Manipulation...am I missing something? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 187 Old 09-27-2008, 01:16 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Occasionally I read a post on MDC in which the poster refers to manipulating their child into doing certain things. Usually they say something like they don't want to manipulate their children.

I'll use my own childhood as an example. My parents didn't spank or yell. They said you must do your chores before you can play. You need to do the dishes before you can watch tv, an so on.

This really worked for us and we had a really peaceful childhood.

This is what some posters are referring to as manipulation.

Am I missing something? I never felt manipulated. I always felt like, ok, this is the way our family gets things done.

What is wrong with this style of parenting?

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#2 of 187 Old 09-27-2008, 01:39 AM
 
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I'm probably not representative here, but I wouldn't call that manipulation, I would call it an exercise of parental authority. Manipulation, imo, involves some kind of attempt to change another person's will, or play on their needs to get what you want. Ex. "I don't prefer that you send your child to school, I just think you'll want a break." (trying to convince someone that what I want for you is what you really want for yourself) or "I don't like people who don't clean up their rooms." (attaching your need for approval to what I want you to do).

In your examples, you set it out straightforwardly, without any emotional content. I personally don't have any disagreement with this, though I might limit it to certain situations, because I do think it's important for children to have some choice, even if the choices they make aren't always best for everyone.

There's a contingent here who practice consensual living, which someone else could explain better than I can. A big part of it is natural consequences, rather than arbitrary consequences made up by whoever is biggest. So maybe an example would be if you don't do the dishes, you don't get breakfast the next day because the dishes are all dirty. I find this approach very limited, but I do try to make things logical, as in, if you hit people, you get a time out because no one wants to be around a person who hits. Some people here at mdc are very against time outs, though, so . . . .
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#3 of 187 Old 09-27-2008, 01:59 AM
 
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The two examples you cite are really the same issue: chores should be done at a certain time, and then you can have fun. I don't think there's anything wrong with that... it certainly is a value many of us hold, it's an efficient way to get things done, and it feels really good to have work done with so that we can play. You want to teach your children that value, and that's awesome. I don't find it to be manipulative in the way you have framed it.

I'm not a CL'er or even a consistent UP'er, but I would have no problem saying, "it's time to wash dishes now. TV will have to wait until you're done." It's just logical... you can't do both at once, and the dishes need to be done now, so TV will be later. (Whether the dishes really need to be done at a given moment relates back to what I said above; I personally think that's a legitimate value to teach. I'm sure some will disagree.)

I would think something more manipulative would be attaching an unrelated consequence (punishment) or bribe (reward) to the task. As in, "if you don't wash the dishes, you can't go to the party on Saturday" or "if you wash the dishes, you can have cookies for breakfast." I mean, the idea of discipline is that the child learns the value of positive behavior in and of itself, without requiring constant prodding with a carrot or stick, right?

I just thought of another example: say (hypothetically ) that a 3 yo was kicking the back of the car seat and annoying/distracting Mom who was driving. She reaches back and slips off his shoes, thinking "Now the kicking won't bother me." Dad, in the passenger seat, is impressed with this strategy. Later that day, 3yo is annoying his dad by making loud noise in the back seat. Dad says "if you don't quiet down, I'm going to take your shoes off!" The two scenarios might appear very similar in terms of what actually took place, but they were polar opposites from a discipline standpoint.

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#4 of 187 Old 09-27-2008, 09:39 AM
 
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I'll use my own childhood as an example. My parents didn't spank or yell. They said you must do your chores before you can play. You need to do the dishes before you can watch tv, an so on.
I personally dont see anything wrong with that. I will often ask my son to do A before B - just as I would do A before B or request of my DH to do A before B, etc...

However, some children wont or dont want to do A before B. Its the attitude that 'why should I?' and 'what you gonna do about it if I dont?'. ...

Its all well and good of me to ask my son to do A before B (hes only 3! lol) but maybe he doesnt want to or maybe he does something else, etc. No big deal in our house. Our house is pretty harmonious - we try and live consensually. If I usually ask my son to do something he usually does it - and if he asks me to do something for him, I usually do it too.

But the issue could be if you make things conditional. ...manipulation is usually invovled in that case. Its not conditional of me to request something of my son. But it would be if I held a threat over that. Do A before be 'or else'... If you dont do A before B then ... Thats a 'do to' attitude and it is manipulative and not something we do in our house. If I really want DS to do something and he doesnt want to, then we work arond that to come to consensual ground. For example, Maybe id like him to pick up his toys before he goes outside to play and maybe he doesnt want to...so maybe the consensual solution we come up with is us both together tidying up the toys that way the job gets done and we are both happy about it in the end! This happned yesterday! lol...
DS: Outside!
Me: Can you pick up your blocks first please?
DS: No! - I dont want to! - Outside!
Me: Okay, How about I help you tidy them up? (its me that wants them tidied up anyhow in the first place...want something done, do it yourself! lol) - So I get down on the floor and start picking them up...
DS: Okay! - So he gets down and starts helping me.

It would have been manipulation though if I would have said 'Pick them up now or you cant go outside' or 'Okay, ill pick them up but then you cant go out side for the rest of the day', etc. Or even, 'If you pick your blocks up now I will give you a chocolate bar!'

