You probably already know that I’m a big fan of power reversal games for turning around challenging parenting situations! But did you know that this same kind of game can be really effective in inspiring kids to cooperate with those every day tasks that can sometimes become such a drag? Things like getting clothes or pyjamas on, brushing teeth, combing hair, getting into the car, etc! There is a particular kind of power reversal game that can help make tasks like this go like a dream!
Regardless of the particular activity, the “magic formula” is the same …
👉 We, as the adult, act like we know exactly what we’re doing, but we get it so wrong!
👉 We use the wrong thing or we try to put it in the wrong place. We get it upside down, or back to front, or we just generally make a mess of it!
👉 We give our child the opportunity to laugh at how hopeless we are, and to be the more competent one by setting us straight!
👉 They are usually inspired to demonstrate to us the right way to do it!
👉 Their resistance to doing these tasks seems to evaporate!
👉 They end up doing the task, quickly, easily and with a smile!
The key to these games is really us feigning incompetence – it gives our kids the rare opportunity to feel more competent than we are. They get to show us just how much they know, and how well they can do it. And we get to sit back and enjoy the ease and fun of it all.
When my son was younger, I used to love using this kind of game when I wanted him to get dressed. I would say, “Time to get dressed! Okay, first we’ll put your t-shirt on …”, and then I’d try to slide it over his foot! And he would say, “No Mummy! It doesn’t go there!”. And I would playfully insist, “Oh yes, I’m sure that’s where it goes!”, but act kind of confused when it wasn’t really working. Then he would correct me, “Mummy, it goes over my head”, and he would guide me to put his t-shirt over his head! And I would act surprised that that was actually where it went, and very grateful for his help! And then I’d continue with his pants, putting them on his head, saying, “There we go! That looks lovely!”. And he would disagree and obligingly point me in the right direction, “No Mummy! They go on my legs! Like this!”.
Like I said, it really can be that easy with power reversal play!
👉 Power reversal games give kids a sense of increased power, which can be a welcome relief when they are usually the less powerful ones. The child becomes the leader; they are in control.
👉 These games can also lead to lots of shared laughter which really helps to increase kids’ sense of connection with us, and that usually paves the way for greater cooperation in general.
👉 The laughter itself be also be really powerful! You probably know that laughter can reduce stress and negative emotions, and improve mood. But did you know that laughter can also increase our tolerance to pain?
👉 So even if there is some physical discomfort involved in our child’s lack of cooperation, for example, if they find tooth brushing physically uncomfortable, this kind of play is still likely to help!
All of these aspects combined can make power reversal games like this really powerful in increasing kids’ cooperation with tasks that they don’t naturally have any interest in performing, and that might even be challenging for them in some way!
I’m guessing some of you will be saying to yourself right now, “But do I really have to play every time I want my child to cooperate?!”, and I really do feel you! We don’t always have the energy to play. Sometimes we just wish our child would simply do as we asked without all the hassle!
And I also know that this kind of play can be so effective, really almost like magic, transforming a tense situation with a resistant child into fun and connection for everyone! So if we can dig deep and manage some play, we can often save ourselves a bit of time and a lot of stress.
These games are ideal for younger children, but you might be surprised that they can also work for older children too, even up to 9-10 years of age. With older kids, they will know that you are not really that incompetent, but they will often still laugh at your silliness and appreciate the connection, even if it’s with a bit of a groan.