When is it manipulation? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 12:48 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Hello, ladies! Longtime lurker/new member here.



I don't have kids yet, but I have been giving discipline a lot of thought for a while (I like to be prepared, :LOL).

I have read most of the threads on this board, and agree with at least 90% of the GD philosophy: not criticizing or praising too much, being attuned to your child's needs, avoiding confrontation, "natural/logical consequences," etc. But I do have a question.

I understand that very young children don't have the ability to manipulate their parents, per se. (I learned something in those developmental psych classes, :LOL).

But at some point, they do have that ability, right? I mean, adults do it-- we all learn it eventually-- and in our childhood, I would surmise. I know not setting up an adversarial relationship with your kids will help eliminate some of this. But sometimes... doesn't every kid try to manipulate?

I'm not talking about an infant "manipulating" his mom by crying to be nursed, of course. Or even a toddler tantruming because he or she is preverbal. But at some point, don't kids pick up on "what works," and try to milk it?

For example, a four-year-old wants Mommy's attention. They just played together, so he's not starving for attention, but he still wants more. So he pretends to injure himself, because he knows that she will rush over to him.

Fine, in a sense-- Mommy isn't going to give him that toy he wants because he throws a tantrum or anything... But he is trying, in some way, to make her do what he wants, right? I suppose, if he keeps doing it, she can tell him she won't respond (or she'll respond in a boring way?) if he's not really hurt, but... I don't know.

Perhaps this isn't the best example, but... I'm still struggling with this a bit. I mean, I don't believe in original sin, but I don't think we are born angels, either. I'm not going to generally assume that kids are trying to "manipulate," but I don't believe that they never "manipulate," either.

Does this make sense? I don't really agree with the "behavioral"/stimulus-response theory of childrearing, but it seems to make sense-- at times, at least. That is, we all agree that a child who knows his hunger cries will be answered with a breast will learn to expect it, and will therefore be more secure. So it stands to reason that kids who receive attention for certain things when they're older will learn to repeat those behaviors.

Yes? No?

I'm so :

Does anyone have a good GD link for this issue?

Thanks for your help.
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#2 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 01:01 AM
 
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Of course kids try to get what they want, like the rest of us.

My dd is not quite three, but I think she's pretty straightforward about her desires.

I think the thing to remember is that it's OK for kids to try to get their needs met, and even their wants met- they are human.

There's also a difference between being manipulative and being emotional. Kids are often very emotional, but that does not mean they are manipulating us. Most of the time they really are sad if they act sad, etc...

It's funny- my dd does try to use "tricks" sometimes- like saying something that is not really true to get an effect. The way I handle it is to play along, making it clear that i think it's a game. I overplay my role, just like she'[s playing up hers. It seems to work well. I'm not acusing her of lying (a feat not possible at her age anyway) and our relationship is not injured.
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#3 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 01:22 AM
 
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I hope you get your answers. I think it's great that you're trying to be prepared. But I do think that once you have your child, intuition kicks in big time as well.

I just wanted to respond to the behavorial-stimuli thing. I'm an ABD in philosophy, and I've thought through some of the assumptions that underly such a perspecitve. To me behaviorism is scary. It became popular in the 1950's and kind of lent itself to the "conformism" that ruled the day. The idea was that you can make a child anything YOU wanted him or her to be. It's simply a matter of taking away whatever is innate in the child and molding it into what you want. Does it work? To some extent. They succeeded in making a baby afraid of furry things (even though the baby seemed to innately enjoy furry things) by making loud noises whenever the baby saw something furry. But as you can guess, a lot of these experiments they conducted are now considered unethical because it never took into account that there was a child there whose feelings and value had to be considered! Those babies were basically screwed up for life.

In other words, behaviorism is not child-centered. It is parent-centered. I think the mother-child bond is more complicated than behavorial type interactions anyway. If the child has his needs met, will he need to manipulate? If he succeeds in getting his needs met, has he "gotten his way"? I really question what some people mean by "manipulation". I think more often than not, parents today are so worried about getting manipulated, they hold back from meeting their child's needs. I guess I feel that we don't create the child by what we do necessarily, but we bring out the baby's potential by providing the right conditions. But I do think we can screw up by withholding the right conditions.

