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Manipulative Children

Updated on October 3, 2014
Tashaonthetown profile image

Natasha Pelati has published three books of poetry and writes on real-life experiences with the help of psychology.

Children who control their parents

Manipulation is the attempt to gain control and a child's emotional brain is the strongest part of their bodies whilst growing up. They learn from a very early age as to what they can and cannot get away with.

Children can sense the weaker parent and if you are the type of parent that has given in to your children too often, this is who they will manipulate in order to get their own way.

It is unhealthy for a parent to allow their children to manipulate them by lying, stealing, whining, bullying or bribing as they will eventually face failure in their adult life which will lead to frustration and a lack of ethical behaviour.

Learning from an early age that their tricks have worked will lead them to assume that it will be a natural way for them to get ahead in the future.

Although manipulation as children is normal behaviour, there is a time where you need to take back control in order for your child to grow up in the correct way to benefit them when they are older.

Children that control their parents will assume that they can control everyone and manipulate every situation which could lead to discipline issues and behavioural problems at school and with friends who will eventually exclude themselves from your child, leaving them to be isolated, causing frustration and other problems.

Don't be a puppet on a string
Don't be a puppet on a string | Source

Why children manipulate parents

A strong foundation and a stable home with discipline and love, is what every child needs. All children need is someone to lead the way as they have no idea about life and what to expect from it. This is the parents job and how you live your life is how your children will eventually live theirs.

Children need structure, discipline and family ethics in order for them to know where they stand and how to fit into life.

Having no foundation or a set of beliefs will cause a child to act out and do whatever they feel is right with no consequences because they will not know of any.

If you have had no rules or guidelines for the children to follow they will not understand the difference between right and wrong, they will assume that they are able to do anything without consequence and this will lead them to have problems in the future.

Children who are spoilt and have everything their way, will follow on to have a very lonely life as things will not always go their way and they will not know how to handle that.

Parents who have tried to enforce punishment and have not managed to follow through, will notice that there children never listen and will have tantrums to get what they want, knowing that parents will give in to their demands.

Kids can also see who the weaker parent is and if one of you give in all the time, then your child will know what buttons to push to get what they want.

A lack of mutual respect among parents is also a cause for children to manipulate their parents as they can see one parent going up against another for the sake of the child. You will find that your child will eventually have no respect for either of you, siblings will argue and your manipulative child will be running the home, dictating to everyone.

Children of divorce also tend to know how to manipulate as the parents feel guilty and try to give in to them in order for them to be happy and peaceful. This doesn't help when raising them as the children will grow up thinking that manipulation will get them what they want.

Kids play up and manipulate to get attention too. It could be that you do not spend enough quality time with them and your guilt makes you weak and that is what they can see. This is also going to get them to manipulate you and if you do not stop it from happening it can make many lives unpleasant, causing rifts in relationships with both your spouse and your children's friends.

Don't let your children have you on a leash
Don't let your children have you on a leash

How to stop your child from manipulating you

If you have given in to their demands for so long and have allowed your children to manipulate you, then it is going to take some time for you to reverse the process.

For you to take back control of being the adult and parent in the home you need to show your strength and understand that it is for the sake of their future happiness that you need to do this.

Ignoring it and allowing your children to control you will cause them major frustration as they will never make friends and they will not be able to deal with not getting their own way as adults.

Some parents do not realise that their children are in control of them as they are too busy running around doing things at the click of a finger.

Children can control you by letting you know that you do not love them because you are not doing something for them and with guilt, you end up doing it.

Manipulation is about children having control over you, the parent and adult figure that they are supposed to look up to.

If they are manipulating you it means that they do not respect you and your weakness will cause them pain in their adult life.

Take control again by sitting your children down and letting them know that there are rules to follow and that they will be punished for things that they do wrong.

You need to stick to your punishment, instill discipline and do not give in to the tantrums because if you do and they see that you are not serious, they will continue to manipulate.

Let go of the guilt that you feel and work on what makes you feel that way in the first place. Once you have worked on that, there is no reason for you to be under their control.

