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Masters of Manipulation: How Kids Control You With Behavior

by James Lehman, MSW
Masters of Manipulation: How Kids Control You With Behavior

“My son can be the sweetest, most awesome kid in the world,” says Tracy of 10-year-old Jarrett. “But he has ADHD, and he totally uses it to his advantage with us. He would have huge meltdowns when we asked him to go to bed and shut off the light.” The Phoenix-area mom recalls the night Jarrett’s meltdowns went over the top. “One night he had the biggest fit ever. He wound up throwing everything out of his room, including his mattress. He punched a hole in the wall and broke the door. We had just started The Total Transformation Program. We got out the workbook and were frantically looking through it when we saw what was wrong. We were his audience, and he was using this outburst to control us.”

Kids manipulate their parents.  It’s part of their normal routine. They learn to use their charms and strengths to get their way and negotiate more power in the family.

“You can be sure your child knows what it takes to make you back down.”

Some forms of manipulation by kids are harmless. For example, if your daughter wants to go to a dance on a Saturday night, and she’s extra charming to you that week, but she’s getting good grades, she’s trustworthy and she’s doing her chores, there’s no reason for her not to go. The display of charm is sweet, harmless and appropriate.

On the other hand, that charm can be used inappropriately, such as when a child plays one parent against another to get what he wants. Or when a child has demonstrated previously untrustworthy behavior and tries to manipulate his parents by being overly sweet and compliant in order to get the chance to go out on Friday night.

Related: Does your child manipulate you to get his way? How to stop falling for it.

The real problem with manipulation is when kids use behavioral threats to manipulate you, as in the case of Tracy and her son.  In this type of manipulation, the child is telling you, “Give me my way or face my crap.” In other words, “If I don’t get my way, I’m going to make trouble for you.”  In this situation, the manipulation becomes a power and control game for the child, and that’s where it gets dangerous for parents.  When kids are wrestling with their parents for power and control over things, the child does things that are inappropriate, and the parents do things that are ineffective. The child talks abusively or pitches a fit, which is an inappropriate way to get what he wants, and the parent backs down or gives in, which is an ineffective response.

A good example of how this power struggle plays out in the home is when a child starts talking about going out in the evening and you tell him, “No, your homework’s not done, so you can’t go out until it’s done,” and the child’s voice gets louder as he resists, and his tone gets harsher.  You may look at it as anger, frustration or an inability to handle stress on the part of the child. But it’s really a sign that the child is trying to manipulate the situation—and you—through power.  In his mind, being harsher and louder will tip the balance in his direction.  The child is making a power thrust—an attempt to use some form of behavior or verbally abusive power to get his way.  It’s like an emotional sword in his hand and he thrusts it at you. 

Whenever a child uses a power thrust to get his way, you need to be very careful about how you respond.  First of all, you cannot give in and you cannot negotiate while the kid is in that state of mind.  If your child raises his voice at you when he hears the word no or yells at you, say this: “We’re not even going to talk about this if you’re raising your voice.  We’re not even going to talk about this if you’re starting to threaten me.”  If a kid grumbles and gets a little mouthy on the way to his room or on the way to do a chore, that’s not a power thrust. I’m talking about intimidating, threatening behavior. This is manipulation that is designed to make you back down. Usually when kids use this type of behavior, they’ve acted out in the past.  So they’ve already loaded the gun.  Most parents know what’s coming.  So when you see it coming, remember: the discussion about the dance is over.  Now the discussion is, “You have to manage your voice and your behavior.” That’s when the parent should walk away and say, “We’ll talk about this when you calm down.” 

Related: Learn how to talk to your child so he'll listen to you.