Having said that, the child does become smarter and will need more limits defined for them. I think for me, it was anywhere between 12 and 18 months when it first began. But at 22 months, he's not even all the way there. But I still wouldn't call it manipulation. He is becoming smarter about getting what he wants, which to me is progress. I guess if I labeled what he was doing as manipulation, I would feel more resentful about what he was doing, and maybe take it personally.

Sorry this was such a long-winded answer.
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#4 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 03:23 AM
 
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Yes, older children are capable of manipulation. In my mind, not before school age or so. Being AP/GD can definitley minimize it, but we're all human and make mistakes!!

Ruth, single mommy to Leah, 19, Hannah, 18, and Jack, 12
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#5 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 09:09 AM
 
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Yes, as kids get savvy, they figure out ways to get us to jump thru their hoops, lol.
But, IMO, it really isn't such a big deal--I mean, mainstreamers make *such* a big deal about manipulative kids, and I just haven't found it to be something worth all of that fear and prevention, kwim?

Sometimes I respond playfully, as mommyofschmoo replied. Be really over-super dramatic about responding to the pretend boo-boo, and then return to my work. Repeat as necessary, with a bit less drama each time. After a few playful, dramatic interactions, redirect the child to something fun they can do alone (maybe put a fun cd on....or pull out some paints....), and return to my work.

Also, I've told my dd many times the story of "The boy who cried wolf". When I am in a less playful mood, I will remind her of his fate, lol. She "got" that story at age 3, and that story works in our house as a gentle reminder about why it is not a good idea to pretend you have problems you don't really have. When she is acting that way, I will often (instead of doing the drama over the boo-boo), sit with her and tell/discuss the story, and then retell the story using a little girl who kept crying about imaginary boo-boos....she likes that, when I use her in the fairytales. And then I redirect her and go back to my work.
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#6 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 09:19 AM
 
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We have issues with screaming sometimes because my dd is a very passionate little girl. When she is screaming for anything, I do not give her what she wants I acknowledge her and say, "When you use that voice, it hurts my ears and I can't understand you."

When she asks me nicely, I help her get what she needs. Or if she wants something she cannot have "like a popsicle right before dinner". I let her know when she can have it and then redirect her. IN a case like I mentioned, I would offer her a bit of what I am prepping for dinner (sliced tomato, salad etc..) OR I engage her in helping me set the table. IT takes more work but I find it to be more rewarding for both of us.
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#7 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 09:40 AM
 
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From my perspective, I do think as they get older it can be manipulation and I think it is a big deal. Not because I personally even mind being manipulated by my kids but because I don't want them to learn that as a tool for getting what they want from other people. It is not effective or nice... When I think they are being "manipulative", I try to talk about whatever issue is at hand and actually own up to their wants and express their feelings rather than acting on the other stuff.

I even encourage my little (almost 2 year old) ds to try to get his needs met with words rather than crying....for awhile he would cry to be picked up so I taught him to say "up please" (I am not anti-crying or anything just pro-communication!!!) I would pick him up while he was crying but say in a sing songy voice "up please - up please - up please"

One form of manipulation/sneakiness that we personally do not tolerate is when one of us gives ds1 and answer about something that he doesn't like so he goes to the other parent to try to get a different answer : We both playfully yell "no splitting staff" to honor my days working in a children's residential center

BJ
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#8 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 09:41 AM
 
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Learning how to manipulate people is a very important skill. I don't understand why it gets such a bum rap. There is a difference between manipulation and dishonesty. The important thing is to teach fairness so children don't take advantage of being bigger or more skilled at negotiating or manipulating than younger or less clever children. I think children naturally have a good sense of justice and if they are treated fairly as they grow, they will retain this.

Mom to unschooling 4everboy since 8/01
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#9 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 10:31 AM
 
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I think if a child learns that she will get attention promptly when she asks for it, she doesn't have to scream for it or be sneaky for it. (Some children have more challenging personalities, so this is a generalization.)

