"The Manipulative Child"

Discussion in 'General Parenting' started by Andy, Jun 25, 2008.

  1. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Since I have mentioned this book a few times, I would like to share some things I took from it.

    I believe the title of the book is an attention getter.
    The authors are not being negative about this behavior. They are just describing a behavior and offering suggestions.

    Manipulators do not seem aware of how they operate. This is an avoidance behavior where both the manipulator and the person being manipulated are avoiding something. It takes two to make the behavior work.

    The manipulator avoids guilt, loss of control, anxiety. The person being manipulated avoids a scene, making the manipulator angry, etc.

    Reasoning is a common form of manipulation by bright and verbal children and responded to by bright and well educated parents. (we all want our kids to be able to figure things out right?). Some kids do not learn what is non-negotiable (like mine!) and try to negotiate everything (that is manipulation).

    The manipulator learns what the other person wishes to avoid. They see the world in black and white terms.

    Manipulators are looking for ways to keep control of their life. They are not being naughty on purpose. They are trying to meet their own needs as they see it. They have a goal that they are going to meet no matter what.

    The book has a section on how parents are commonly blindsided into participating. A few that were true in my home:

    Inconvenient times and places -

    Fear of angrily loosing control - I need to act quickly before getting angry - stop the behavior before it gets me mad

    Guilt over children's stress -

    Rationalizing the avoidance - Mine and my child's

    It provided a method of discipline that may help:

    Stop the behavior - Stop all action, remove from area if needed

    Pause - possibly a time out but usually just how ever long it takes for child to calm down and listen

    Redirect - Restate the behavior you are looking for (you can now do this chore) or suggest another activity or return to what was being done less the undesirable behavior.

    I know this is not a cure all and is not the best answer for eveyone, however, I have found some success in it for myself so do recommend it as a consideration from time to time. It may help in some moments. I wish I had read it when my kids were a lot younger. I think it would be hard to start implementing for teenagers.

    Since reading it, I have paid more attention to how my kids argue with me. It really is remarkable as to how they try to rationalize their side and they really do try to change the subject if they don't see me falling into their original plans. My kids don't know what "non-negotiable" means - they think they can get their way if they argue long enough or avoid long enough.

    Again, don't let the title scare you. I think a better title
    would be "Becoming the Manipulative Child". I think
    "manipulation" is used for lack of another term. It is the best way for us to understand this behavior.

    Not a replacement for other books, just another source to look at in managing our kids. I like that it states that punishment does not work.

    If you have a child who says, "O.k., I will if ......." or is just outright non-compliant, this may be one source of help for you. Though when my difficult child gets stubborn, even this does not work. It does help during his more compliant days.

    Not all kids will respond to this or are even in this behavior, but even reading what these authors have to say may give you another viewpoint?
     
  2. Wiped Out

    Wiped Out Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thanks for the info Adrianne! I'm always reading different books-it sounds interesting:)
     
  3. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Thanks, Adrianne. I freely admit, the title of the book had me very concerned. But you made some good points:
    "Manipulators are looking for ways to keep control of their life. They are not being naughty on purpose. They are trying to meet their own needs as they see it. They have a goal that they are going to meet no matter what."

    I'm wondering if "controlling" might have been a better word?

    We do see that a lot of difficult children seem to have a desperate need to grab control in their lives wherever they can; perhaps because their world seems so out of control to them.

    "Manipulative" is such a negatively charged term, it immediately makes us think that this behaviour must be stopped at all costs. However, I have found that when I allow my kids to have control in their lives where it really is no skin off my nose, they are more inclined to cooperate in the things that I want from them.

    If we respond to "manipulation" by blocking it automatically, almost instinctively, are we not perhaps setting ourselves up for more battles?

    I have found that often, the best way through is cooperation. However, you need to be able to ensure that the quid pro quo actually does eventuate.