Another appropriate response in this situation is to ask the child, (if you can do it without hostility) “Are you trying to intimidate me?” Basically, you’re asking the child, “Are you trying to bully me right now?”  But remember, if your tone is hostile, it’s going to sound like a challenge to the child, and we don’t want to do that. We simply want to question it. “Are you trying to bully me” is a good question to defuse the situation.  Number one, it gives the kid direct feedback that he’s bullying you and being inappropriate.  It reveals to him what you’re experiencing.  Number two, it takes some of the power out of the power thrust.  It brings it down to its right size. Identifying it tends to neutralize it to some degree.  Hopefully, the child will realize that now we’re talking about power, not about going to a dance. If he says that, yes, he’s trying to bully you, your response needs to be, “Well, that’s not going to help you solve your problem.”  If he says that’s not what he’s doing, then tell him to please lower his voice. What you’re doing here is giving the child a decision tree that focuses the conversation on the new problem, the real problem. The fact that he is manipulating you to gain power and control.  The new issue is not whether or not you go to the dance.  The new issue is you’re trying to intimidate me, and it won’t help you to get what you want.

Another form of manipulation kids use is to split their parents. They’ll go to the parent whom they think is the weakest link or the one who has wavered in the past in order to gain power.  That’s why parents have to be very coordinated in what they value and what their decisions are.  If both parents agree that homework has to be done for the entire week before the kid’s weekend starts, and if the teacher says that the child’s assignments aren’t done from Tuesday, on Friday night the child can’t start watching TV or play video games or go out until that homework’s done.  As parents, you both have to decide what the plan is and follow it through.  There can be no excuses, whether the child is being overly sweet to get out of doing homework or whether he throws a tantrum to get out of it. Both tactics are manipulative and they should be dealt with the same way. If you have a manipulative child and you decide on certain strategies to manage that manipulative behavior, both parents have to be on the same page with their values as well as their plan.  "If you don’t bring your books home, unless you borrow a book from a friend and get the work done, you don’t get to go out till next weekend."  Don’t set up a situation where dad or mom gives in and lets the child off the hook if they cry, whine, plead, resist, act out, or simply lay on the charm. Stick to the plan.

Related: How to start giving consequences to your child that really work.

Kids watch their parents for a living. It’s their job. It’s what they do. And they know their parents have more power than they do.  So they learn quickly which parent can be manipulated and how much it will take to get that parent to give in. Some parents will give in when the child applies a little more charm and warmth. Other parents give in when the child lashes out, screams and gets abusive. You can be sure your child knows what it takes to make you back down. So you need to be sure to talk about your plan for managing this behavior as parents and stay on the same page.  Never say, “I’ll talk to Dad about it,” if you don’t agree with something Dad has decided. Don’t ever do that. It’s the child’s responsibility to work it out with the parents in an appropriate way. When parents disagree, they have to handle it privately. If the consequences change, they should be changed by the parent who delegated them, so that the parents remain empowered.

Tracy’s Postscript:

“So we read what to do in the workbook and I told him, “We’re not going any further until you put your room back. I’m going out front for twenty minutes. I expect your bed to be put back, everything to be put in order, and you to be in your bed with your light off before we come in.”  He was still yelling at us. I said I’d come in and check on him in twenty minutes. So we all went out to the front porch. He started acting out even louder while we were out there. Any other time, I would have freaked out at that moment.  He screamed and slammed things in his room. Normally, that’s when I would typically be like, ‘Okay, just calm down,’ and kind of give him his way.  But this time, because of the way everything was explained in the program, I had a lot of confidence in what I was doing.  I totally ignored his behavior. We sat out there, reading the workbook and just discussing how we wanted to handle it. Gradually, I heard less and less out of him. After about twenty minutes, I came back inside, and I just about fell over because his room was totally put back.  He was in his bed with his blanket over him and his light off.  He was quiet except to say, “Mom, you’ve could’ve at least acknowledged me.”  And I didn’t say anything about what he did. I just said goodnight.  He was perfectly fine.  This time, he had given in and gone to bed. It was a total revelation of how badly he can manipulate us when we give in to him. We have not had one more outburst like that since.”