If a baby squeaks or grunts gently and mom feeds them, they don't have to work themselves into a scream. (The American Academy of Pediatrics says crying is a late sign of hunger.)

It's true that children do learn to manipulate. But I feel if a good foundation is laid in the early years where their true needs are met, this will be less of a problem. Sure it's human nature for a child to test their boundaries and this can be maddening sometimes. But I think some of this negative behavior you describe in you hypothetical example comes from a culture where we parents are encouraged to have adversarial relationships with our children.

I'm not sure I made sense. :LOL

Take the time to heal from your marriage before you move on with someone else. Make a list of all the qualities you would like in a new partner and then work on growing that way yourself. ~mandib50
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#10 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 11:05 AM
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its funny: i initially thought the title to this thread, "when is it manipulation?" was in response to the parent's behavior. i find that so much of the day with dd is spent trying to coax her into my schedule. i try to keep it fun and include her in the shopping, laundry, etc. i like to think of us as a team, one of us driving, one of us navigating, and that positions keep switching.

i do have to question myself, when my expectations and desires are just me finding it easier to say "no." only after hearing her pleas do i reconsider and realize that her way isn't going to kill me nor my schedule.

i must say that the only person i find manipulating me is my mother. my sister i and laugh and grumble at her obvious strategies all the time. the bottom line with her though is that she doesn't trust being upfront with anyone. (my humble analysis of my mother!) having a lifetime lived with our alcoholic father and nothing in the way of recovery therapy she knows nothing else.

likewise i find myself using manipulation with her, again because i fear being upfront with her about my needs. on most days, being honest will cause conflict, working sideways avoids the clash. the problem with this "fearful" thinking is that is piosons all my other relationships too.

sorry for taking this thread in another direction. but i think its important to question our actions and motives as well.

ma-t
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#11 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 12:18 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 4evermom
The important thing is to teach fairness so children don't take advantage of being bigger or more skilled at negotiating or manipulating than younger or less clever children. I think children naturally have a good sense of justice and if they are treated fairly as they grow, they will retain this.
Yes, this is key in our home. We talk about fairness a lot, both in interactions between dd and us, and also between dd and her peers.
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#12 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 02:05 PM
 
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I had to look up "manipulation" on merriam webster's online dictionary because I am thinking that my idea of the word's use may be different than the way some people use it with respect to children. So I found this - "to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage." That definition is along the lines of my thinking. I guess I can't imagine a child being "insidious" until (s)he is pretty old... thinking back on my childhood, I would say not until 8 or 9 at least. Maybe I am naive though.

Most of what I think people call "manipulation" is simply a child who has very little control over his/her own life trying to make life work OK for them in the most efficient way possible, which is usually done by getting help from adults. If this is true, then ultimately, the small child is not in control, so manipulation is not possible by definition. The parent chooses to go along but is not ever really controlled I think. I know when I was young I never felt like I had any manipulative power over any adults - ever.

So semantically speaking, I just don't see kids as manipulative to parents. I do see that dishonesty and sneakiness could occur as ways to get things from parents, but that seems more like... well... testing the efficiency of dishonesty and sneakiness to get things (attention, etc.) that are otherwise missing.

But maybe I am naive.

aran .......... Mr. aran .......... DS1 .......... DS2
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#13 of 18 Old 05-18-2005, 09:47 PM
 
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The only children I have ever seen using manipulative tactics to control their parents behavior had parents with control issues in the first place. Parenting is not about who has the control. People are not meant to control other people. When adults do it to other adults (through whatever means necessary, mind games, violence, etc) it is called abuse. When adults do it to children, it should be called abuse, too, but usually isn't. When children do it to adults, they are called spoiled. But they had to learn about control issues somewhere in the first place. When parenting becomes a power struggle, when parents expect to be able to control their children's behavior, that is when the big problems arise. Some of those problems from early childhood often stay with people their entire lives.
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#14 of 18 Old 05-19-2005, 11:09 AM
 
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See, I guess I was talking about older more verbal kids. If a baby cries - meet their needs - if I child makes an honest and reasonable request - this should be respected by their parent. If a child cries because they are upset and they are frustrated that their needs and wants aren't being respected or their feelings are being hurt - reconsider the situation and comfort them. But once kids get a bit older --- I think it is best to try to get them to be direct about their wants rather than "work you" or other people.

