The issue of strewing and manipulation - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 11 Old 09-27-2013, 12:32 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Some folks swear by strewing, others think it's manipulative.  There are other threads on strewing--who does, who doesn't.  But none address this quite so thoroughly-- is manipulation always bad?  Is it bad only when kids feel it's bad?  What exactly is "manipulation"?  Can one *unintentionally* manipulate?  If so, how is that possible?  And if so, what action *wouldn't* be considered manipulation?  It can't always be defined by another's reaction?  Or can it?  (????)

 

I used to have conversations about "manipulation" years ago before relating it to strewing and unschooling.  I found it frustrating that others felt "manipulation" = "bad".  But clearly, sometimes it is.  My mother, I felt, was emotionally manipulative and it drove me crazy!  But other times I've been accused of manipulating things and been a bit surprised.  Well, OK.

 

Today the mood is a bit.... needy and emotional in my house.  I brought out grandpa's quilt and there it sits, waiting a bit to be discovered or at a key moment, I can loudly discover it myself.  Grandpa's quilt means circle time and guitars and stories, and togetherness where we are all sharing.  They really enjoy it, although it dosn't always permanently fix a foul mood.I really want the guitars out more, and this would be a good start.  

 

But, it's manipulative, isn't it?  Is that bad?  I've been told by some it is.  It's not "you need this whether you know it or not" or "this activity is superior to the ones you've chosen."  Well, scratch that.  It is superior to teasing and fights and one-sided activities where I end up playing with one or reading to another while the other has her own game (some days that's OK, other days it gets read as "I love your sister more" and this could be one of those days).  

 

So, manipulation=bad?  Therefore strewing=bad?  Do you feel one way (manipulation=sometimes good, for example) but your child feel differently?  Is it really dependent on adult and child and family?  Or is it something more definitively one way or another, regardless of situation?

 

Does anyone remember any old thread that covers just this fabulously?  I'm really more interested in exploring the issue of manipulation in regards to strewing--where our opinions on this come from and why.  If you can link to an old conversation, I'd love it.


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#2 of 11 Old 09-27-2013, 09:26 PM
 
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Hey sweet silver, i was right there with you till that last line about linking an old conversation and  i thought, oh no, i am not about to go digging out an old conversation.  i am just going to talk off the top of my head as if this was the first conversation on this topic. 

 

so .... strewing, suggesting, introducing, persuading.  I have done and wondered about all of these things.  I think I know the difference when I am taking unfair advantage of a situation and when I am genuinely offering something as I would to a friend or colleague, knowing well that they are free to decline. 

 

So the next question ... is it ever okay to take advantage, because I know more (or at least think I do?)

 

In theory - I guess I would lean towards no.  But I have watched other parents do this and it all works out well.  I sit and wonder - wow, maybe I should do that.  But I don't really believe it.  I don't think so, at least ... 

 

So ... no conclusive answer.   


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#3 of 11 Old 09-27-2013, 11:46 PM
 
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I think its a personal one and depends as much as anything on the relationship you have with your kids.

 

For me, I'd tend to find it manipulative to leave something out in the hope that my kid would see it.

 

That doesn't mean I don't introduce new things to my kids lives. Its that I don't set up situations and put the onus and my hopes on them discovering stuff. I'd rather just say "hey. I have this cool thing I think you'd like. Do you have five minutes to look at it with me?". I tend to have to do that with certain thing, like stuff on the computer. But yk, that might be me and my kids. My experience is that my kids prefer me to be upfront about thing. 

 

It does depend on the item. I mean, if its, say, new art stuff, yeah I might leave that out on the table if I'd bought it the night before. I wouldn't leave it out at a particular time but my girls would always love to come down to discover new fun stuff. On my birthday I came down to discover a new swift that dp had made me. That's not manipulative, that's a lovely surprise. 

 

There is a secondary issue here which is that I don't tend to buy stuff nowadays for my older kids until we have identified a need for it. And my kids do tend to have fairly clear "wants" as regards projects and so on. I don't really have the space in my house to have it cluttered with "possibles".

 

I do think this is quite kid specific. Not only would mine tend to see it as manipulative but they also would tend to ignore stuff that they hadn't requested.For my kids I honestly do not see the point of strewing. If I have something cool I think they'd like, why not just tell them? I think on a deeper level I don't really get it. I suspect its age specific as well. I did certainly buy them toys and leave them out when they were younger. But we don't need any more toys!

