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Manipulative crying - when does is start? How to deal with it?

post #1 of 40
Thread Starter 
My daughter is three and a half, and a rather socially in-tuned, intuitive person. We've just started a few days a week of day care and she's working her little lungs off trying to get out of it.
This morning she was pleading, begging, negotiating, and fighting her way out of it. I'm absolutely certain she's scanning her mind for the most intense (therefore useful) emotional punch she can deliver in order to convince me to let her stay home.
I've read, and believe, that crying in young children and infants is seldom manipulative - that most kids are not sophisticated or logical enough when upset to use this kind of tactic.
But I know my kid, and know she knows exactly what she's doing.

So we're coping with empathy, and gently phrased logic - I'll tell her I know Day care is hard, but her job is to make friends and when she knows the kids and teachers better she'll be able to enjoy all the cool things about day care. We hold each other and cry together and talk about what we'll do when the day is done and her father and I come pick her up. We make lists of the things she doesn't like about day care, and the things she does like. It seems to be working, but v e r y slowly.

In the mean time I do want her to learn that manipulative crying is mean and hurtful - even if it works. I dont want to be cool to her when she's in pain, but dont know how else to not foster her tendancy to use emotions as weapons.
post #2 of 40
What if your daughter's tears are trying to tell you something, not manipulate you?

Would it make you change your mind about thinking she's manipulating you if your daughter was unable to communicate. at. all. her feelings over being overwhelmed at daycare with new sights, sounds, unreasonable other children, teachers and expectations? If she were to shut down her speech COMPLETELY for 8 months before you found out why?

I would have loved it if my daughter's anxieties at school made her cry and beg me not to force her to go instead of made her have selective mutism. At least I would have had a clear signal that school made her upset. Instead, I had no outward signs that she was distressed. Instead, she behaved like a perfect angel at school, but could not open her mouth to make friends, talk to the teacher, defend herself when she was picked on or a toy taken from her, or participate in any of the fun singing/dancing and make her come home and fall apart when she got home.

I had no idea what was wrong with her until I had her evaluated that she had extreme separation anxiety and extreme generalized anxiety because she was overwhelmed. She was more advanced than her agemates intellectually, and yet the overstimulation and the childish behavior of her peers hurt her deeply to cause her to shut down her speech.

I'm sorry. I don't buy it that a 3 year old is capable of manipulation, no matter how bright/gifted they are. Children of any age have needs that need to be met and they will make waves when they aren't unmet, not to manipulate adults, but to get their needs addressed. If you feel manipulated that's your problem, but I HIGHLY doubt it's a game to her.
post #3 of 40
Quote:
I'm sorry. I don't buy it that a 3 year old is capable of manipulation,
I believe some are. My dd can definitely be manipulative and has been doing this for a while now (she'll be four in October). Her "thing" when she doesn't want to go to school is playing sick. The problem is that the first time I believed her and let her stay home, and once it had proven successful, she started doing it almost every day after that. And the thing is once she's AT school she seems to have a wonderful time and often doesn't want to leave at the end of the day. She apparently just doesn't like to GO to school, so almost every morning it's "I have a fever, I've been coughing a lot, I didn't sleep well because I was coughing all night, my tummy hurts" (none of which is true--even the tummy part, because as soon as I say something like "oh that's too bad, then we can't go to the playground today" she's immediately just fine). But she really acts out the part. And I do believe she knows exactly what she is doing.

It does really suck, though, because it has made it very hard to judge when she is REALLY sick and when she is faking. I don't want to force her to go to school sick, obviously, but it has become hard to know. If I say, "OK, then no school for you today" She usually jumps right up and starts dancing around and asks to go to the playground. And, of course, by then it's too late. Aargh.

She's also become rather skilled at manipulative lies, by the way: like when she finished her cup of ice cream and I told her to take to the kitchen, put the cup in the sink, and wash her hands; instead, she found dh and told him that mama said because she only gave her a small scoop, that I should ask him to give her one more scoop. And dh totally bought it. I was say that she most definitely manipulated him. She made up a story to get what she wanted.

