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Manipulating the Situation

Just about every parent of a child in the elementary school age range has dealt with a child who is manipulative. Whether your child plays one parent against the other or uses abusive talk, it is common for kids to try to manipulate adults. What matters most is how you react to this type of behavior right from the beginning, as it will set the stage for what is to come. 

Help for Parents with Manipulative Behavior

Usually kids manipulate to get something they want. When you say no, your child may start using other means to gain control. Manipulative behavior may be harmless such as turning on the charm, or harmful such as causing or threatening to cause trouble for you. Manipulation involves your child wanting to take the power and control of the situation.

If you have a child that uses manipulation to try to get his way, consider these tips:

  • Discuss manipulation with your child and point out where he is using it, so he becomes familiar with the concept.
  • Let your child know that manipulation is not going to work. Then, enforce the rules by not giving in.
  • Recognize the difference between vindictive manipulation and harmless manipulation. For example, if your child turns on the charm because he wants to do something, it is not near as damaging as when he tries to overpower you by being mean or making threats.
  • Speak with other people who care for your child to give them a heads up that your child is being manipulative and you would like it if they did not give in to the behavior as well.
  • Try setting up a behavior chart system that rewards desired behavior. Each time your child handles a situation appropriately, give him a checkmark. Once he has earned a determined number of marks, reward him.

Healthy Behavior Habits

Children who use manipulation are often frustrated or angry and are trying to control the adults around them. The most important thing to remember is to not give your child that power. If you do, you will only be enforcing your child's idea that manipulative behaviors will help him get his way. With some patience and consistency, you will get your child to successfully leave manipulation behind.