Don’t give in to manipulation
Children can be relentless when they negotiate with their parents for something they want. They even promise to do chores around the house or be good, complete homework on time, etc, just to get what they want. If your children are like most, they are experts at wearing you down just to get their way.
It is natural for children to try and get what they want at all costs and for parents to get frustrated and give in to their demands. If you step way back you will see that children can only manipulate you because you allow their behaviour to be effective. They have learned through tested typical behaviours such as emotional blackmail, lying, tantrums, crying, hurtful words, negotiating relentlessly, dividing and conquering or playing the victim that they can get what they seek. The danger is when those behaviours become a way of life.
“In a world run by adults, this is a way for your child to exercise influence and she will find ingenious ways to do so,” says counsellor, Sheena D’Souza. In fact it is developmentally appropriate as it exhibits drive, initiative and passion. However parents have to help their child to use these traits properly, balance it with self-control and respect boundaries,’ she adds.
As a parent when you feel that your child is trying to push you around, it isn’t easy to remain calm. To show you are in control, sometimes you may even tighten your grip. Sadly, this usually just invites a power struggle with your child, because she starts pulling back and the endless cycle of manipulation, control, and defiance can go on and on.
Tips for parents who are stuck in the manipulation cycle:
l Recognise manipulative behaviours so you don’t get sucked in.
l Know your triggers ie behaviours that upset you and get you to react. Knowing them will help you ward manipulation to a certain level.
l Show no emotional response when your child starts the whining, guilt tripping, or blaming. Once you’ve told them to do something (or can’t), that’s the end of the discussion. If the whining persists, it may be best to ignore it.
l Also be empathetic to your child’s desires and wishes while helping her learn how to get what she wants honestly and effectively. If your child knows she can come to you directly, she will be less likely to try indirectly.
Remember, children can only manipulate you if you permit them to. Manipulation is all about control and if you want it back, you will have to stand your ground firmly. It takes two to tango, but only one to change this pattern.