What do you do when people guilt-trip or manipulate your child? - Mothering Forums

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Old 12-11-2011, 01:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My daughter is 2.5 and very empathetic. My family--her grandparents and aunts, in particular, manipulate her by acting sad/upset to get her to do what they want her to do. There have been times when S has done something like hit or thrown something at me, that genuinely hurt me (or somebody else), and I've said, "S, that hurt me, and it made me a little sad. What do you think you can you do to help me feel better?Maybe a hug?" They have seen me do this and have turned it into a way to coerce her into giving hugs/kisses (IE "you didn't give grandma a kiss and now she's so sad! Oh, look, she's crying, Poor grandma. S made grandma cry because she won't give her a kiss!") and every single time she does something they don't like, such as screaming or throwing something, they make a big show of pretending to cry. The thing is, S is usually bothered by this--her face reflects their pretend emotions, and she ends up giving the hugs/kisses or saying sorry. I thought that after awhile, she would stop buying it, but this has been going on about 6 weeks and she still is bothered every time they do this. Since I am a single mother and a full time student, and live very near my family and they help me out a lot, she sees them almost every day, so this is not something she just deals with every once in awhile. I really don't like the greater implications of this...that she is responsible for others feelings to a high degree (though of course I want to her to have consideration for others feelings), that she needs to give physical affection even when she doesn't want to, etc. Any advice on what I can say/do when this happens?

 

Also, with it being Christmas-time, random people everywhere keep telling her to 'be nice, not naughty!' and to 'be good if you want presents from Santa!' This bothers me a lot, and is one of the main reasons we don't do Santa in the traditional sense that others do...I don't like the materialism or the idea that they should do good BECAUSE they want toys, and I really despise the assigning of 'good' or 'bad' to a child, and implying that their actions directly effect how much they deserve. I'm not sure there is anything I can say in passing to a stranger, but how can I talk to my daughter about this, especially as she gets older?


Single mama to S ~ 6/09

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Old 12-11-2011, 02:29 PM
 
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I'd stay within earshot and speak for your daughter when being manipulated. If you don't intervene she will soon try it as a tactic herself. I'd say something to your friends and relatives as well. It is not okay to manipulate people into being affectionate. If someone said that to my child I would say simply "DD does not feel like giving a hug right now and she needs for you to respect her TRUE feelings". Then i'd talk to her about how important it is to be honest about her feelings and to tell people the truth so she can make TRUE friends".

 

Focus on the positive. Tell everyone what you and your daughter need to hear to feel good.

 

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Old 12-11-2011, 02:43 PM
 
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The only person who has done it with ds is mil. She often does the "I'm soooo sad you won't give me a hug" but also will pull the "if you don't give me a kiss I won't ________". It reallllly angers me & we have talked to her about it. We will also point it out to her when she does it - for some reason she doesn't even realize how prone she is to this behaviour. It's so obnoxious imo.

 

She also is very quick to lie to ds about things. Instead of saying we can't go somewhere (for example swimming) RIGHT now & him being a bit disappointed or angry with us she'll tell him the pool is shutdown 'cause it needs to be cleaned. Absolutely no good reason for the lie in my opinion & she does it constantly. I now just flat out say "don't lie" cutting her off.


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Old 12-11-2011, 06:22 PM
 
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I stomped on it the first time my dad did this with DS.  With him it was about not giving hugs/kisses, and I told him that was absolutely an unacceptable response.  My child has to have control over his own body, and does not need someone else trying to take that away from him.  That is one way you can set them up to be abused - teaching them they can't say no.  So in the instance of refusing to give hugs/kisses, I made my stance plainly clear to my dad, and he hasn't done it again. 

 

For the rest, I honestly don't see a whole lot of difference between your examples.  If you're demonstrating that response to them, then why shouldn't they use it?  Maybe it's time to rethink what you want to model for them, and have a conversation with them about why it's not okay to use guilt to discipline. 


