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Mother’s reverse psychology and that ‘look’ was all it took

By Shirley Prihoda

The Bulletin

Providing an opportunity to reason outcomes seemed like a crucial skill to our parents, and learning began as soon as we could string two words together.

Our parents felt reasoning was an essential skill, rated as high as eating biscuits and gravy or gnawing on a pork chop bone, and shouldn’t be deferred until college. Imagine that!

Reasoning had a second sidekick, and it was the “look.” One look said it all. “Have you really thought about what you are fixing to do?” When applied right, it could stop a Mack truck on a dime.

My mother, never one to leave well enough alone, felt the need to add her individualized touch to the look by saying, “go on ahead.” I’m not certain to this day if her objective was to stop me in my tracks or encourage me to throw abandon to the wind. Either way, I feel certain there was a lesson to be learned, and it would further solidify my mother’s mantra that a learned lesson is better than a bought one.

I was headstrong, and this usually led to my mother using my first and second names. My sister, the favored one, never experienced the fear of the first and middle name. For reasons never understood, she was given one name, Helen. Apparently, like Cher, one was enough.

Who’s to know, perhaps my mother knew intuitively raising me would require two names?

My actions were not intentionally rebellious, but I’m sure they seemed so to my mother. Inquisitive children are like that. We understand and acknowledge our parents are smarter. However, the urge to see for ourselves if the stove is hot or the tree isn’t safe to climb, or climbing upon the seat in the outhouse could lead to disastrous results. I think you’re getting the picture as to why I needed two names.

In earlier times, the term strong-willed wasn’t used, unless you were breaking a horse. They didn’t have horse whisperers or child whisperers back then, but I think what they had was better. Don’t be misled into believing their type of reasoning involved sitting down and sweetly cajoling the child into compliance. If you buy that, then you don’t know the names of Ozzie & Harriet’s sons or Captain Kangaroo’s sidekick.

Our parents felt wisdom and the ability to use it shouldn’t be deferred until college. Sure, when they get there, the professor in course 101 will proudly deliver the mantra, “we don’t teach YOU; we teach YOU how to think.” As if it were original to academia. They have forgotten or never knew the Bible already said this in Proverbs 18:17: “The first to state his case seems just until another comes and cross-examines him.” That’s basic wisdom 101 from the One who invented it!

I am not sure how my mother learned this since she never made it to college. Actually, she never completed the fifth grade, but she was dead-set on teaching me the value of deductive reasoning. Psychologists have coined the term “reverse psychology” to passively outsmart the child. My mother didn’t take this approach. She felt an earned lesson would last longer than a store-bought one.

Often, the “Go on ahead” look was sufficient to quench the burning desire to find out for myself. When it didn’t, the consequences certainly lasted longer than a store-bought lesson.

Here is something that won’t draw the “look” because it is delicious.

My favorite dish to order at Texas Roadhouse is the steak bites on the children’s menu. I add a baked potato, fully loaded, of course. They rub their potatoes in olive oil and kosher rock salt before baking and they come out wonderful.

Garlic Butter Steak Bites


1 ¼ Pounds Rib Eye or New York Strip Steak

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

4 Cloves Garlic, finely minced

3 Tablespoons Unsalted Butter

1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley

Salt and pepper to taste

Mustard Sauce

¼ Cup Prepared Mustard

½ Cup Sour Cream

1 Clove Garlic, finely grated

1 or 2 Teaspoons Hot sauce, to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small bowl, combine the sour cream, mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper. Stir to combine well. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Cube the steak pieces into 1-inch cubes and lightly season with salt and pepper. In a large, heavy skillet, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the steak. Sear evenly on all sides of the steak bites, quickly and in batches.

After quickly browning all pieces, reduce the heat to low-medium, add the butter and the garlic and the steak bites back into the skillet. Coat the steak bites evenly and cook for 1 minute for medium and 2 minutes for medium-well. Sprinkle with parsley.

Serve the mustard sauce on the side of the steak bites.

(To contact Shirley, please send emails to or write to The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton, Tx. 77516)


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