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Ending Manipulative Behavior

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners are hardly manipulative enough to coerce you into buying them extra sweets or guilt you into letting them play for an extra five minutes (although if you are a softy their innocent little faces may work in their favor); however, they are old enough to pit one parent against another or cry until they get what they want. You may be clever, but so is your child, and young kids really know when to turn on the waterworks.

Putting Your Foot Down

Punishing your toddler for manipulation is very difficult, because while your child knows that what they did was wrong, he or she probably doesn't know why. To young kids, the act of crying to get what they want is as simple as this formula: crying = extra cookie.

  • Hold your ground. When setting a punishment, be it a time-out or a break from a toy, you must be firm. Many parents give in due to "good behavior," but the truth is that kids will soon learn the definition of good behavior and perfect its art to get out of trouble. If you are serious in all that you say and do, your kids will quickly learn that you cannot be manipulated.
  • Practice the art of nonchalance. Many toddlers see all attention as good attention, so when you do not play into their crying fits or tantrums they will, eventually, realize that these tools of the manipulation trade do not work. By all means, never flat out ignore your children, but keep a close eye on them without playing into the trap that they have tried to set.
  • Start a dialogue. Toddlers who manipulate do so unknowingly, but if you take the time to explain why they can't have another cookie, or why playtime is over, the channels of communication will be open and they will feel more comfortable with the decision that has been made (although this doesn't mean that they will be happy with it).

Taking the Power Back

Toddlers use manipulation not out of ill will, but simply out of the desire to get what they want. By rendering fits and tantrums useless, you will be able to take the power back from your kids and put a stop to manipulative behavior.