I often hear parents complaining about children “manipulating” them.
This word puts kids instantly into a negative light. The definition of “manipulate” is to control or influence somebody or something in an ingenious or devious way.
Why do parents experience children’s strong attempts to get their needs met as devious?
Some parents believe that controlling the child is how to gain “good” behavior, and fear takes over when parental control is threatened.
The control model of parenting is based on breaking the child’s will. Since this model puts the child’s needs as secondary, the child’s attempts to emotionally sway an adult is declared as “devious” and “manipulative”.
The child is the problem in this instance because he or she isn’t going along with their perceived (and arguably accurately so) second class status.
Alfie Kohn in Unconditional Parenting, explores 5 parental fears behind the need to control children: parental Inadequacy, powerlessness, being judged, our children’s safety, and babying. (pgs. 108 – 116)
Parenting is an opportunity for personal growth. If you are accusing your children of manipulation, I encourage you to read Alfie Kohn’s book.
You can become your children’s ally and mentor for life when you let go of controlling them. Instead, set limits, expectations and boundaries with courage, compassion and unconditional love. This approach builds family trust, respect and cooperation.