    Example: currently, difficult child 3 is having trouble staying on task. I want him to do his schoolwork sitting beside me, so I can supervise and bring him back to the topic if I need to, or help him find an easy way to do it. But he doesn't like this, because he knows he can think more clearly on his own.
    BUT - he really enjoys playing our new game of "Civilisation". It's a computer-based turn-taking game. So we sit together at the desk with the computer and take our turns. While I take my turn, he does his work. Then he has his turn. He earns turns by completing worksheets - one completed worksheet is ten turns played during school hours. But he MUST keep working, or we stop.
    It's early days but it seems to be working. Plus it's also an educational game - win-win, as far as I am concerned!

    The more we do this sort of thing together, the more he sees me as his facilitator. I use praise a lot (but only where appropriate) and as a result, he and I are communicating much better.

    In the terms your book describes, difficult child 3 would meet the description of "manipulative". However, it is manipulation driven by anxiety and a need for fairness and balance as well as control.

    I can't kill the manipulation (not possible!), the best I can do is try to turn it into positive directions so it is himself he is controlling and manipulating, and not us.

    I work with what I have. I can't push difficult child 3 to do things or understand things he simply can't yet fathom. It's definitely challenging!

    Marg
     
  4. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Yes, I agree that manipulation has a negative sound to it. Not much I can do about the title of the book. I also don't think the authors are looking at shutting down negotiable situations. They are looking at those moments when as a parent you do have the final say and the child is not respecting that. Or the child is unable to recognize a non-negotiable situation. Not all parents have experienced that so they would not totally understand it.

    The book makes sense to me why my children have taken on this behavior. It is not a blaming book, it just shows one possibility which happens to have fit my situation. My children are not always manipulative but sometimes they get stubborn and fall into this behavior. It frustrates me to no end.

    I guess I wouldn't view difficult child's not staying on task as being manipulative. You have recognized your difficult child's needs within the task you have given him and you are giving him the tools he needs to meet that task. He is not trying to get out of doing homework under the boundaries you have set up with him. We always have to give our kids the tools needed to meet their tasks.

    I strongly agree that we want to give our children the chance to have input whenever possible. There is nothing wrong with saying, "We have this task that needs to be done. How can we accomplish it?" and then accept input from the child. They are then taking responsibility in the task and you can discuss the pros and cons of each option.

    The situations this book refers to are those times when a parent has set up a non-negotiable task and the child is not only refusing to comply but is trying to restate the task to his or her wanting. I view it as those times when the child chooses to disrespect the task. Mainly for kids like mine who think they can set all the rules of the house. If mom says only two cookies for snack and the child starts arguing to have five cookies. The rule of the house is only two, period.

    There are kids out there who will argue with every rule. They are always looking for a way around the rules. That is fine for the negotiable rules but they also have to learn that their parents are the ones to set the non-negotiable rules.

    I do give my kids plenty of chances to work out situations - to negotiate. However, the very few non-negotiable times, I expect to be respected and not talked back to and not agrued with to find a way out.

    I do agree that this is not to be used 24/7 as a way of controlling kids. NO WAY!!! It is just a way to maybe better understand why this does happen with some kids and a way to try to handle those moments.

    Parents get to decide what is negotiable and not. Another key that I have problems with is being consistent with what is and is not negotiable. Within this knowledge, parents also have to allow negotiations in much of the child's life.

    And in determining any non-negotiative tasks/situations, parents must make sure that the child is fully capable and has all tools needed to complete the task. The same as you are doing with homework - it needs to get done - what can be done to make it a doable task for the child?

    As I have stated before, like everything else, this will not fit everyone's situation - I hope it doesn't fit anyone elses but in the event you feel it does, the book helped in one area of my kids' lives.
     
  5. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    Thanks, Adrianne.
    One question, why do these kids feel out of control, and why do they not trust their parents to control things? (I guess that's two questions! :tongue:) As a child, I did not trust my mom at all--she was way out of control--but I knew I had to do what she said. :sick: Why was my thinking as a child different from my son's? Anything in the book about that?

    Was there ever anything I did as a parent, early on, that indicated I was too wishy-washy or out of control or otherwise not in charge? Now, at age 11, my son says I try to control too much (IOW, he can do it better). I can see that from a middle-schooler point of view, but not a toddler.

    So many questions ...
     