Now I would never cast the burden of morality on a three year old, but she definitely knows what she is doing and is intentionally manipulating the situation to acheive her goal (be it getting more ice cream or staying home from school).

And every time she is successful at it, she does it again and again.

So I think the first thing I would do in your situation is carefully check out the school situation to see if there is really something there that is causing her anxiety. What are the teacher's discipline methods? Is she having trouble making friends? Is she bored by the activities? Is the schedule off? The food bad? The nap area (if there is one) uncomfortable?

If, however, you are committed to her going there, I think you just need to talk to her about it, explain the situation, explain why this is happening, but stand firm (again, IF you are really firm about the decision). With my dd, every time I give in to the manipulation, it just encourages to continue doing it.
post #4 of 40
I think even babies are capable of manipulation.

The question is why a parent has to resist it.

I suppose in the OP's situation you have to pay the bills and what needs to be done, needs to be done.

But trying to stuff the child's fear of abandonment, fear of new things, fear of a new caregiver, dislikes, needs, wants etc under the category of 'manipulation' isn't going to resolve anything.
post #5 of 40
Could you take a day or 2 off (or part of the day) to stay at daycare with her? Help her meet a couple friends and see that fun, interesting things are going on? Then maybe she'd get to see daycare as a fun thing instead of just missing you.
IMO, 3 is plenty old enough to be manipulative, especially if she's emotionally advanced for her age. But there could still be a real underlying problem that she needs help with.
If what you're doing is working, even slowly, I'd say stick with it!
post #6 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by EVC View Post
I believe some are. My dd can definitely be manipulative and has been doing this for a while now (she'll be four in October). Her "thing" when she doesn't want to go to school is playing sick. The problem is that the first time I believed her and let her stay home, and once it had proven successful, she started doing it almost every day after that. And the thing is once she's AT school she seems to have a wonderful time and often doesn't want to leave at the end of the day. She apparently just doesn't like to GO to school, so almost every morning it's "I have a fever, I've been coughing a lot, I didn't sleep well because I was coughing all night, my tummy hurts" (none of which is true--even the tummy part, because as soon as I say something like "oh that's too bad, then we can't go to the playground today" she's immediately just fine). But she really acts out the part. And I do believe she knows exactly what she is doing.

It does really suck, though, because it has made it very hard to judge when she is REALLY sick and when she is faking. I don't want to force her to go to school sick, obviously, but it has become hard to know. If I say, "OK, then no school for you today" She usually jumps right up and starts dancing around and asks to go to the playground. And, of course, by then it's too late. Aargh.

She's also become rather skilled at manipulative lies, by the way: like when she finished her cup of ice cream and I told her to take to the kitchen, put the cup in the sink, and wash her hands; instead, she found dh and told him that mama said because she only gave her a small scoop, that I should ask him to give her one more scoop. And dh totally bought it. I was say that she most definitely manipulated him. She made up a story to get what she wanted.

Now I would never cast the burden of morality on a three year old, but she definitely knows what she is doing and is intentionally manipulating the situation to acheive her goal (be it getting more ice cream or staying home from school).

And every time she is successful at it, she does it again and again.

So I think the first thing I would do in your situation is carefully check out the school situation to see if there is really something there that is causing her anxiety. What are the teacher's discipline methods? Is she having trouble making friends? Is she bored by the activities? Is the schedule off? The food bad? The nap area (if there is one) uncomfortable?

If, however, you are committed to her going there, I think you just need to talk to her about it, explain the situation, explain why this is happening, but stand firm (again, IF you are really firm about the decision). With my dd, every time I give in to the manipulation, it just encourages to continue doing it.