Should your child still want to throw a tantrum or storm off and cry after you have said no, then let them know that they are allowed to throw a tantrum but you will be ignoring it and walking away for them to do it on their own.

You need to let the children know that you will not stand for tantrums and cries of irritability because you are the parent and they need to learn from you.

Behavioural problems stem from children who manipulate and you will find that they do not have friends at school, teachers get angry with them and in fact will end up asking you in to find out if there is a problem at home.

There is no quick fix into taking back control but you need to acknowledge that you are easily manipulated and you have got to do something to stop it right away.

Follow through with punishment and do not give in to them.

Let your children know that you are the parent and that what you say is what must be done.

Should you not be able to take control then get someone to help you.

Change your childs manipulative ways

Children need friends and a manipulative child does not have any. You should get your child to do an after school activity in order to run around and get fresh air and to make friends.

Draw up a chart for them to follow chores around the house and reward them with a star for every one that they do.

They need to know that they are children and a star chart is a good way to show them that you are in control and it gives them some responsibility too.

Your manipulative child probably follows through with bath times, sleeping and eating times but that is only because they have allowed you to control that aspect.

Lying, cheating, stealing and bullying are all manipulative tactics that kids use and you need to let them know that it is serious and very bad for them to do those things.

Discipline is needed and all you have to do is sit down with your spouse and think of ethics for your family to follow.

Sit down with your kids and let them know what you as parents stand for so that they can follow in your footsteps.

Ignore the bad behaviour and open your eyes when it comes to children in demand. They often know just what to say to get you to do what they want and if you are one step ahead of them, then they will soon learn that they cannot get away with manipulating you anymore.

Temper tantrums are a part of manipulation from kids
Temper tantrums are a part of manipulation from kids

How do you handle public temper tantrums?

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How to spot a manipulative child

A child should not be able to control a parent and influence their actions and in most cases, emotions cloud our judgement which will inevitably makes it difficult for you to see when your child is manipulating you.

There are ways to spot manipulative behaviour and being in control of knowing when you are going to be manipulated is a good way to gain back control, to avoid you from becoming your child's personal puppy dog pulled by the leash.

A few ways to tell if your child is manipulative is to follow these steps and learn before it is too late and their lives become complicated when they are adults.

Manipulative personalities

These children play silently with your emotions that leave you feeling guilty, pressured into giving them what they want and obliged to give in to their demands.

The little angel will do things that you have not asked them to do and will behave as though they are being considerate to others in order for them to feel significant to you.

They will tally up all the things that they have done and expect you to return the favour and will also complain about everything that they do for you, so that you are in extreme debt to them.

Needy and dependant children: will set you up to be manipulated into doing something for them by making you do something as though you are the one that has decided to do it but in actual fact, they have secretly played you to do what they want.

These children are needy and uncomfortable in their own skin and play on your guilt strings.

Narcissistic kids: Are the most dangerous type of personality as they are manipulative from the moment that they open their eyes until the time that they go to sleep.

They are master manipulators and will make it their daily aim to get you to do what they want. These kids get angry when you do not do it now and will stop at nothing until they have you jumping for them at every turn.

This personality will continue into adulthood which could lead to criminal behaviour and broken relationships with friends, partners and associates.

They can be hurtful, they will make you hurt and they will stop at nothing to get what they want. These children are the ones that demand what happens in the home, allow you or forbid you to go out and will rule you and siblings. They find it difficult to sleep unless they have won the day.

Signs of manipulation

To understand which type you have you need to observe behaviour so that you will be able to deal with the situation and separate manipulation from genuine feelings.

Women and mothers usually have a great perception and are in most cases the one that does not fall into the trap.

Guilt: Children will make you feel guilty about not spending time with them or not allowing them to eat a certain thing. They will tell you that you hate them if you make them eat a certain vegetable and with the words will come "crocodile tears."

They will also use the phrase, "If you really cared about me, you don't love me," to get you to feel guilty.

You will feel so bad that you will have no choice but to give into them because you should instead of standing up for yourself and letting them know that it has to be done a certain way.

