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The Hypnotherapy Hack That Gets My Kids to Listen to Me

Photograph by Twenty20

If you know me at all, then you know I am a walking parenting fail hashtag. And not just in a cheeky, exploiting my parenting mistakes for chuckles kind of way. I’m truly a failure. Failing at parenting in the one thing I don’t have to pretend to be good at. It’s maybe my greatest success.

I am even so bad at it that no parenting class can help me. I’ve tried, believe me. I am shipping myself off to the motherlode of self-helpery, The Hoffman Process, in hopes to unlearn some of my own parents' programming so that I can free myself of their crap and become that parent who writes articles about how great they are at parenting. For now, I’m a win-win if I get the kids to school alive and only dropped the F-bomb five times.

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I've pretty much given up on any kind of standard parenting strategies—the "I" statements, the five deep breaths. I basically have one tool in my kit that works. And I use it all the time, it's all I've got, I kind of can't believe how easy and reliable it is. It's how I get my kids to listen to me on the first try.

While making a request, I don't raise my voice, I don't draft up charts, I don't promise treats. I nod my head.

Nod. My. Head. (I feel like a genius just typing that!)

Here's the deal: Usually, my son, 6, doesn’t listen to thing I say or request of him. And it’s not until I have lost it and everyone is crying hot tears in a puddle on the floor that we try to figure out how to get to the next step (e.g. take your wet towel off the floor, brush your teeth, take your shoes off, get in the tub, go to bed). Now, I nod my head while making the request and, well, the towel gets pick up, the teeth get brushed, the shoes come off.

And even I can't believe it: That shit works.

I didn't come up with this on my own. A few years ago, I took my daughter, Aria, to a hypnotherapist to try to help her with her nail-biting. Of course, it didn’t work. But, at the end of the unsuccessful session, the hypnotherapist looked at Aria, who was totally hypnotized, and said, “Now, Aria, you want me to show you how you can get your little brother to do anything you want?”

Aria shrugged, “Sure, I guess.”

She told Aria that when she talked to AJ, especially when trying to get him to do something, all she had to do was nod her head, like she was saying yes, and speak in an inflection, like she was saying yes while making her request.

I noticed later that when Aria takes over and tries to help with AJ, he does whatever she says. She speaks in a sing-song voice like the kindergarten teacher you always wished you had. She nods her head and offers AJ a few options.

“AJ," she starts, already nodding her head, "now we are going to brush your teeth then you get to pick out a book for Mommy to read before bed. Wouldn’t you love that?" More nodding.

And it’s like crack. He goes into a trance and just follows her like a puppy. Oh my god! She’s hypnotizing him! She is using the power of suggestion, language, body movements and inflection to win friends and influence people. This might be Neuro-Linguistic Programming in action, but I never read more than the back cover of the NLP book I ordered on Amazon.

I make it 'feel' like a statement even though it’s shrouded in a question so he thinks he has a choice.

Whatever. I decided to start this myself to see if I could get things looking up for me over here. And even I can't believe it: That shit works.

I swear, guys.

I just talk to AJ like I’m saying “yes,” but it’s something I need him to do and I say it like he’s already agreed to it, with a smile, an upward inflection, and I always tag a “sweetheart” or endearing term at the end. I make it “feel” like a statement even though it’s shrouded in a question so he thinks he has a choice.

It goes like this: “AJ we are going to brush your teeth now then hop in bed and read some bookies, OK, my love?”

And it has been working every time.

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I can’t believe I am actually getting a point across to my kid, but I am.

I guess that hypnotherapist Aria and I always joked about being a total waste of money on wasn’t such a waste after all.

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