My 3 1/2 year old fakes being sick so she can watch TV (because a few months ago she had the stomach flu and she got to lay on the couch and watch TV).
post #7 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by nermal View Post
This morning she was pleading, begging, negotiating, and fighting her way out of it. I'm absolutely certain she's scanning her mind for the most intense (therefore useful) emotional punch she can deliver in order to convince me to let her stay home.
My suggestion is rather that adding a whole lot to this in your mind by putting lots of negative adjectives on it and spinning out into a big thing to fear for the future, that instead you simply look at the underlying feelings - both her feelings and your feelings. Unless you think she's some kind of evil force in the universe I can't imagine she's enjoying this or plotting to hurt you. Rather, she's got some negative feelings about going to day care. It doesn't mean those are huge permanent long term feelings, but that the feelings are there and three year olds (and adults for that matter) often don't know the perfect way to handle difficult feelings. It might be worth taking a little check with yourself too to see if any part of the feeling that she's going for an "emotional punch" reveals anything about what you've got going on with this too.
post #8 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roar View Post
My suggestion is rather that adding a whole lot to this in your mind by putting lots of negative adjectives on it and spinning out into a big thing to fear for the future, that instead you simply look at the underlying feelings - both her feelings and your feelings. Unless you think she's some kind of evil force in the universe I can't imagine she's enjoying this or plotting to hurt you. Rather, she's got some negative feelings about going to day care. It doesn't mean those are huge permanent long term feelings, but that the feelings are there and three year olds (and adults for that matter) often don't know the perfect way to handle difficult feelings. It might be worth taking a little check with yourself too to see if any part of the feeling that she's going for an "emotional punch" reveals anything about what you've got going on with this too.
: I think this advice is right on.

Bean was not much of a crier at three, but he did go through a phase of telling me that he was "sick" and needed to nurse in the most pathetic possible voice. When I told him that pretending to be sick just irritated me, he started saying, "I'm sad and I need a nursie" instead. Was it manipulative? Is it manipulative of me to say that I "need" to take a shower if I don't smell bad enough that people are crossing streets to avoid me? Well, maybe a little bit... but it's also the truth. Sometimes we all have needs that we just don't bother articulating well, even as adults. Rather than asking whether or not your child is manipulating you, perhaps you should work on the reasons she doesn't want to go to daycare.

I really don't think that it's fair to characterize this behavior as emotional blackmail, either. At three, your daughter has only recently begun to wrap her head around the idea that you and she are separate entities. She's probably just trying to be absolutely certain that you understand *exactly* what she's feeling, and that you're feeling the same things. It's a difficult thing for adults to manage (indeed, many fail) so I wouldn't be too worried about her having difficulty managing it at three.
post #9 of 40
For the most part, I agree with what everyone else has said. I too would see if there is anything specific about daycare that is bothering her etc. However, if you feel that there is nothing seriously wrong there, that this is just a stage and/or if you really have no other option than sending her to daycare, I would try to change my own behavior a bit.

I don't mean to sound harsh and I completely understand that you want to acknowledge and accept her feelings. That is great. However, you mentioned that you "...hold each other and cry together..." and depending on your child that may not be the best option. By getting worked up yourself you may imply that a) going to daycare is really something to be upset about and (if you truly believe that she is being somewhat manipulative) b) that you feel torn yourself and therefore crying might lead to success.

So if you do feel that daycare is the place for her (or if you don't have another option) I would shorten the goodbye scene. No long discussions about it (just a quick explanation as she probably KNOWS already all your arguments) and no emotional scenes (I know how hard that is).

My sons truly loved preschool and there were only a very few occasions when they would cry when I left. But at least for my older son it always happened if I didn't leave the preschool soon after getting him there. If for some reason I stayed there for more than 10 minutes, he would start to cling to me and would work himself up into a fit. Eventually, I learned not to stay there longer (talking to other mothers etc.) but to just clearly say goodbye and go.

That said, I would be a bit more "unfeeling" about leaving her there but I would also carefully monitor to see whether there were any indications that she felt unhappy at daycare or had a hard time coping. In that case I would of course look for another option. But first I would try to take the discussion/emotion out of the goodbye a bit.
post #10 of 40
Moving to Toddlers oops Gentle Discipline
post #11 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Roar View Post
My suggestion is rather that adding a whole lot to this in your mind by putting lots of negative adjectives on it and spinning out into a big thing to fear for the future, that instead you simply look at the underlying feelings - both her feelings and your feelings. Unless you think she's some kind of evil force in the universe I can't imagine she's enjoying this or plotting to hurt you. Rather, she's got some negative feelings about going to day care. It doesn't mean those are huge permanent long term feelings, but that the feelings are there and three year olds (and adults for that matter) often don't know the perfect way to handle difficult feelings. It might be worth taking a little check with yourself too to see if any part of the feeling that she's going for an "emotional punch" reveals anything about what you've got going on with this too.
ITA. I also agree with staying at dc if possible to get a really good feel for it.