Interpreter: This little clever will set you up to say that you "might" or they will ask you if you "will" and hold you to it. They will catch you when you are busy or in the middle of something in order to ask you a question, where they will return in a few minutes to let you know that you "said you would." Instead of parents saying that is not what they have said they will just go ahead and do whatever has been demanded.

Someone said this is how it is: Your child will be doing homework and you will let them know that they are doing it incorrectly only to find them letting you know that they have been told to do it this way.

A parent will tell a child to do something and the child will reply with, "but dad said I can." They push responsibility away from themselves by putting it onto someone else, leaving you to rethink a decision.

The victim: This child will play on sympathy votes and self pity. They will make you feel guilty because they are in need of continual and special attention. Siblings that are rewarded will be made to feel guilty for the other sibling not being rewarded too. They provoke argument and in order to gain sympathy. Kids will also cry and have outbursts when things don't go their way in order for the situation to change.

The love card: These kids no that they are your everything and they will use this to get what they want by batting their eyelashes and giving you a little smile. They will say, "I know how much you love and I would love for you to buy me this."

They will make you feel that you owe them something because you love them and you will be in their debt.

Little Liar: Twisting stories and lying about praises that they have received is a dangerous tool for a child to use as this can cause many arguments and bad feelings between siblings and partners. They will make up stories to get your approval or a reward and will tell you something that is not true to get what they want. They also do this to gain extra attention at whatever the cost. Spreading rumours is also a trait and they do this to get the correct information or private conversation out of you or another parent that has told them to leave an adult conversation.

Illness Faker: These children will have an ailment every day in order for you to drop everything just to get your attention. They also avoid responsibility this way and keep you from doing something that they are not happy with. A fake illness can lead to medicating which could be dangerous.

Manipulative kids can cause problems in the home
Manipulative kids can cause problems in the home

© 2014 Natasha Pelati


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    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Clicki - it is very difficult for children to be separated from their parents and that also causes guilt between the two parents who do not realise that by giving in they are doing damage for their childrens future. I hope that you can work it out and do it now before it gets out of hand.

    • profile image


      4 years ago

      WOW! I have a stepdaughter, who does a good majority of these things. Sad thing is she learned it from her mother. But fortunately my husband recognizes that she does it, although i do not think he fully recognize to what extent till after we got together, because like you say woman can detect it more readily. I think i am going to share this with him, so we can work to combat it.

      Although it is an uphill struggle since she lives with her mom, and sees that attitude every day.

      A wonderful and well written article.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Thats a good way to se if they ae lying! Parents must follow through if they want their children to be normal and setting limits and boundaries is important as every child needs someone to follow.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Thank you!

    • Eiddwen profile image


      4 years ago from Wales

      Very interesting and will benefit many I am sure. Thanks for sharing.


    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      It is terrible and not pleasant for anyone but discipline is necessary to avoid kids becoming this way and i think many parents today just do not have the time to give their kids and out of guilt allow them to get away with certain things.

    • DDE profile image

      Devika Primić 

      4 years ago from Dubrovnik, Croatia

      Interesting hub! Children who control their lack proper discipline I have seen children behave in such manner and it is unbelievable of their behaviors and of how they speak to their parents.

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      4 years ago from USA

      Ooooo, I know some kids who fit this bill and some parents who need to read this! Just sayin'. Kids will naturally push boundaries, and parents need to set limits and expectations and FOLLOW THROUGH as you mentioned. I've always dealt with the fake illness card with youngsters using an ingenious little technique. I ask the impossibles and if they say "yes" I know they're faking. For example, "Do your teeth itch?" or "Do your eyes feel cold?" My daughter knows she cannot get much past me, as I have also been trained in detecting lies.

    • Tashaonthetown profile imageAUTHOR

      Natasha Pelati 

      4 years ago from South Africa

      Definitely too clever for such young people!

    • sassypiehole profile image

      Lisa René LeClair 

      4 years ago from the ATL

      Ha! Nice job, Natasha! I just wrote a similar one on patience. It's amazing how early on they pick up those skills! ;-)


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