The reason why I dont want to manipulate my son is for a lot of reasons. Mostly I want there to be respect in our relationship and I dont feel there can be respect there if I use coercion or force or manipulation of any kind to get him to do things I want him to do. I also want him to do the right thing for the right reason - not because hes afraid or trying to avoid something happening to him, etc. If he picks up his toys because hes afraid of what I might do to him (refuse to let him outside to play, etc) then hes picking up his toys for the wrong reason - he would only be thinking of himself and his own benefit then. Over time, DS will learn that I like the toys picked up when we are done playing with them so no one trips over them and so that we can help keep the house looking nice and keep it clean and tidy. Some times this may be more important than others - and he will learn this as well. He will also learn that its just nice and helpful to help others out. He will learn this without me manipulating him. If I were to manipulate him he would learn 'how can I gain from my actions' (be it avoiding a concequence or after something) - he would learn how to be selfish.

Mummy me : > Thats Ann! and my beautiful SONS Duncanand Hamish 19/09/05 & 22/04/10!
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#5 of 187 Old 09-27-2008, 09:57 AM
 
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I have no problem with "work before pleasure" or "first things first." Those types of expectations are part of the routine and reality of the day for everyone. I have my reasons, which I share with ds. As his parent I can forsee situations that he may not. For example if he wants to pull out all of his art supplies that's fine, he just has to clean up the trains first. I remind him that having too much stuff out makes the house feel cramped and chaotic, and leaves too much to do before bed when he is feeling the least cooperative. It's really just the rhythm of the day more than it is discipline.
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#6 of 187 Old 09-28-2008, 10:45 AM
 
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To ann of loxley - (love the name, btw!) - I guess I'm completely polar opposite to you. I see offering a choice to NOT clean up, and then insisting it be done but with help, as more manipulative than just stating the rule because that's how the household is run.
And PLEASE don't misunderstand - I don't mean to say that YOU are being manipulative. But if I said "can we do X", I would mean "do you WANT to do X". And if the answer is no, then it's certainly not fair for me to turn around and say "well, it's getting done whether you like it or not, I'm just helping".
For me, the choice would be phrased as "We have to clean up before we go outside. Would you like to do it yourself or have me help you?". That way, it's still consensual, because the kid decides whether or not to help with the work I want done.
Does that make sense? And ftr, this is still theory on my part - my son is just two, but he's pretty cooperative about things like cleaning up with me.
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#7 of 187 Old 09-28-2008, 02:54 PM
 
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For me, the choice would be phrased as "We have to clean up before we go outside. Would you like to do it yourself or have me help you?". That way, it's still consensual, because the kid decides whether or not to help with the work I want done.
See now...I actually find that manipulative lol...I phrase it the way I do because its usually something that I myself desire.

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I see offering a choice to NOT clean up, and then insisting it be done but with help, as more manipulative than just stating the rule because that's how the household is run.
I would never insist it be done but as I wanted it done in the first place, if DS didnt
want to help/do it, then I would just have to carry on and do it myself (like I have to do with most thing when it comes to this house - espeically concerning DH lol) My son really has no obligation to help (if he really didnt want to help or pick up his blocks at all in any way he would just carry trotting off outside and I dont think id care in the slightest lol)...I ask if he wants to (can you pick up your blocks?), I ask if he wants to do it a different way than originally proposed (you want me to help?) and if he still doesnt want to do it - then I just get on with it as its me that wants it done (pick them up alone regardless - he may jump in and help then...monkey see moneky do - but that wasnt my plan - it just tends to happen that way as he wants to do what I am doing but I dont set out to use that trait to manipulate him - I guess I could see how this could be viewed as manipulative if I set out to use his good nature against him for my own personal gain.). If I really wanted him to do it or to help though, then I would phrase it in a matter of fact way (as I really do when I just really need him to do something) as in 'Help me pick up your blocks' or 'I need you to pick up your blocks now please'.

I find your example manipulative because it gives false choice. It says 'this is going to get done, you can do it this way or that way'....it gives a false sense of choice in my eyes. Its like me saying 'Right - its bedtime!'...(ds not wanting to go to bed)...so I say 'Would you like me to read you the book about the cat or the book about the dragon?'.... Its a false choise because it means either way he is going to bed but I make it look like hes got that freedom of choice by giving him the option of which bedtime story he would like me to read to him. As an adult I may find this consensual because I know better lol (and because I know better, I can really make a consensual choice about it)...But a small child may not pick up on the subltness of it and be lured into doing something they didnt really want to do.

Makes perfect sense and I am not saying I dont sometimes do that ( lol)...but I try not to because it is manipulative.

Not an attack at you!...Had to add that as moderators are after me lol...But this is certainly a very interresting topic! Its nice to get the different perspectives.

Mummy me : > Thats Ann! and my beautiful SONS Duncanand Hamish 19/09/05 & 22/04/10!
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#8 of 187 Old 09-28-2008, 06:50 PM
 
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There is nothing wrong. You are giving the child a choice, which is what I often do.

An example of this is that you say that either he can clean his room and then go out to play: or, he doesn't clean his room and has to stay inside. This way, you are giving the child the autonomy and the leadway to make his own choices. This is very healthy in my book. You are not only building a sense of self worth and the ability to make decisions in the child: but, you are teaching him about responsibility and obligations--before you go and do this, this must be done.

no matter how you parent, there wil always be people who will disagree. Just be polite and then continue to do things your way. Keep up the good work.