Good luck.
post #12 of 40
Have only skimmed comments. I'm going to touch on the manipulative vs not-manipulative. True manipulation is when the person is contriving to get their way, even though they know it has a negative effect for other people involved. Manipulation isn't simply a matter of "I do such and such behavior for such and such outcome" as it is "I do such and such behavior so certain person will do what I want even though it imposes on them."

And THAT kind of logic and moral development doesn't come along until around 7yrs of age.
post #13 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Information View Post

I don't buy it that a 3 year old is capable of manipulation, no matter how bright/gifted they are.
I empathize that your daughter was unable to verbalize her distress at school, however I definitely believe that children as young as three can manipulate with crying. Our son realized that crying upsets his sister, so when he is seeking attention or wants to distract me, he'll start crying...a different cry from when he's sad or hurt, sort of a whiney, loud annoying sound. Anyhow, it works...he manipulates the situation by raising the bar just one more notch...with his sister crying, I get distracted and sometimes miss some of his little misbehaviors.

Needless to say, stay in tune with your children's emotions, try to read the situation at hand and address it accordingly. nermal, reassuring your child when they are dropped at daycare and being empathetic to their needs is important, however, dwelling on it might be overkill, especially if you have a very intuitive child that learns that the situation is more upsetting to you than to them. This will pass like many challenging events in your family life.

Good luck!
post #14 of 40
Don't cry with her. Focus on the positive fun stuff she will be doing that day and on being reassuring during this adjusment phase. Crying with her is going to validate daycare as a terrible place to have to go. A drop off routine and only saying goodbye once and then actually going really helps to not draw out the tears to a point where it is going to be hard for the child to calm down. Long drawn out goodbyes with several goodbyes said and coming back repeatedly makes it really hard for kids to calm down and focus on the fun. It can take a couple weeks to adjust to daycare when they go five days a week and it can take longer when they only go a few days a week, especially if there are breaks between those days.
post #15 of 40
I don't know that she's manipulating you or emotionally blackmailing you. It sounds like you're feeding off of each other, which is really hard.

I agree with a PP that, as long as you're sure everything is kosher at the daycare and there isn't anything happening there that's actually negative, what will help is allowing her to have her meltdown but not be drawn into it in any way. Validating kids' feelings is important, yes. But there are whole other issues involved for parents and kids who have no choice but to be separated sometimes. At some point, the separation has to become a routine, fact-of-life issue, and both parties have to treat it as a postive to maintain everyone's sanity. Validating that you know the child is sad and you understand keeps it a bigger issue -- crying together is a bad idea. She doesn't know what it looks like to be a positive, so you have to model it for her and go first.

Shorten the drop-off routine. "Bye sweetie, have a wonderful day. Mommy will be back to pick you up as soon as I'm done working." Hug, kiss, and leave. Even if she's screamng. If she's clinging to your leg, enlist the help of the daycare teacher, hand her off, and GO. If you're going to lose it, and cry yourself, make it to your car first.

Wait 10 minutes and call the daycare to see how she's doing. Chances are, she'll be fine. If she's not fine within 10-15 minutes after a week of this routine, then you need to further investigate whether this daycare is the right placement for your child.

At home, if she gets upset at the prospect of daycare, do listen to make sure she's not reporting any real concerns, then drop the subject and distract her. Do your best to stop letting her get worked up over it, and, above all, never let her see YOU get worked up over it.

