry away. Instead of, “This laundry had better be put away or you’re in trouble,” research says they’re twice as likely to comply if I say, “I would like you to put your laundry away, but you are free to keep watching the TV show.” I know. It sounds crazy, but try it out.

Feel, Felt, Found

This is a popular technique used to smooth things over with angry customers. (Next time you’re the angry customer, listen to see if it’s being used on you.) When someone is unhappy, the first step is to empathize with how the person feels to create rapport. Step two is to talk about how somebody else felt in a similar situation. This moves the unhappy person to part of a group so he or she doesn’t feel alone. Finally, when the customer is connected to that group, move him or her to a place of satisfaction by sharing what a person like him or her found to be true when he changed his mind. Since the customer is attached to the group, this should change his or her mind at the same time.

Since you are probably not a customer service rep, here is a parenting example:

Molly is in sixth grade and is very resistant to the idea of riding the bus to school. She’ll have to be at the bus stop before the sun is up, none of her friends ride the bus, and the seats smell funny. The feel, felt, found technique works like this:

Molly, I understand how you feel. Riding the bus is an adjustment. Lots of kids have felt the same way about getting up early and yes, the seats stink. I know I didn’t like it when I was your age. But what a lot of kids have found is that they make a new friend or get extra time to read or study and it ends up being a great part of their day.

Feel, felt, found works for trying new foods, getting shots, riding a bike, playing a new position on the team… the possibilities are endless.

Which of these three would work on your resistant child? Which one would be the toughest?


What’s a good way to express your frustration when you don’t get what you want?

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