I am married to my soul mate and best friend, and I am truly blessed.

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#9 of 187 Old 09-28-2008, 11:30 PM - Thread Starter
 
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OP here. I really appreciate all of your replies.
Ann of Loxley said, "It would have been manipulation though if I would have said 'Pick them up now or you cant go outside'"

This is what I am referring to when I ask am I missing something. I know that I need to give my dd, who is only 11 mths BTW, choices.

I am having a hard time expressing my thoughts...please bare with me.

I feel responsible for the development of her character. I want her to be responsible, somewhat organized if possible, caring of others in the house, respectful with her things and others' things.

I also don't plan to yell, spank, or even use time outs (I think) that much. I like the time in thing, but this is all still theory to me. However, I have no problem withholding a desired object or play time in order to help her to develop her character and her organizational skills. But this is what I am hearing is manipulative. I really don't get it.

I'm thinking that this is a CL approach to not do anything that coerces or manipulates. Hey, I just figured out my problem! I don't like that word 'manipulation'. Let me look it up.
Okay...it has a both a negative and a positive connotation. Chiropractors manipulate the bones in order to heal us. I like that!

Anyway, I think it's my job as a parent to help develop her character and I can't figure out how I am going to teach her to be responsible without some kind of *manipulation* for lack of a better word.

To all the CL parents, please don't think I am picking on you. I really do want to understand this thing about manipulation. Maybe I just view it as discipline/teaching rather than manipulation.

To Waldorf: Thanks for the encouragement!

DH, and Me plus baby girl (10/07)
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#10 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 12:06 AM
 
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I'm not a huge CLer so with that disclaimer out of the way...

... my position is, what's going on underneath?

For example, when I say boots need to be on before we go out in the snow or else our feet will be cold, I'm more or less stating a fact. This can be tested by my son if I decide to let him see how his socks get wet and his feet get cold. So I don't see that as manipulation.

However, when I say "Chores need to be done before play," then I'm kind of making a value statement about the order in which I would like them done. Do I think this is a good value? Well yah, pretty much. Do I prefer that my home operate this way? Yes.

Is it some kind of natural law? No, actually, it isn't. It's easier (kids get tired and then cranky about chores) but the fact pretty much is that if the garbage is picked up at 7 am, putting it out at 9 pm because I like to have it done does not change that putting it out at 6:59 am will actually have the same result - it gets picked up by the truck.*

So yes I think there is a kind of manipulation in the second situation in that I am trying to create a rhythm that is not strictly consequence based. It really is about my preferences and I really am trying to make people conform to that. If I make a rule about chores before play, it's a little more arbitrary than "chores need to be done today."

So that off my chest how do I (again, non-CL) handle this? Right now it's easy. I do say "let's do chores before play."

If we get into a power struggle about it then I personally tend to drop it, because it's really just a preference and not actually worth it to me to spend my time and energy fighting it. It would feel artificial to me. My son is only 3 so this means his chores (like putting his cup in the sink) are not always done on time or at all.

In the future when he's older, I think I would talk it out more, like "bedtime in 20 minutes and chores were put off, so time to do them" or "yesterday you played first and the chores did not end up done. That upset me. What do you think is a good plan for changing this?"

And of course most importantly I model this myself. I believe that's where most of the learning comes from, esp. at this age.

ETA: * of course there's the risk that you'll miss it. But it's funny. I work with people who work early, and people who work to deadline, and although the people who work to deadline risk missing it a bit more (sometimes), I also appreciate how their approach helps them build a whole different set of skills in last-minute-greatness and stick-to-it-iveness-in-the-face-of-panic. It really does take all kinds.

ETA II: I guess what I'm saying is that I don't find it manipulative when I am problem-solving a REAL problem openly. But when I'm just laying out "how this problem should be solved," then I do. Hope that is a good summary. This post got really long sorry!

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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#11 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 12:31 AM
 
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Originally Posted by ann_of_loxley View Post
<snip>

The reason why I dont want to manipulate my son is for a lot of reasons. Mostly I want there to be respect in our relationship and I dont feel there can be respect there if I use coercion or force or manipulation of any kind to get him to do things I want him to do. I also want him to do the right thing for the right reason - not because hes afraid or trying to avoid something happening to him, etc. If he picks up his toys because hes afraid of what I might do to him (refuse to let him outside to play, etc) then hes picking up his toys for the wrong reason - he would only be thinking of himself and his own benefit then. Over time, DS will learn that I like the toys picked up when we are done playing with them so no one trips over them and so that we can help keep the house looking nice and keep it clean and tidy. Some times this may be more important than others - and he will learn this as well. He will also learn that its just nice and helpful to help others out. He will learn this without me manipulating him. If I were to manipulate him he would learn 'how can I gain from my actions' (be it avoiding a concequence or after something) - he would learn how to be selfish.
i think i may love you, ann_ of _loxley!

i have been trying to word this very idea to my dh. not very articulately though and you summed it up very well. in our house we have been talking a lot about discipline and the effects of discipline, punishments, etc on who we become as adults. (our ds is only 1 but it's still an interesting ongoing topic)
anyway, i think you hit the nail on the head.
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#12 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 01:42 AM
 
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Originally Posted by Shami View Post
OP here. I really appreciate all of your replies.
Ann of Loxley said, "It would have been manipulation though if I would have said 'Pick them up now or you cant go outside'"

This is what I am referring to when I ask am I missing something. I know that I need to give my dd, who is only 11 mths BTW, choices.