I know it's rough, mama. I am a full-time working single mom. I teach elementary school, so we have enormous breaks where we're together full-time and have to adjust back into the child care routine. I've also worked with kids at separation for years, both as a teacher and a nanny for many families. Short, sweet, loving, and positive always pays off.
post #16 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Information View Post
I'm sorry. I don't buy it that a 3 year old is capable of manipulation, no matter how bright/gifted they are. Children of any age have needs that need to be met and they will make waves when they aren't unmet, not to manipulate adults, but to get their needs addressed. If you feel manipulated that's your problem, but I HIGHLY doubt it's a game to her.
This is actually a well documented Piaget-ian stage. I'm an anthropologist, not a child development expert, but I remember well Piaget talking about lying starting around 3 or 4. At this age, children have the ability to know, "Hmm...Mommy and Daddy are separate entities from me which means that I have information that they don't!" I don't blame a kid for wanting to use that to their advantage! The problem is extending this totally natural tendancy into the question of morality. I would say that a three year old absolutely has the power to be manipulative, but I wouldn't call them immoral for doing so.

To the OP: I might be totally wrong here, but could starting to discuss truth versus false help? Making an outlandish statement like, "Wow, the sky is really purple today!" and discussing differences between truth and pretend when she calls you on it? I'm not saying that she doesn't distinguish between truth and lies, but maybe having some vocabulary for pretending in this context would help you to talk about whether she's actually feeling sick in the mornings.
post #17 of 40
Wow. For a moment here I thought I was on an attachment parenting board. My mistake.

I still feel that if a child has strong feelings about something, especially an unnecessary preschool/daycare setting, there's usually a good reason for it.

Piaget isn't the other child developmental theorist out there. And, a theory is not fact, it's someone's best educated guess. There are multiple theories of human development out there. Piaget is only one. Vygotsky and Rousseau are others and I'm sure there are more. Plus, every child is unique and not going to always behave the way the theorists claim they will at the exact ages they will either.

Force the child to separate before he or she is ready to, you WILL have issues but you shouldn't blame the child for them.
post #18 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Miss Information View Post
Wow. For a moment here I thought I was on an attachment parenting board. My mistake.

I still feel that if a child has strong feelings about something, especially an unnecessary preschool/daycare setting, there's usually a good reason for it.

Piaget isn't the other child developmental theorist out there. And, a theory is not fact, it's someone's best educated guess. There are multiple theories of human development out there. Piaget is only one. Vygotsky and Rousseau are others and I'm sure there are more. Plus, every child is unique and not going to always behave the way the theorists claim they will at the exact ages they will either.

Force the child to separate before he or she is ready to, you WILL have issues but you shouldn't blame the child for them.



Not all parents have a choice when it comes to being separated from their children. Daycare is a big, glaring reality for many families and their children. A good, loving, supportive, well-run daycare is NOT a risk factor for a maladjusted, unattached child. The very vast majority of children who are in nice daycare settings do not "have issues."

Making a mother feel guilty and that a rough adjustment period is her fault because she is being separated from her child is a wonderful way to create a situation in a home where everyone WILL "have issues."

Children do not receive the best possible attached care when the entire family is not emotionally well taken-care of. Feeling pressure or guilt for a situation that requires daycare or preschool is not a great place for a parent, or a family OR A CHILD to be.

If daycare is necessary for a family, then the best solution for the family and the child is to have peace and certainty about a situation that is, in fact, an inescapably real part of that family's life.

And NO, people who are not in a particular family do NOT get to judge the necessity of the childcare situation. (Unless, maybe, we're judging my SIL, who is a SAHM, who always and forever has my backup daycare monopolized --for two or three days in a row-- so that she doesn't ever have to take two children to t-ball practice, or so she can sleep even though both of her children sleep through the night and take naps ... but that's another venting post!) :-)
post #19 of 40
I guess some people look at someone struggling to find a way to get their needs met as manipulation. Semantics I guess. It's about how you respond to it though. Do you meet the need, or ignore. I'd probably skip calling it manipulation, but more importantly I would meet the needs of the child.
post #20 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by SallyN View Post
Have only skimmed comments. I'm going to touch on the manipulative vs not-manipulative. True manipulation is when the person is contriving to get their way, even though they know it has a negative effect for other people involved. Manipulation isn't simply a matter of "I do such and such behavior for such and such outcome" as it is "I do such and such behavior so certain person will do what I want even though it imposes on them."

And THAT kind of logic and moral development doesn't come along until around 7yrs of age.
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