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James Lehman, MSW was a renowned child behavioral therapist who worked with struggling teens and children for three decades. He created the Total Transformation Program to help people parent more effectively. James' foremost goal was to help kids and to "empower parents."

READER'S COMMENTS

Sounds great i will have to try that.

Comment By : ko

Does this work with teenagers and young adults as well? Some seem to think they can power play everything into a win/lose situation.

Comment By : J Jenkins

Excellent! Sounds like my household. Very helpful information.

Comment By : Kim

This is great information; thank you!

Comment By : Wendy

I really think this is great and the biblical way.

Comment By : CHERIE

I only wish I had found this a few years back. I'm dealing with a teenager (15-girl) who had these melt downs. Seems like we are starting on the right track now that she knows she can't maniupulate me any longer. It's like breaking a wild horse. Just watch out for their friends who will try the smooth talk with you to give in. Not happening at this household.

Comment By : wj

This is the best advice I have ever heard, and it came out just when I need it the most. I am raising my ten-year-old grandson by myself and he is a master of manipulation. I am a weak disciplinarian and have such a difficult time standing my ground. This strategy is perfect and will give the power back to me. I am so grateful for this information. Keep up the great work.

Comment By : Texas Grandma

sounds like my houselhold too. but will that work w/ a 4 year old . who doesn't want to reason.

Comment By : mammy

The article sounds good. My daughter is 13 and pitches very big fits. She was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder. I don't know if this technique will work as easy for her but I am going to try it the next time she throws a fit.

Comment By : Nancy

What should you do when he says he is going out. You say no. He goes out anyway. He is 15yrs old.

Comment By : grandma

I have tried using these same techniques on my 14 year old ADHD son, but sometimes he gets so abusive that I just have to walk away in disbelief. What am I doing wrong?

Comment By : JB

i MEANT TO GIVE THIS A 5. tHIS SOUNDS JUST LIKE WHAT i AM GOING THRU W/ MY DAUGHTER RIGHT NOW.WE WILL GIVE THIS A TRY AND SEE WHAT HAPPENS. THANKS :o)

Comment By : Bella

Does this work in the stepparent role as well? I've been told by non-professionals I should not take the lead, to "step" away so-to-speak.

Comment By : informationgal

Excellent aritcle. Cannot wait to try it on my son. I would swear you were watching through a keyhole when you wrote it. That is he exactly.

Comment By : nereida

The second issue is staying clam yourself. If you raise your voice or otherwise display over the top aggitation, it's over!

Comment By : casa

My son (16) is also diagnosed with bipolar and ODD. His outbursts are so bad that we have had to call he police numerous times. I'm at my wits end on what to do with him and how to handle him. I wish I had heard of this when he was younger and more easily managed. He has become very abusive the older he gets. He hates his step-father who has been in the home since he was 8. He absolutely refuses to listen to him and even yells at him and calls him horrible names. Just wanted to get this off my chest. I do love him, but I have never seen a child as manipulative and abusive as he is.

Comment By : Jen

I completely understand where this mom is coming from; I have a near 15 yr. old daughter that is the queen of manipulation and intimidation. Her behavior started around 4 yrs. and has well inflated ever since. I have had the police at my house many times, she thinks the whole “system” is a joke and no one can do a thing to her; because thus far nothing has been done even when she is punched her little sister or pushed me, other then the police telling her “if you don’t settle down your going to a foster home”. I have been doing the ignoring of the behavior as well; she definitely does not like it. She will continue to try to push my buttons and follow me around to get my attention. Some day, most day are pretty insane at my house. She has ADHD and ODD among other a few other DX’s. I have two other girls that also have ADHD one 19 and the other 12, they have never displayed anything even close to her behavior. Sorry, I didn’t mean to write a book here.

Comment By : Shel

My son willl be 7, the end of the month and this article hits the nail on the head. My son is an only child AND has ADHD and those two combinations make me want to pull my hair out most of the time. It's nice to know that my son isn't the only one who can be sweet as pie one minute and totally miserable the next, if he doesn't get his way.