I am having a hard time expressing my thoughts...please bare with me.

I feel responsible for the development of her character. I want her to be responsible, somewhat organized if possible, caring of others in the house, respectful with her things and others' things.

I also don't plan to yell, spank, or even use time outs (I think) that much. I like the time in thing, but this is all still theory to me. However, I have no problem withholding a desired object or play time in order to help her to develop her character and her organizational skills. But this is what I am hearing is manipulative. I really don't get it.

I'm thinking that this is a CL approach to not do anything that coerces or manipulates. Hey, I just figured out my problem! I don't like that word 'manipulation'. Let me look it up.
Okay...it has a both a negative and a positive connotation. Chiropractors manipulate the bones in order to heal us. I like that!

Anyway, I think it's my job as a parent to help develop her character and I can't figure out how I am going to teach her to be responsible without some kind of *manipulation* for lack of a better word.

To all the CL parents, please don't think I am picking on you. I really do want to understand this thing about manipulation. Maybe I just view it as discipline/teaching rather than manipulation.

To Waldorf: Thanks for the encouragement!
OP- if you are withholding a desired object or playtime to coerce your dd into doing what you want that is manipulation. will that 'withholding' teach her how to be a better person, build character and how to be responsible? or does it teach her that she needs to *act* a certain way to get what she wants/avoid pain?

if you think about it in terms adult interaction it's almost easier to see how manipulation can go from being a simple matter of parent child communication to actually creating people who are not "good" at all but like ann_of _loxley said in her first post, are just plain "selfish".

OP- i kept having these same thoughts that you've expressed run through my head when i would read posts in the GD forum. ( my ds is 1 so we're a long way from these sorts of interactions, also.) it wasn't until i started to observe and pay attention to the interactions i had with other adults that i could really understand the concept of manipulation.

actually, what really got me thinking about this whole idea of manipulation (and how to parent children so that they learn how to be kind and caring and not manipulative) was a couple i am friends with who are separated and headed for divorce.

it is clear in the conversations that i have had with both the husband and the wife that the husband has little regard for his wife's feelings. not because he is a bad person (he isn't at all! he is actually very sweet and lovely) but in almost all of his relationships he cannot take himself out of the equation!

recently, the husband had been really attentive to the wife and apologized profusely for the behavior that had prompted the separation in the first place. the wife said to him "what has shifted with you? why are you now listening to me and being sensitive to my needs when we've been in counseling for the past 10 months? what made you decide that it was time to apologize for what happened?"

his response was "because i miss you."

that is not a good, caring reason. on the surface it sounds sweet but deep down it's selfish. his answer should have been something like 'because i realized i have been very inconsiderate of your feelings and i want to understand you and what you need from our relationship.'

do you see how this probably goes all the way back to being a kid and learning (taught by parents) how to *act* a certain way to get what he wanted/avoid pain? it's not even conscious or overt it is so deeply embedded. because of that conditioning as a child he is incapable of having a genuine, caring relationship with his wife. it is always about what he is getting or not getting. he is a very giving generous person but there is always and element of fear ( don't leave me!) or trying to please (so as to feel loved) beneath that generosity and giving. it's sad and very unhealthy.

i know this is very very long winded but when i had this conversation with my friend i had a HUGE "a-ha" moment about how dangerous manipulating children can be and what kind of person one becomes if that is how they learn to relate to others.

it is so subtle and it happens all the time in adult relationships that we have become immune to it almost. but i have to say now that i know what it looks like i have become very sensitive to having it done to me/doing it to others.
i really want to break that cycle for my own son. i want him to be very genuine in his actions. so, i try to be that way with him.
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#13 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 09:14 AM
 
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I also don't plan to yell, spank, or even use time outs (I think) that much. I like the time in thing, but this is all still theory to me. However, I have no problem withholding a desired object or play time in order to help her to develop her character and her organizational skills. But this is what I am hearing is manipulative. I really don't get it.
My son has always really enjoyed the idea of two positive choices. "While you clean up, do you want to pretend your toys are racing, or do you want to try to throw them into the bin like a basketball?" He has needed that control since he was very young. However without some underlying structure and boundaries (in this example the cleaning up itself) he would crumple into an insecure mess. So my playful parenting likely has an element of coercion, but I am fine with that.

I believe it is when a person is taught poor boundaries, and that their behaviors make them unacceptable as a person, that they will grow up to be adults with relationship problems. Those lessons can be taught under any parenting philosophy unfortunately, because they are concepts and patterns of interaction. The beauty of gentle discipline as I understand it is that it has a great deal to do with how much time and effort is spent on the actual relationship outside of "discipline issues".
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#14 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 02:25 PM
 
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There is nothing wrong. You are giving the child a choice, which is what I often do.