  6. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    What I understand is that most of these kids come from parents who tried to keep them happy at all costs. Parent who love their kids and will do anything to make life easy. Their way of doing this is more permissable than many but not in the same way as permissive parenting. They don't like to see their child unhappy so they do everything to make them happy to the limits of the child misses out on some natural unpleasentness. I held my kids a lot because I didn't like to hear them cry. They never learned how to cry themselves to sleep.

    This is different from the spoiled child who gets everything and anything to keep them happy. These parents really believe that they are leading their child into a life of being cabable of making choices. They are not giving their child material items but they are giving their child the ability to make all their own choices. Sounds right - just forgot one thing - the non-negotiable things in life - like no playing in the street, period "but mom, that is the best place to use the chalk". There is no way a parent is going to negotiate on this one but some kids will still battle for it. Or maybe two things - the child will ALWAYS choose the fun choice, not based on what is best for themselves - they don't understand values yet - just fun.

    We sometimes give them too many choices. It is so exciting to show the toddler the world and give the toddler choices. We find it as a way to teach toddlers that they can control their world - though we don't want that in the wrong way. I found myself giving my kids choices in the non-negotiable areas because I wanted so much for them to make the right choice. Then when they don't make the right choice, what can I do? I gave them the choice. Toddlers learn that everything has a choice thus they look for the choice in all situations. As they become school age, they look at creating their own choice. "Mom, I don't want to go to the library, let's go to the park instead." "We need to go to the library to return books and get a new one. We don't have time for the Park today." "But the park is next door, you go to the library and let me go to the park." See how child looks for a way to get to the park?

    When they do not comply, we often ignore the behavior to avoid the battle of an unhappy child. Non-compliance with non-negotiable things should not be ignored (my biggest fault). That is negative reinforcement. If you didn't make child comply, they got away with non-compliance.

    When children are allowed to negotiate everything, they get used to setting the stage. If your boss always gave you the option of solving all your businesses problems and then one day told you that your co-worker will make the decisions now, you will become stressful - how does the co-worker know to do what you set up? The co-worker is going to change everything you worked to build. The children never lived within your choices so have never learned to know your decisions are good ones. After all, you are always asking for their advice, are you sure you can do this on your own? How can child be assured that you will make the choice they want?

    I don't think it is that the child doesn't trust you, it is more that they never or very seldom experienced non-negotiable situations and are always expecting a choice. They have built their own comfort zone by making choices not by accepting them.

    I also allowed my kids to reason their way out of too many things that should have been non-negotiable. Maybe something was negoitiable one time but not the next which confuses the kid and leads them to believe that it depends on your way of thinking that day if something is o.k. that day or not. So if they can change your way of thinking, they can get their way. "But mom, you let us do it yesterday."

    If the child grows up always being able to negotiate everything and having non-negotiable situations ignored - they don't learn what that many things are non-negotiable. Most kids can live like this until they become teens and are expected to accept non-negotiable situations like going to school, doing homework, letting mom know where they are going and when they are on their own, paying bills. If they do not want to go to school or refuse to tell you their whereabouts, you will have a battle on your hands because the child is used to setting the stage and is in the habit of arguing to the ends of the world to get his way.

    So, we can not go from the extreme of no negotiating to the opposite end of negotiate everything. I find myself on the negotiate everything side. I need to learn how to teach my kids about non-negotiating situations. Sometimes they just have to let go. They have to learn that in following rules, they do stay in control.

    This is one of those many areas hard to explain so we explain it at two extreme ends and hope that the true meaning of what is best for each child lies somewhere in the middle comes to light.

    This makes sense only as it applies to each person. If you have not felt a child trying to get out of a non-negotiable situation using every tool he or she can think of, this probably will not hit home.

    This is not saying to not allow negotiating. This is saying that there is a time for negotiating and there is also a time for non-negotiation. Kids have to learn both. Parents need to be comfortable in setting the criteria of what is negotiable and what is not.

    Kids don't feel out of control - they just feel in control under their own choices.

    Your mother did not give you choices - you were told to do something and because your mother was out of control, you feared what would happen if you did not obey. You have grown up thinking, if mom would have trusted me more, life would be easier, I was a good kid, she should have let me do what I wanted to, so you trust your child to make smart choices. You give your child what you did not have and missed; choices. Your child grows up seeing that choices are a good thing and that there must be choices in everything. It is not a bad thing. It is when your child starts demanding a choice that fits his wishes that the trouble starts because sometimes there is not such a choice.