I have a friend who will not let her children cry ever - if her dd cries somebody is immediately made to apologize or blamed for her dds sadness - crying has become the most powerful tool her dd has. She used it this week to work myself, my ds, and her mom and to cover her own negative behavior....so my response is probably clouded by my lingering angst over our week (sorry!)

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#15 of 18 Old 05-19-2005, 01:04 PM
 
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A PP mentioned "negotiation" vs "manipulation" and I wanted to comment on that.

My almost 4 year old is nearly a master at negotiation! He is really rather artful and of course it can get annoying at times. But, we don't discourage it because he is learning creative ways to get his needs met and still showing respect for the needs of others.

Example:
I want him to go change out of his pj's and put on clothes for the day, but a dvd I put in for them to watch during breakfast is still on and he doesn't want to miss it. We need to get ready so we can go somewhere and my first inclination is to turn off the tv and demand that he get dressed.

His response was "Mom if you bring me the clothes you want me to wear I can get dressed while the movie finishes"

I love that he is able to see how to meet both of our needs.

He is learning how to do this with his 2 yr old brother as well. If there is a dispute over a toy or what to play he is now starting to see that if he lets his brother play with the disputed toy for a few minutes and then offer to trade for something else, little brother is usually happy to do so. Conversly if brother has something that he really really wants he will try to find something else to play with until brother is ready to give up the other toy.

Of course sometimes his negotiating can get in the way, but generally I feel his creative solutions have helped me to be more creative and less demanding as a parent.

Helping children understand that there is more than one way to get the job done or get what they want is important and is a life skill. Creative problem solving, and negotiation are tools that I feel help them learn not to manipulate or even eliminate the need for it in the first place.


Blessings,
N~
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#16 of 18 Old 05-19-2005, 08:58 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow, thanks, mommas!

With some reflection, I can see how manipulation, as such, doesn't have to exist in one's household-- most of the time.

I mean, I'm pretty smart. I should be able to see when a 4-year-old is trying to "manipulate" me! I can acknowledge that I know exactly what is going on-- he wants x, so he's doing y. Then we can address the problem. He can see that I'm "on" to him, so he won't continue-- and more importantly, we can resolve the issue in some way.

I know when I'm in the thick of it, it will be hard to see the forest for the trees, but keeping in mind that learning how to influence others is a positive skill-- and that I should be cooperative, not adversarial with my children-- will definitely help.

When they get older, hopefully they will try to "manipulate" less than average-- since I've set up a good environment. I'm sure it will happen, but it's just like lying...

If you see your child sneaking candy, I know you're not supposed to ask him if he did it! I think people think that gives him a chance to be honest/come clean/redeem himself, but we all know that it really gives him a chance to lie. Why not just tell him what you saw? Same for manipulation, I guess. It's usually pretty easy to tell when young kids try it. If it's nipped in the bud (in a positive way), they won't do it as much when they're older either.

Did I get it? Am I on the right track?
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#17 of 18 Old 02-21-2014, 10:43 AM
 
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My 11year old DSS informed me the other day that 80% of kids that play games on a playstation 4 grow up to be heart surgeons :)  I like to think he is practicing to be a lawyer or a politician.  To some degree the skill of swaying people to your ideas and opinions is an important one.  Charm, Charisma, and understanding what motivates people to act, are life skills.  Do any of you think that kids are just trying different techniques, and we simply encourage the ones that are ethical?  For instance, with my DSS I pointed out the flaws in his campaign and told him he might just try asking for what he wants and be honest about why he wants it.

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#18 of 18 Old 02-21-2014, 03:20 PM
 
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ha!  kids are adorable. 

 

my once eleven year old said that 'black ops'--I think a war game--was a code only, and the real name of the game was "The Happy Rainbow." 

 

LOL. no go, but very cute. 

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