An example of this is that you say that either he can clean his room and then go out to play: or, he doesn't clean his room and has to stay inside. This way, you are giving the child the autonomy and the leadway to make his own choices. This is very healthy in my book. You are not only building a sense of self worth and the ability to make decisions in the child: but, you are teaching him about responsibility and obligations--before you go and do this, this must be done.
But . . . the child will sit there (after choosing not to pick up blocks and stay inside) and wonder "but how are the blocks on the floor preventing me from going outside?" And he/she will KNOW that it is a punishment for his choice to leave the blocks, and that he has picked "the bad choice" of the two. Maybe he will be angry at the punishment and enjoy picking "the bad choice" next time. He'll probably guess from your expression or tone that you would have preferred him to pick "clean up blocks and go outside after" choice. So now he can punish you as well as himself, and know this from the displeasure on your face? And he will feel like a bad child who picks the bad choices, and maybe he'll like that! Or get into that funk.

Yes, the blocks are his responisibility to clean up. BUT I can think of 4 projects at home which have either gone undone, or are even sitting on the floor because I have decided to finish/ or do it later. Nobody is standing over my shoulder saying, "you cant watch TV until you scrub the bathroom!" Or "do you want to scrub the bathroom and then go shopping? Or do you want to NOT scrub the bathroom and NOT go shopping" and if they do, i'm smart enough to know that they are messing with my head. What the F*** does shopping have to do with a dirty bathroom??? And i'll probably say, "okay, i'll NOT scrub the bathroom, and NOT go shopping!! Since the choice must be made!"
Is this learning self worth?
And is it a good way to learn obligations?
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#15 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 03:33 PM
 
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My son has always really enjoyed the idea of two positive choices. "While you clean up, do you want to pretend your toys are racing, or do you want to try to throw them into the bin like a basketball?" He has needed that control since he was very young. However without some underlying structure and boundaries (in this example the cleaning up itself) he would crumple into an insecure mess. So my playful parenting likely has an element of coercion, but I am fine with that.
Way to go! IT seams to me like whether or not this choice is considered manipulation, it is a really positive choice. Rather than saying, "you MUST clean up your toys or . . ." You get him involved and interested. I suppose you could also say, "lets pick up the YELLOW toys and clean the BLUE ones when we come inside!"
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#16 of 187 Old 09-29-2008, 04:53 PM
 
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See now...I actually find that manipulative lol...I phrase it the way I do because its usually something that I myself desire.



I would never insist it be done but as I wanted it done in the first place, if DS didnt
want to help/do it, then I would just have to carry on and do it myself (like I have to do with most thing when it comes to this house - espeically concerning DH lol) My son really has no obligation to help (if he really didnt want to help or pick up his blocks at all in any way he would just carry trotting off outside and I dont think id care in the slightest lol)...I ask if he wants to (can you pick up your blocks?), I ask if he wants to do it a different way than originally proposed (you want me to help?) and if he still doesnt want to do it - then I just get on with it as its me that wants it done (pick them up alone regardless - he may jump in and help then...monkey see moneky do - but that wasnt my plan - it just tends to happen that way as he wants to do what I am doing but I dont set out to use that trait to manipulate him - I guess I could see how this could be viewed as manipulative if I set out to use his good nature against him for my own personal gain.). If I really wanted him to do it or to help though, then I would phrase it in a matter of fact way (as I really do when I just really need him to do something) as in 'Help me pick up your blocks' or 'I need you to pick up your blocks now please'.

I find your example manipulative because it gives false choice. It says 'this is going to get done, you can do it this way or that way'....it gives a false sense of choice in my eyes. Its like me saying 'Right - its bedtime!'...(ds not wanting to go to bed)...so I say 'Would you like me to read you the book about the cat or the book about the dragon?'.... Its a false choise because it means either way he is going to bed but I make it look like hes got that freedom of choice by giving him the option of which bedtime story he would like me to read to him. As an adult I may find this consensual because I know better lol (and because I know better, I can really make a consensual choice about it)...But a small child may not pick up on the subltness of it and be lured into doing something they didnt really want to do.

Makes perfect sense and I am not saying I dont sometimes do that ( lol)...but I try not to because it is manipulative.

Not an attack at you!...Had to add that as moderators are after me lol...But this is certainly a very interresting topic! Its nice to get the different perspectives.
Okay, I guess it also depends on the age of the child. And your example makes PERFECT sense, now that I know if his answer is no thanks, that's okay.
Letting a kid know that the rule is X, but you can do X in y fashion or z fashion - you are right that the kid has no choice about X. But letting them choose y or z still gives them control, or at least a sense of it. So for a two year old, it would be, we WILL pick up the toys now. Are you doing it with mommy or alone? (And I'm pretty sure the answer will always be "with mommy", especially if I want it done neatly. But if the answer is "alone", then I'm okay with an honest attempt, even if I have to sneak back during nap time and neaten it up (because half the toys end up around the bin instead of in it).)
But with older kids, of course there are ground rules, but they're more flexible. Like maybe the toys just have to be in the general vicinity of the bin (for safety's sake), but they can be put away properly right before dinner or bed. And maybe the kid knows that bedtime is 8:30, and the toys need to be put away by 8 for there to be time for a story. Because I'm either reading the story or putting the toys away, I can't do both.
Now that would only work until the kid can say, "that's fine, mom. You put the toys away and I'LL read the story". But I would hope by then, the understanding would be reached that the toys are a priority, and part of having them is caring for them. (Which will obviously be taught in other ways as well.) Putting them away is part of caring for them, and we all need to work together for the house to run smoothly.
THAT is the real lesson I hope to teach. In the end, it's not about the toys, or who wants what. It's about shared living equaling shared responsibilities. It's about figuring out MUTUAL consent for rules, not just doing what one party or the other wants "because I said so" or because "you can't make me". There will always be ways to get around the rules, and there will always be rules that are just plain arbitrary but that nonetheless need to be followed for the smooth operation of Society. My kids need to learn how - and most importantly WHEN - to follow those rules. Just as important as learning how to think for themselves and be independent is learning when to go along with "the rules" for the greater good of everyone.
It's a balance, and a tricky one at that. I'm not sure I've even figured it out completely, but I aim to keep learning how and I aim to teach it to my kids.