    I think an 11 year old stating that mom is too controlling is normal. That is a year that many kids are starting to spread their independent wings. They want to try things that mom may not feel they are ready for. They are more aware of mom's attention and get embarrased over your pampering in public. You know your child best and know what is best for him. Continue to follow your instincts and talk to your son about why he thinks you are too controlling. Explain to him some of the dangers - "I know you know the way to the store one mile away, however, I don't want you crossing that highway to get there. It is too dangerous, the drivers are not expecting someone to be crossing the street in that area. Let's wait a few more years before you do this activity."
     
  7. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    THanks for going into this detail, Adrianne.

    YOu said, "What I understand is that most of these kids come from parents who tried to keep them happy at all costs. Parent who love their kids and will do anything to make life easy. Their way of doing this is more permissable than many but not in the same way as permissive parenting. They don't like to see their child unhappy so they do everything to make them happy to the limits of the child misses out on some natural unpleasentness. I held my kids a lot because I didn't like to hear them cry. They never learned how to cry themselves to sleep. "

    I think that is a good point. It is so easy to think we're making our lives easy by doing this but it's like people with a pet dog that they allow to rule the roost - the dog they raise will tend to be snappy, territorial, unpredictable and holding the owners to ransom. It's the same with children.

    Mind you, I did pick up easy child at that point when she began to change form happy gurgling to early fretful - before she cried. I was a doting mother just waiting for an excuse to cuddle my long-awaited child. People warned me she would be spoilt and a problem - but she wasn't. She rarely cried because she had te confidence to know that I would be there when she really wanted me, but I wouldlet her explore as long as she was happy.

    And maybe that was a factor, too - I didn't pick her up and smooch all over her while she was happily playing on the floor. So even in my "spoiling" there was consistency.

    I used to cuddle difficult child 3 to sleep - because I could, and because there was nothing else I could do. I found it helped me (going through PTSD at the time) and was calming for us both. But at about three months old he would get to a point in the cuddle then lean away from me to get into his cot, so I began to put him in his cot to sleep, at that point.
    Again, no problems - not with sleeping, anyway. He was a good, cooperative sleeper as long as I did this. When I tried (for a week) to follow the directive of a baby clinic and try to make him go to bed in more conventional ways, we had fiery problems.

    Open-ended, or too many choices - yes, spot on. We're dealing with this one right now, with difficult child 3's schoolwork. easy child 2/difficult child 2 can't even cope with TWO choices, any more is awful.

    I will definitely look this book out. The title is still grating on me, but of course that is not your doing! I hope you didn't think I was being critical of you in any way.

    As with everybody and everything on this site, ANY benefit we can glean from any advice offered, is a bonus. I know how much help I've had from "Explosive Child" but I also know that not everybody has found it helpful. Similarly in my circle of contacts, there are people who sing the praises of this or that, while I quietly grit my teeth and say nothing, if they mention something (or someone) that just didn't work out or was actually a disaster for us.

    Something in one of your earlier posts - I think it was the first one on this thread - I felt was extremely useful. The book helped you identify those examples where your child succeeded in deflecting you from the issue at heart.
    If the book can do that, then it has earned its recommendation for many people, I believe.

    Marg
     
  8. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    "Mom, I don't want to go to the library, let's go to the park instead." "We need to go to the library to return books and get a new one. We don't have time for the Park today." "But the park is next door, you go to the library and let me go to the park." See how child looks for a way to get to the park?

    Guilty as charged.
    Sigh.
    Now, to work in reverse ... :whiteflag:
     
  9. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    I just placed an order for a used copy on Amazon. :)
     
  10. Christy

    Christy New Member

    I'll be sure and check it out. Thanks for the tip.
     
  11. Allan-Matlem

    Allan-Matlem Active Member

    Hi,

    I don't like the word - negotiation , I prefer working side by side problem solving , finding mutually satisfying solutions , it is a skill and takes time to build trust. in my humble opinion opinion when a child's perspective is usually taken into account and the parent is generally empathetic , a child is more likely to trust the parent when something is not negotiable than a parent who is authoratarian.