 

I think what is and what is not manipulative is extremely relationship specific. For me the benchmark is, would I do this to a friend, to dp? Here, I wouldn't, but perhaps others would, I don't know. If that seems to work, then I think that that is all that matters.

 

I also don't think that strewing is emotionally manipulative on any serious level. I don't think its something kids are going to be in therapy over! I prefer to avoid any hint of emotional manipulation in my relationship with my kids so perhaps go a little far the other way. But I'm all about what works in practice in real life.


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#4 of 11 Old 09-28-2013, 06:31 PM
 
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My feeling about strewing is that if it's a word being used to identify a strategy, an intentional sort of thing laden with expectations, then it's probably veering towards manipulation. If it's just a description of what happens naturally when you find something and think "Oh, I bet __ would love this!" and bring it home but don't want to present it formally because then it might be misconstrued as being tied to expectations, then I think it's all good. 

 

But I'm exhausted from a day on the mountain in sleet, so I may not be thinking straight. :)

 

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#5 of 11 Old 09-28-2013, 06:49 PM
 
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I agree with the PPs who differentiate whether strewing is tied in with possible expectations. Surely those who would be disheartened by a strewn item gone ignored are also likely to be more manipulative in general. I will sometimes bring in a new item and just leave it on a shelf or table to be discovered by chance. I certainly wouldn't get upset or start hinting and coercing my kids toward using it. Unused things often get donated out of the house unless I think they'll be useful in the near future.

My kids also have plenty of wants, and we find ourselves very selective about what we'll buy or bring home. I also rarely go out without them, so they are typically very involved in the acquisition of things.

So... No, I don't feel than emotionally unattached strewing is any more manipulative than setting out easily accessible snacks or making sure warmer clothes are added to the drawers once temperatures dip. It's providing access, facilitating new discoveries, providing unspoken options that kids can choose to use if so inclined.
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#6 of 11 Old 09-28-2013, 11:51 PM
 
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Originally Posted by Mama Amie View Post

So... No, I don't feel than emotionally unattached strewing is any more manipulative than setting out easily accessible snacks or making sure warmer clothes are added to the drawers once temperatures dip. It's providing access, facilitating new discoveries, providing unspoken options that kids can choose to use if so inclined.

 

Yeah I think this puts it well

 

I think it also highlights how personality dependent this really is. If you have a kid who loves finding new stuff left around the house then that's great and it would seem daft not to strew. I think younger kids tend to have less focused interests and so there might be more space for them to find new things. I think once you're getting towards 8 or so, kids often have quite clear interests and it works better for me to respect those and build on those. But as I say this is going to be highly dependent on the relationship with your own kids and your kids personality and yours.

 

Ok going back to the OP and the example of the blanket. I think, in this house, what would work best would be to say, "I am feeling grumpy (or, I am finding the mood stressful) and would like to do the grandpa quilt thing. Would that be ok with the rest of you?". But I can do this with my kids, they respond well to honesty and very badly to me trying to second guess them or get them to do something they don't really want to.

 

I'm trying to untease this...I don't think its manipulative to clearly state your needs. I do think, for me, it borders on the manipulative to create a situation with the hope of a particular response. And I'd agree that manipulation isn't necessarily bad either. I am effectively being manipulative when I set up a kids party or invite friends over and make nice food-I'm trying to manage the mood there. 

 

SS on rereading your OP it does sound like things might be a bit intense there? Sorry if I've misread, but if so, :Hug


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#7 of 11 Old 09-29-2013, 04:57 AM
 
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SS, is this related to the question regarding child-led learning, i.e.  is parent-led inherently bad?  I think that because we have a strong tendency to make everything parent-led, and because it is so easy for parents to lead, we ought to shift the balance and proactively allow children to find their way without our constant leadership, and also to take the lead.  But this is only to level the field.  I would not then go too far in the other direction and never offer leadership.  I think there should be a reciprocity.  Trust.