Not sure how much of that related to the OP, but I hope it made sense. It sounds like you're ahead of me anyway on this one - I hope my ideas work when I put them into practice!
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But . . . the child will sit there (after choosing not to pick up blocks and stay inside) and wonder "but how are the blocks on the floor preventing me from going outside?" And he/she will KNOW that it is a punishment for his choice to leave the blocks, and that he has picked "the bad choice" of the two. Maybe he will be angry at the punishment and enjoy picking "the bad choice" next time. He'll probably guess from your expression or tone that you would have preferred him to pick "clean up blocks and go outside after" choice. So now he can punish you as well as himself, and know this from the displeasure on your face? And he will feel like a bad child who picks the bad choices, and maybe he'll like that! Or get into that funk.

Yes, the blocks are his responisibility to clean up. BUT I can think of 4 projects at home which have either gone undone, or are even sitting on the floor because I have decided to finish/ or do it later. Nobody is standing over my shoulder saying, "you cant watch TV until you scrub the bathroom!" Or "do you want to scrub the bathroom and then go shopping? Or do you want to NOT scrub the bathroom and NOT go shopping" and if they do, i'm smart enough to know that they are messing with my head. What the F*** does shopping have to do with a dirty bathroom??? And i'll probably say, "okay, i'll NOT scrub the bathroom, and NOT go shopping!! Since the choice must be made!"
Is this learning self worth?
And is it a good way to learn obligations?
Actually I did just tell myself today that I have to get certain things done around the house before I could go shopping. If I finish my chores and still have energy left, I can go to Bed Bath and Beyond and the mall. This is my way of prioritizing things and I believe my mom taught me this.
I know adults don't treat each other this way, but adults' character is already formed. Children are still learning and forming their character. Their work ethic is not formed yet.

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I wouldn't classify myself as a selfish person. I am reasonably generous and like to do things for others. However, I was raised like this: As long as I did what was asked of me and followed the rules, I got privileges. If I misbehaved I got grounded or things taken away for a period of time. This didn't make me selfish as a previous poster said. And I never wondered how the punishment fit the crime, so to speak.

Sorry if I am all over the place. Many times I post late at night and half my brain is gone! I guess I am still not convinced that this style of parenting is going to create a selfish person who only does good to avoid bad things happening to themselves.

After all, I do good because it makes me feel good. I am honest because it makes me feel good. I don't want to have a guilty conscience, therefore I do my best to avoid doing wrong things.

Thanks to all of you for the input. It is helping me to formulate my thoughts a little.

DH, and Me plus baby girl (10/07)
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But . . . the child will sit there (after choosing not to pick up blocks and stay inside) and wonder "but how are the blocks on the floor preventing me from going outside?" And he/she will KNOW that it is a punishment for his choice to leave the blocks, and that he has picked "the bad choice" of the two. Maybe he will be angry at the punishment and enjoy picking "the bad choice" next time. He'll probably guess from your expression or tone that you would have preferred him to pick "clean up blocks and go outside after" choice. So now he can punish you as well as himself, and know this from the displeasure on your face? And he will feel like a bad child who picks the bad choices, and maybe he'll like that! Or get into that funk.

Yes, the blocks are his responisibility to clean up. BUT I can think of 4 projects at home which have either gone undone, or are even sitting on the floor because I have decided to finish/ or do it later. Nobody is standing over my shoulder saying, "you cant watch TV until you scrub the bathroom!" Or "do you want to scrub the bathroom and then go shopping? Or do you want to NOT scrub the bathroom and NOT go shopping" and if they do, i'm smart enough to know that they are messing with my head. What the F*** does shopping have to do with a dirty bathroom??? And i'll probably say, "okay, i'll NOT scrub the bathroom, and NOT go shopping!! Since the choice must be made!"
Is this learning self worth?
And is it a good way to learn obligations?
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Actually I did just tell myself today that I have to get certain things done around the house before I could go shopping. If I finish my chores and still have energy left, I can go to Bed Bath and Beyond and the mall. This is my way of prioritizing things and I believe my mom taught me this.
I know adults don't treat each other this way, but adults' character is already formed. Children are still learning and forming their character. Their work ethic is not formed yet.

