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Sometimes children and adults use manipulative strategies to avoid responsibility. Today we are introducing one such trick which uses ‘slight of mind’ to quickly switch the focus off of one person and on to another. We refer to this mental magic trick as ‘Flipping the Mirror.’

When a person is confronted with changing a behavior, instead of focusing on it, that person instead immediately points out a fault of another. Hocus Pocus— they flipped the focus! And while it might seem pretty transparent, an experienced magician can easily confound the unprepared audience. Children can quickly become seasoned little ‘mirror flipping’ experts.

This is due, in part, to the fact that they also happen to be fluent in ‘parent button-pushing.’ This scary combination can be powerful and to the unsuspecting and very busy parent, super frustrating!

How these victims (parents) handle it:

Parent: You need to clean your room right now!
Child: You never yell at anybody but me! You don’t like me! (Mirror Flip)
Parent: What? I treat all of you equally! Where do you get off saying I don’t like you! That’s so unbelievable! Why would you say that? As a matter of fact, it was YOU that I took to the park yesterday, not anyone else! It’s not nice to say that to your … blah, blah, blah. GOTCHA! Hocus Pocus, they flipped the focus.

Let’s try another…

Parent: I need you home tonight by 9:00 and in bed by 10:00.
Teenager: You are so controlling and you freak out about everything! (Mirror Flip)
Parent: Controlling? Just because I ask you to be home at a certain time? Most of your friends need to be home by 8:00. I give you an extra hour and you call me controlling? And how dare you tell me I freak out when I am trying so hard to be fair. Maybe I should make it 8:00, then you won’t … blah, blah, blah.
GOTCHA! Hocus Pocus, they flipped the focus.

Don’t be caught off guard!

Yes, be prepared! And don’t engage. The Purposeful Parent knows how to keep the focus
where it belongs using statements like these:

  • That may be, but …
  • We can talk about that later, but …
  • I’m sorry you feel that way, but …

Let’s see how these Purposeful Parents handle it…

Child: You are so controlling and you always freak out about everything.
Parent: That may be, but the curfew is still 9:00.
Child: “They made me do it!”
Parent: “That may be, but what is the rule about running in the house?”
Child: “You always pick on me!”
Parent: “I’m sorry you feel that way, but right now I need you to go get ready for bed.”
Child: “I’m going to go live with my Dad!”
Parent: “We can talk about that later, but right now I need you to turn off your video game.”
Child: “I hate you!”
Parent: “I’m sorry you feel that way, but it is a school night and you are staying home.”

As parents, we don’t need to honor those emotional blurbs designed to avoid responsibility.
Using a matter of fact statement like “That may be …” informs our child that we heard them, that their complaints might be true, but that our expectations override their concerns at this time. No arguing!

This is a fundamental tool for all parents and teachers. It is liberating and helps us teach our children to be responsible as well as honest with themselves and others.

NOTE: When we tell our child “We can talk about that later,” it is best to follow through. And while in many cases there may not be a genuine concern, it is always wise to circle back around when dealing with anything disturbing our children say or do.

About the author

Kate Martin

Kate Martin has been a high school teacher for 27 years and retired from the Racine Unified School District in 2015. 

She taught students with special needs as well as those in general education. While working with hundreds of parents over the years, she discovered that there was a significant lack of resources and educational opportunities to help them navigate the many demands of parenting today. 

For this reason, in 2013 she founded The Purposeful Parent, offering workshops and resources for parents, teachers, and caregivers.  

Buy the Book by Kate Martin: The Best Thoughts To Think Five minutes Before Bed 

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