 

Yesterday we came back from getting a new bike helmet.  DD was extra grumpy (new behavior for her) and stated that she did not want a new helmet.  Anyway after we came home she stormed off to the computer.   I put up a note asking who wanted to play Monopoly.  Why did I not just ask her outright?  Wouldn't it be a bit intrusive if I go in and spoil her grumpy mood with my magic solution?  But if she comes out and sees it herself, then it is different.  She did, and we played. 


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#8 of 11 Old 09-29-2013, 09:17 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by moominmamma View Post
 

 If it's just a description of what happens naturally when you find something and think "Oh, I bet __ would love this!" and bring it home but don't want to present it formally because then it might be misconstrued as being tied to expectations, then I think it's all good. 

This is what it usually is.  Thanks for articulating that.  I try to be careful of giving the appearance of expectations when I know there are none.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mama Amie View Post

So... No, I don't feel than emotionally unattached strewing is any more manipulative than setting out easily accessible snacks or making sure warmer clothes are added to the drawers once temperatures dip. It's providing access, facilitating new discoveries, providing unspoken options that kids can choose to use if so inclined.

 

I'm trying to untease this...I don't think its manipulative to clearly state your needs. I do think, for me, it borders on the manipulative to create a situation with the hope of a particular response. And I'd agree that manipulation isn't necessarily bad either. I am effectively being manipulative when I set up a kids party or invite friends over and make nice food-I'm trying to manage the mood there. 

 

SS on rereading your OP it does sound like things might be a bit intense there? Sorry if I've misread, but if so, :Hug

 

Yes, the question about manipulation in general.  Almost without fail, I see the word being used in a negative connotation.  But many, many of our acts and especially emotional exchanges throughout the day are manipulative, or can be construed as manipulative, which leaves me wondering what the hell the word means and whether it's not so much an issue of manipulation as manipulation with expectation, and of course, anything that strikes someone as negative.  Sometimes I'm as confused as I was when I would be accused of being manipulative many years ago just for having an honest reaction to something.  That guy was waaaaaaay too sensitive to anything that made him feel like he was reacting with undue influence of someone else, so he was a bit of an extreme example.  He had a lot of good points, even so.

 

And, yes, it's always a bit intense here.  We rarely have a nice, balanced kind of day.  We either have a brilliant day, or more typically, we have struggles regarding getting along, some days just a bit and I guess those would be considered our balanced days, some days where I have to give up on everything and attend to their emotional needs.  On the blanket day, it was probably one of those days just tipped to the difficult.  Which is why I placed the blanket out without comment, because they happened to be in a good place in the moment.  We didn't end up pulling it out, but I did pull out my guitar at one point to fiddle with cords on a song I learned, and dd1 pulled out hers and played and even woke up first thing next morning to play.  

 

What was even more helpful than the blanket for stretching out the good mood was the guitar case.  There was a time when my guitar never actually sat in the guitar case, it was such a great play space for all their animals.  

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SS, is this related to the question regarding child-led learning, i.e.  is parent-led inherently bad?  I think that because we have a strong tendency to make everything parent-led, and because it is so easy for parents to lead, we ought to shift the balance and proactively allow children to find their way without our constant leadership, and also to take the lead.  But this is only to level the field.  I would not then go too far in the other direction and never offer leadership.  I think there should be a reciprocity.  Trust.

Not exactly, but I like the way you've worded your thoughts.  I do think it is important to be proactive in making room for children to lead.  When I get busy and hurried, I start forgetting this.

 

Yeah, a bit of an intense morning here.  DD1 started the day off bossy and growly (she's getting better about maintaining politeness in spite of a bad mood--but it's a hard fight) and dd2 just had a screaming fit about dd1 not letting her get into her sewing kit to get some fabric.  Screaming, not even thinking to ask me "Hey, mom, do you think you have some of that same fabric in your sewing stuff?".  Screaming at me to go get it, screamng at everybody (and dd1 so graciously comments "You ______!!!", helping the situation *immensely*, I'm sure!)  GAH!  She's nigh on 7 years old.  These late-blossoming tantrums are in large part due to her older sister being so dominating, and for years dd2 just went along with it even though her heart was somewhere else, and then she was done with that.  "Mama, I'm tired of being the nice one."  Not meaning the goody-two-shoes, but caving in.  And man, did she ever stop caving.  OK, now I'm just rambling.  Thanks for the hug, Fillyjonk.