I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I wouldn't classify myself as a selfish person. I am reasonably generous and like to do things for others. However, I was raised like this: As long as I did what was asked of me and followed the rules, I got privileges. If I misbehaved I got grounded or things taken away for a period of time. This didn't make me selfish as a previous poster said. And I never wondered how the punishment fit the crime, so to speak.
Not speaking from personal experience here (DD is 2yo and does whatever I do. I pick up blocks, she picks up blocks...) but wouldn't this be a matter of what is age appropriate and whether the child understands the relationship between the action and the consequences? If the rule in question is "you must do chores before watching TV," I can see how it might be manipulative for a young child who does not understand that chores are a priority in the home and mom/dad feels better when the house is kept clean. On the other hand, an older child should have that understanding and would be aware that leaving a mess or not doing chores is disrespectful towards others in the home - therefore not watching TV until X is done is totally reasonable. I would expect the same from myself.
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I don't mean to toot my own horn, but I wouldn't classify myself as a selfish person. I am reasonably generous and like to do things for others. However, I was raised like this: As long as I did what was asked of me and followed the rules, I got privileges. If I misbehaved I got grounded or things taken away for a period of time. This didn't make me selfish as a previous poster said. And I never wondered how the punishment fit the crime, so to speak.

Sorry if I am all over the place. Many times I post late at night and half my brain is gone! I guess I am still not convinced that this style of parenting is going to create a selfish person who only does good to avoid bad things happening to themselves.

After all, I do good because it makes me feel good. I am honest because it makes me feel good. I don't want to have a guilty conscience, therefore I do my best to avoid doing wrong things.

Thanks to all of you for the input. It is helping me to formulate my thoughts a little.
I don't think this is an easy discussion to have because it does force so much self-examination.

I was raised as you were and it definitely didn't make me a selfish person. What it did make me, however, is someone who isn't always in touch with her own needs. I find it very hard to ask for help. I feel lousy if I don't get through my to-do list. I have had health issues because I took on too much and got tired out. I have gotten stressed and tired out and damaged relationships because I was not able to say no.

Also in my experience working non-profit, doing good to feel good about one's self can be dangerous. Because sometimes what you do to "help" isn't actually helping. It's kind of like the people who want to 'save' me in the evangelical Christian sense - they want to save me but I don't want to be saved. Is that really doing good, or are they just making themselves feel good?

In other words, neither extreme is authentic (in my opinion), and sometimes a "good work ethic" is a "bad personal ethic."

This is why for me it is really important to examine my assumptions about what is necessary and what is just preference.

~ Mum to Emily, March 12-16 2004, Noah, born Aug 2005, Liam, born January 2011, and wife to Carl since 1994. ~
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Threads like this always intrigue me, because I really cannot fathom spending so much time concentrating on how I phrase things. Just the back forth subtleties of how to word a simple sentence, that, in grand scheme of things, is going to achieve the same effect. It really resembles egg-shell parenting, where you get so paranoid that every little thing is going to be damaging to our children. I don't think we're giving them enough credit for being the resilient, critical thinkers that they are.

But, I'm openly a coercive, manipulative parent. And I'm fine with that.

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Threads like this always intrigue me, because I really cannot fathom spending so much time concentrating on how I phrase things. Just the back forth subtleties of how to word a simple sentence, that, in grand scheme of things, is going to achieve the same effect. It really resembles egg-shell parenting, where you get so paranoid that every little thing is going to be damaging to our children. I don't think we're giving them enough credit for being the resilient, critical thinkers that they are.

But, I'm openly a coercive, manipulative parent. And I'm fine with that.
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#22 of 187 Old 10-01-2008, 02:44 PM
 
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Not speaking from personal experience here (DD is 2yo and does whatever I do. I pick up blocks, she picks up blocks...) but wouldn't this be a matter of what is age appropriate and whether the child understands the relationship between the action and the consequences? If the rule in question is "you must do chores before watching TV," I can see how it might be manipulative for a young child who does not understand that chores are a priority in the home and mom/dad feels better when the house is kept clean. On the other hand, an older child should have that understanding and would be aware that leaving a mess or not doing chores is disrespectful towards others in the home - therefore not watching TV until X is done is totally reasonable. I would expect the same from myself.
But for a kid that young, isn't it just "mommy's setting the limits, that makes me feel good"? If that's manipulation, then isn't it manipulation in the positive sense of the word?
Because little kids NEED boundaries and limits, and if the person who they love most in the world DOESN'T set them, the poor kid feels TOTALLY lost and bereft. That sounds like the exact OPPOSITE of what everyone is trying to accomplish, here.
As kids get older (read "more mature" - the age is ENTIRELY relative, here) the kids get more say in things, because they CAN handle limits of their own devising. But isn't that because they were taught that skill by their caretakers?
I'm so confused!
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#23 of 187 Old 10-01-2008, 02:46 PM
 
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I would also add that even a baby will understand the fact that mommy and daddy feel better when X is done. They might not understand WHY X makes mommy and daddy feel good, but they can tell the difference between a happy mommy and daddy and an upset mommy and daddy.
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But for a kid that young, isn't it just "mommy's setting the limits, that makes me feel good"? If that's manipulation, then isn't it manipulation in the positive sense of the word?
Because little kids NEED boundaries and limits, and if the person who they love most in the world DOESN'T set them, the poor kid feels TOTALLY lost and bereft. That sounds like the exact OPPOSITE of what everyone is trying to accomplish, here.
As kids get older (read "more mature" - the age is ENTIRELY relative, here) the kids get more say in things, because they CAN handle limits of their own devising. But isn't that because they were taught that skill by their caretakers?
I'm so confused!
I'm confused too!

I guess I was trying to see how both ways of thinking here could be right...because we're all really going for the same goal here, so I feel like everyone means the same thing but is maybe thinking of different contexts or wording.