    Mom, I don't want to go to the library, let's go to the park instead." "We need to go to the library to return books and get a new one. We don't have time for the Park today." "But the park is next door, you go to the library and let me go to the park."
    See how child looks for a way to get to the park?

    The parent was in basket A , ignoring the child and saying do it my way.
    The child shows some creativity and problem solving skills and addresses both the paren's concern of going to the library and her concern - wanting to go to the park. The parent needs not to be stuck in her thinking and be a bit creative. When both concerns are being addressed in a problem solving rather than a negotiating manner , manipulation does not enter the playing field

    Allan
     
  12. Big Bad Kitty

    Big Bad Kitty lolcat

    I am SO getting this book!
     
  13. Sheila

    Sheila Moderator

    difficult child: I need $10 for the field trip.
    Me: Ok
    difficult child: How about $15
    Me: No.
    Manipulator or negotiator? Don’t think I haven’t been suckered in a few times, because I have. Mom had a learning curve, too. lol I keep telling myself he’ll be able to put this skill to good use someday –I know for a fact his manipulator skills are finely honed.


    Things I’ve learned parenting a difficult child:

    Never take a difficult child that can’t make a decision to a buffet lunch. (We sometimes give them too many choices. )

    Be consistent, consistent, consistent. One variance, and I never hear the end of it. ("But mom, you let us do it yesterday.")

    Because I said “No.” – a term I heard more than once as a child and one I swore I’d never use with-my kids, and one I use more often the older he gets. (If the child grows up always being able to negotiate everything and having non-negotiable situations ignored - they don't learn what that many things are non-negotiable.)
     
  14. Marguerite

    Marguerite Active Member

    Sheila, in your example you said, "Be consistent, consistent, consistent. One variance, and I never hear the end of it. ("But mom, you let us do it yesterday.")"

    My response to that one - "That was yesterday. This is today. Yesterday was an exception. Today - we're back to normality."

    Marg
     
  15. Andy

    Andy Active Member

    Negotiation is a skill that we want our children to learn. We want them to figure out how to meet goals and when Plan A doesn't work we want them to look for Plan B. This is also a way to hopefully teach them that when Plan A doen't work it is not cause for a meltdown - just calmly look for another way.

    This book's view point is for those times when it really is a non-negotiable situation. Sheila's example of the $15. It may be o.k. for the child to ask one time for a change, however, once the parent or teacher says, "This is the final answer", the child needs to drop the subject. Children also need to learn to live within boundaries and rules. When they continue to badger and beg and refuse to accept an answer or directive, than that is when you have a problem. The example of the library and park - that may be a solution for an older child but you are not going to drop your 4 - 6 year off without supervision.

    I have children who will never take "This is final" for an answer - they keep pushing and arguing and negotiating until they get their way - that is wrong. This book is addressing how to handle a child who will not respect those non-negotiable decisions. It is not saying that nothing is negotiable. I do think that by negotiating (or teamwork thinking if negotiating seems to also be a negative term) your child does learn how to think about options.

    There are times when a parent has to be the authority and make a decision that can not be changed. Yes, the parent needs to take the child's ability into consideration, but the child also has to learn that sometimes there is not room for negotiation. SOMETIMES not most or all! I refuse to spend 1/2 hour arguing with my child as to why he can not play in the busy street - that is a rule, period. However, I will spend 1/2 hour figuring out which park he wants to go to.

    So, remember, this is not saying that parents will be authoritative. It is saying that there are boundaries and the child needs to learn to live within those boundaries and learn that SOME rules and decisions are non-negotiable.
     
  16. TerryJ2

    TerryJ2 Well-Known Member

    however, once the parent or teacher says, "This is the final answer", the child needs to drop the subject.

    Ahh, wouldn't that be heaven?
     
  17. gcvmom

    gcvmom Here we go again!

    I've put this one on my summer reading list! Wish we'd read it before vacation... could have helped us avoid some nasty drama I'm sure.
     
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