 

Well, I was done being screamed at at walked off telling her I'm done until she stopped screaming.  Manipulative.  Manipulative? But manipulative=bad here, or manipulative=saving my ass from a rampaging 7yo=not bad?  

 

I know that's off the subject of strewing.  But strewing is mentioned in unschooling circles in connection to manipulation, and our common usage it invariably has a negative connotation (though not all unschoolers dislike strewing).  I'm really needing another word here, "manipulation without expectation".  But then, we all are manipulative to some degree during our days.  Aren't we?  Yes, off the subject of strewing a bit.

 

Sorry for this ramble.  I'm no longer even very sure where I am in all this.  Oh, yeah, I need coffee......


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#9 of 11 Old 09-29-2013, 11:23 AM
 
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Gonna chime in here as someone who only homeschooled briefly and I did take fairly traditional approach to my child's learning those couple of years. But as far as I can figure it, I strew for my family all the time. We might pick a few new things at the craft store. Find a book or two to go along with those materials. Take a trip to see a friend who also engages in new hobby and then we try new craft/hobby ourselves. In an over the top case, I actually planned a family vacation around going to see a loom/spinning and weaving exhibition at a historic site one state over. During those weeks, the books and materials will be sprinkled about for any and all of us to enjoy. Sometimes an idea catches on with one kid or even my spouse.. sometimes not. I sort things out eventually and move onto to some other topic or idea that I or a family member always wanted to try. I don't think this practice is unusual or manipulative. Aren't we all trying to be lifelong learners and explorers?

Our latest big one around here is Asian cooking. The dh and I have bought some fancy oriental ingredients, found some cool cookbooks at the library. Our son, a senior in a brick and mortar high school got his interest piqued as well and we all created a pho like soup last night with plans for making our own pad thai this week. joy.gif
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#10 of 11 Old 09-29-2013, 11:44 AM
 
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Well, I was done being screamed at at walked off telling her I'm done until she stopped screaming.  Manipulative.  Manipulative? But manipulative=bad here, or manipulative=saving my ass from a rampaging 7yo=not bad?  

 

See-I don't get why this is manipulative. I see it as honestly expressing your needs and setting up boundaries for how you will be treated. I actually really don't find that manipulative in any way. I see that as giving someone a clear choice. I also think its a great way to model being assertive, and having self respect. I actually cannot think of another thing I could have done in that situation, because if that happened 

 

I'm really, really happy to change my mind on this but I am struggling to see that as manipulative at all.  From where I am standing it actually sounds like you handled the situation very well. I don't think I'd have wanted to do anything differently, in the moment. I think its quite developmentally normal for kids not to have the self control not to lose it, but I also think its fine for the adults around them to explain the effect it has on them and model the kind of behaviour that they themselves might want to use in the future if someone were screaming at them.

 

Philomom the way I see strewing is that it is about not directly introducing something to a kid but rather kind of setting them up to find it in their environment. I don't think anyone would have a problem with introducing something to a kid's environment per se, its this thing of kind of setting it up with the expectation they discover it. I think-MamaAmie?-said it really well, actually, that if you're the kind of parent who would be upset if there was no payback for this, its probably manipulative, if not then its probably cool. 


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#11 of 11 Old 09-29-2013, 11:57 AM
 
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Agreeing with Filly. If you really break it down to manipulative=bad or good, it has to be on a case by case basis. Pretty much every single thing we do is technically manipulative- walking, choosing between options, setting boundaries, etc. Obviously some things must be done, and I certainly think that's ok. The grey areas do tend to revolve around manipulation involving other people. I feel that of we speak and act in ways that are genuine, open, and without being too emotionally invested in the outcome, then we're in the right place. I know I need to work on that myself in terms of how I vrrbalize some things. And that is often a struggle in the parenting realm. I can say "I think it's about time to brush teeth", but only if it's optional on the present timeline:agenda. Otherwise I should just day "it's time to brush teeth." One is more open ended, but ultimately it has to happen sooner than later. If we're having a hard time, I would probably hope to present it like "I notice we're having a hard time right now. I think this would help. Can we try it?" Of course my agenda is implied, that we need to turn this around. But it still leaves room for other possibilities, too. Does that make sense and seem reasonable?
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