I certainly didn't mean to imply there should be no limits. I am with PP who can't imagine spending so much time on the phrasing.

I really just use my internal sense of whether something is manipulative or not and try to see things from DD's perspective. I also don't overthink things...if something doesn't feel natural to me to say DD isn't going to respond to it anyway. She's good like that.
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Because little kids NEED boundaries and limits, and if the person who they love most in the world DOESN'T set them, the poor kid feels TOTALLY lost and bereft.
I guess this is the main difference in view from those of use on here who might call themselves CL (or not if you have a hangup about lablels lol) and those who add a smiley and say they are happily manipulative. I do not believe I need to set boundaries and limits with my son...and trust me, he is far from a poor lad who is lost and bereft!

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I would also add that even a baby will understand the fact that mommy and daddy feel better when X is done. They might not understand WHY X makes mommy and daddy feel good, but they can tell the difference between a happy mommy and daddy and an upset mommy and daddy.
I also do not want to teach my son he should do certain things to make/keep me happy. In the same way I wont make myself unhappy just to ensure that he is always happy and never cries. We live together, we work together...its not one way or the other.

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I would also add that even a baby will understand the fact that mommy and daddy feel better when X is done. They might not understand WHY X makes mommy and daddy feel good, but they can tell the difference between a happy mommy and daddy and an upset mommy and daddy.
When my oldest was a toddler my main goal was that I would always show love and acceptance regardless of what I happened to feel, but I'd be honest about how I felt too.

It's not manipulation to consider someone else's feelings and I do think little kids can do that. Person A considering the feelings of person B doesn't indicate that person A is taking responsibility for how B feels, either. If that were true, relationships would be all about manipulation and weak emotional boundaries.

Basically, I don't use my feelings as a motivational tool to get my child to do something, but we are open about how we feel and we take responsibility for our own emotions and the reactions we have to them.
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I guess this is the main difference in view from those of use on here who might call themselves CL (or not if you have a hangup about lablels lol) and those who add a smiley and say they are happily manipulative.
Feel free to quote me or refer to my post when you refer to something I said. My point was simply that I don't feel bad about my parenting, and I don't want those who are reading (er, lurking) to feel bad either.

For some people, spending a lot of time on wording and phrasing doesn't come easily or naturally, and being "false" in their interactions with their children can be just as detrimental as being unintentionally manipulative because something wasn't phrased quite right. Conversations like this make me feel bad for the parents who come down heavy on themselves for simple wording when, in the grand scheme of things, they are otherwise great parents. The persecution complexes I've seen over parents who came on here upset that they said *gasp* the word "no" is sad!

Frankenstein never scared me. Marsupials do. Because they're FAST.
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#28 of 187 Old 10-01-2008, 06:30 PM
 
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Feel free to quote me or refer to my post when you refer to something I said.
Err.. or not. I mean, it would be nice if you did. But if you don't, that's fine too.

Frankenstein never scared me. Marsupials do. Because they're FAST.
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#29 of 187 Old 10-01-2008, 06:50 PM
 
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I don't think we need to create limits. There are plenty of limits in life and we can simply help our children navigate those without creating new ones on top of those. No one has to "learn" limits - they by definition can't be avoided - they limit our ability to do something.

I'd probably say something like, "Oh look at all these blocks that need to be cleaned up. What should we do?" Now, at 6, my daughter is usually able to just clean up. I enlisted her help to find an organizational system for toys that worked for her and made it easy for her to keep things clean. But if she wanted to clean them up while watching TV, I wouldn't see any reason to say she couldn't watch TV until they were cleaned. And if she wanted to play outside because there were other kids playing then who might not be playing outside later, she'd probably say she'd clean them up when she came back in. I'm not too concerned about when the blocks get cleaned up so long as the floor is clear so I can vacuum after she goes to school in the morning, and so long as they aren't where I'll trip on them. And it's understandable to want to play when her friends are playing rather than later when she'd be alone. But that might be specifically an only child thing. I love her having opportunities to play outside with other kids and wouldn't mind blocks waiting.
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#30 of 187 Old 10-01-2008, 07:07 PM
 
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I don't know that kids necessarily benefit from someone setting limits, per se. But I think they do benefit from *knowing* what the limits are, if that makes sense.

I see manipulation as using a sneaky way of getting things your way, or using some "false" emotional plea ("it makes me so sad when you don't eat your veggies"), or withholding something that the other person wants/needs in order to get your way.

I don't see straight up insisting as being manipulative, though. Coercive, perhaps. (Not that that's a bad thing. It just is.)

I also think that "false" choices tend to be manipulative. When you give the child a "choice" between something that you want done, and something that is unpleasant for the child and that you REALLY don't want the child to choose. So, "Pick up your toys or sit in time out." That's not really a choice, even though it's offered up as one. The parent isn't going to be happy if the child "chooses" a time out over picking up toys.

Where I'm confused is in situations where I offer a choice, and either choice by ds is perfectly fine with me. Like..."Put on your helmet and you can ride your bike, or you can leave your helmet off and NOT ride your bike."
Is that manipulative? Maybe I guess. But I don't care which he chooses. Either way is a-ok with me. I'm not trying to offer one unpleasant choice in order to make the one I want appear to be a good choice. Does that make sense? hmmm...

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