It doesn’t take long for a parent to discover the dichotomous nature of children. On one hand, they are adorable, precious and full of joy. On the other, they can be sneaky and a bit manipulative. It seems kids are born with a bag of tricks designed to help them get their way.
We try to do our best as parent, but sometimes the weight of a busy schedule, finances and family drama leaves us susceptible to the sometimes charming techniques kids use. By anticipating their go-to tricks, you can be equipped to resist.
Discourse between two people is the backbone of any relationship, and we start learning to communicate at a very early age. But sometimes, a verbal exchange can turn into an endless banter.
“If you start arguing with your children, they will think that there is a possibility that they could get their way if they push hard enough,” says Jaylene Garau, certified teacher and author of The Motivated Child. “Arguing and negotiating creates frustrated parents and disrespectful kids. Parents and kids need to understand that some things are just not up for discussion. Period.”
Wearing you down
Someday, your child’s persistence may be one of her best attributes, but right now, she could be using it against you. “Repetition plus volume wear many parents down,” says Susan Heitler, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist and author of David Decides About Thumbsucking and The Power of Two.
How do you resist? Heitler recommends “learning collaborative conflict resolution skills. If your kids, and you, have confidence that you can generally find win-win solutions, standing firm on occasional authority-based decisions becomes far easier.”
Few manipulation techniques are as brazen (and effective) as the tantrum. We learn this technique as children, but often carry it well into adulthood, making a few adjustments to make our outbursts more socially acceptable.
“Tantrums are the best trick kids have up their sleeves, anything from a whine or a pout to an all out meltdown,” says Laurie Gerber of the Handel Group, a corporate consulting and curriculum provider. “Like us adults, kids want what they want when they want it. And, we will do what we have to do to get it.” Reacting to the tantrum often escalates the situation and giving in sets you up for even more drama the next time your child wants something.
Our children often represent the best and worst of our personalities. This means that although we may influence their generosity, compassion and kindness, we also influence their impatience, rudeness and selfishness. “There is no way out of this challenge, so we encourage our clients to have a chuckle about how much their kids’ tricks should remind them of their own,” says Gerber. “Keeping these negative behaviors on a ‘leash’ requires creativity.”
For example, Gerber suggested that one family establish a “jerk jar” for each person, parents included. When someone was behaving less than civilly, they are asked to put a dollar in their jar. Whoever has the least amount of money in the jar at the end of the week keeps the money.
Read more about kids and manipulation
- Toddlers and tantrums: Why they have them and how to stop them
- Raise respectful kids without guilt trips and shaming