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Old 12-15-2011, 12:41 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cristeen View Post

For the rest, I honestly don't see a whole lot of difference between your examples.  If you're demonstrating that response to them, then why shouldn't they use it?  Maybe it's time to rethink what you want to model for them, and have a conversation with them about why it's not okay to use guilt to discipline. 


Cristeen: The difference *I* see between the way I used it and the way they used it is that they were being silly, dramatic, and manipulative. I state clearly and matter of factly that when she screams, it hurts my ears. When she hits her friend, it hurts them and makes them sad. I asked her to help me find a way to make restitution, and if she seemed stumped, gave her the hug or apology suggestion. She isn't responsible for an adult being sad that she won't hug them, but on some level, I feel she is responsible for her friend's feelings when she does something to hurt them. I actually learned this 'tool' from gentle discipline websites, maybe even from Mothering. The way you phrased that--using guilt to discipline--is making me think though. On the one hand, I have guilt issues so far reaching it's ridiculous (hmmm, maybe from my parents doing this when I was little!) and don't want to cause my DD to have the same issues. On the other hand, there are times when guilt is a signal that I've done something wrong and/or need to do something to make it right. So I'm not sure how I feel about guilt as a discipline tool...definitely food for thought.

 

 

I appreciate everyone's input so far and would love to hear more. Lovepickles, I especially thank you for the actual response you use/would use. I was raised not just in a family, but in a culture where being anything but sweet and nice was just...not okay, and it is very difficult for me to be assertive without feeling mean and aggressive. Suggestions of actual statements are really helpful to me.


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Old 12-15-2011, 06:03 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ihugtrees View Post


I was raised not just in a family, but in a culture where being anything but sweet and nice was just...not okay, and it is very difficult for me to be assertive without feeling mean and aggressive. Suggestions of actual statements are really helpful to me.


The technique that I use, which I guess is still a bit passive agressive, is to step in by talking directly to DD, and suggest an alternative to how she can respond. So, grandma says "You didn't give me a kiss, and I am going to cry!", I would tell DD, "Or you can tell grandma 'don't be sad, maybe grandpa can give you a kiss'" (or a version of sorts, depending on her language), or "tell grandma you'd love to give her a kiss later, but right now you're having so much fun playing with your toys".  We don't deal with this situation exactly, but I don't like when family members tell DD what to do, and I know she doesn't want to do it. I try to empower her with the words or options on how to respond. I think it helps derail potential power struggles, which is our issue.. DD is willful and other family members don't really understand to what degree they are not going to be able to make her do something. I think this strategy also helps others see the situation from her perspective.. even if DD couldn't repeat exactly what I said, sometimes it helps the adult to see that what they are asking is unreasonable.

 

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Old 12-19-2011, 09:48 AM
 
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When people do this to DD (fortunately, we don't get much of this), I step in and interrupt their conversation with DD right away, and I say to DD, "no, honey, you don't have to give so-and-so a hug or kiss unless you want to.  Do you want to give hugs/kisses?"  It might be a little passive-aggressive to talk to her rather than directly to the adult in question, but usually they get the hint that their behavior is not okay.  

 

It occurs to me, though, that DH does this all the time, "Boo hoo, I'm so sad that DD doesn't want to give me hugs!!!  Wahhhh!"  But she also understands that it's a game he's playing, and she usually does not accommodate him -- instead, she runs the opposite direction and laughs at his pretend distress.  I'm not a big fan of teaching a child to laugh at distress, either, but I suppose she's good enough at making distinctions between game and reality that it's not an issue.  So I suppose this isn't quite the same as manipulating a child who doesn't understand the difference between real distress ('you hurt me and it made me sad') and fake distress ('wahhhh, you won't give me kisses!') 

 

IMO, telling a child the consequences of their actions is NOT "using guilt to discipline."  Using guilt to discipline a child might be more like, "You didn't pick up your toys last night and made a mess, and now Mama feels sick and can't get out of bed -- it's your fault I'm sick because you made a mess."  But telling a child, "you were mean to your friend and now she doesn't want to play with you because her feelings are hurt" is honest, straightforward and helps her to learn that her behavior has consequences.  

 

 


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