Guest Post by Jenn Rose of Something Clever 2.0.
When I was invited to guest post on Science of Parenthood, I assumed Norine had me confused with someone else. I am no scientist. Sure, I like science, I appreciate science, but I won’t be taking home a Nobel Prize any time soon. However, I do watch TV, and lately I’ve been watching Brain Games on National Geographic Channel. And the more I watched, the more I realized, this neuroscience stuff is awesome for keeping your kids in line. And best of all, these principles are so easy any parent can use them. Let me show you how:
THE EXPERT FALLACY This is the principle that explains why any old dope can put on a suit or a white lab coat, and you will instantly trust anything that comes out of his mouth. You will regard him as an expert, simply because he looks like one.
Use It On Your Kids! How many times has your kid asked you when it’s going to stop raining, what rhinos eat or where that red car is going? He thinks you’re an expert because you look like a grown-up. That’s certainly why my four-year-old seems to think that I know everything. And while I want to maintain that illusion for as long as possible, jeez … sometimes mommy needs a break. Or at least time to Google. The next time I run out of answers for why water is wet, I’m gonna try dressing in OshKosh B’Gosh overalls and a Hello Kitty top.
THE PRIMACY EFFECT When you recite a list to someone, their brain shuts off after the first two or three items, so you’d better mention the important stuff first, because the rest is just going in one ear and out the other.
Use It On Your Kids! My kid is crazy for video games. Given the chance, he’d play them all day, every day. So I generally use games as a motivator (that’s the scientific word for “bribe”). I’ll tell him, “You can play Avengers for 10 minutes after you put on your pajamas, brush your teeth and put away the silverware.” I bet you can see where this is going. He puts on his pajamas, maybe brushes his teeth, and then goes running for the Xbox. But from now on, I will tell him, “Please put on your pajamas, brush your teeth and put away the silverware. Then, you can play 10 minutes of Avengers.” That way, if anything gets dropped, it’s the video game. Although somehow, I doubt he’ll miss that.
THE PARADOX OF CHOICE You’d think more choices are better. And you would be wrong. The more choices a person is given, the more opportunity there is for regret. For example: If I only offer you two different varietals of wine, you’ll probably be comfortable with your choice. But if I offer you seven, you’ll be slowly sipping that Malbec, wondering if maybe the Pinot Grigio or the Chianti or the Chardonnay would have been better. (Hint: Chardonnay is never better. You were right to pick the Malbec.)
Use It On Your Kids! I’d always heard that you should give children choices, to create the illusion that they have some control. But if I ask my four-year-old what television show he’d like to watch, that only opens up the door for him to change his mind and start yelling about how he really meant to say Team Umi Zoomi, not Super Why. And of course he’ll wait until I’ve walked out of the living room to start screaming for me to come back and change shows. From now on, I’m only DVRing one show (Sid the Science Kid, of course). Then, he has no other choices to pine after.
THE ILLUSION OF KNOWLEDGE Simply put, your brain refuses to believe that it doesn’t know everything about everything. If there’s anything you don’t know, you will make shit up and convince yourself that you’re right. Kind of like how three witnesses to the same crime can tell three very different versions of the events, and they’ll all be absolutely positive that their version is right.
Use It On Your Kids! Okay, this one was definitely first observed in children. Did your two-year-old insist that she can dress herself? There you go.
THE DECOY EFFECT Have you ever bought a large soda because it was only 50 cents more than the medium? Or chosen the more expensive camera, because it was only $30 more than the other camera, but had way more features? Congratulations, you’re a victim of the Decoy Effect — the presentation of another less desirable option to make the gizmo retailers really want you to buy look better by comparison.
Use It On Your Kids! I’m such a science geek, I’d already mastered the Decoy Effect before I’d even heard of it. Just the other day, when my son complained about getting a banana with his lunch, I told him I’d be happy to swap it out for broccoli. He ate that banana … which is a good thing because we didn’t actually have any broccoli. That stuff’s gross.
Jenn Rose is a stay-at-home mother to one boy in Massachusetts. She blogs at Something Clever 2.0 and is a contributor to In the Powder Room. When she’s not parenting or writing, she’s watching way too much TV and drinking a little too much wine (not chardonnay). She hopes to become a zombie when she dies. Holler at Jenn on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.