Comment By : Chatty Cathy

My 7 yr old son is like some of the children I have read about. I still lose my cool with him when he just keeps talking back to me. I don't hit him or anything like that but he is rough. I am learning to walk away and I still have to learn to say what I mean and mean what I say. It is rough with an only child that is adopted with ADHD/ODD/FAS.

Comment By : Tammy

* Dear Informationgal, Just as with any parenting role, the most effective technique is for parents to work together. We recommend that parents continually confer with each other over establishing and changing important family routines and limits, and if it is necessary to come up with a corrective behavior plan that might include consequences, that too needs to be a joint effort between the parents. It is best to tell the child, for example, “Your father and I will talk about this and then we will all talk about it together.” In that way, it is recommended that all parents support each other. This is very important. It prevents the undermining of parental authority, a child’s ability to split the parent team and conflict between the spouses. Parents supporting each other can look different if you are a stepparent. Unless the children are very young, it is most likely that your role as a stepparent is to support the birth parent in their choices regarding house rules and defer to the birth parent to actively implement discipline. Do not allow the birth parent to place you in the “bad cop” role while they play the “good cop.” Frequently step parents take charge when they perceive that the birth parent does not do an adequate job or does no disciplining at all. Don’t let the birth parent off the hook, but instead, in your supportive role, talk together when away from the children about your concerns and ideas to make changes and then step out of the interaction with the children, forcing the birth parent to play that active disciplining role. If you and your spouse cannot agree on discipline, leave the discipline to the biological parent. There are usually a lot of adjustments involved in blending a new family. Be patient with yourself and your new family members. Relationships take time to mature; you may find there is a comfortable naturalness to the interactions in family members that develops as time goes by.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I am glad to see that someone from the Empowering Parents organization comments back at the end of the e-mails parents send in. It's good to vent but even better to have someone with some training to throw a little feedback your way.

Comment By : Cat

My younger sister, who is 20 years old, was born with mental retardation, and she as well is very manipulative. My mom can't deal with her, so she gives in. As a result, whenever something comes up, mom asks me to "make" my sister do something or whatever she needs. I fee like I am taking my mom's role, but somebody has to. When my sister needs to do something, and she refuses by yelling, getting angry, hitting walls, crying, threatning,just sitting and ignoring,(you just name everything possible and that's how my sister is). I've learned all of her manipulations, so I "manipulate" her (in a good way of course). I look for the reason why she refuses. I just let her know that she will not do "this or that" untill she does what she is being asked. Fore example, if she wants to go outside, I tell her that she won't go. If she wants to do something else, I just won't let her. I ignore her wild behaviors and just give her time to cool off. She learned about me as well. She knows that no matter what she does, I'll just say "no, not untill you do this". And I do it in a soft voice. It may take a while for every little thing we ask her to do, but she gives in at the end. She gives in faster when I tell her because she knows that I don't pay attention to her outbursts. However, it takes longer for mom to make her give in (that is if she'll succeed in winning).

Comment By : Daddy's girl

This article helps. My son is very manipulative (he's seven) and I appreciate the advice. I'll certainly try it!

Comment By : Marshall's marshal

I may not be a parent yet, but the article is very helpful in knowing what to do in order to start off correctly.

Comment By : :0)

sounds like a very normal family set up, my kids see it as very normal life routine! ihave a set of twins boy n gal.

Comment By : nomfi

awsome information, will definately try this.

Comment By : bec55

I just want to say that I have just started the program within the past 3 weeks and already see a difference...mostly in ME. Before getting this program I would have said that my kids (ages nearly 18 and 17) "just don't get it" but now I can say I "didnt get it" and now I do. Thanks to this program I am beginning to understand what is motivating their behavior and learning how to address it calmly and peacefully. The technique that I am using right now is disconnecting. Sometimes I even begin putting on my shoes to leave the house...when they see that it stops the show.I also am not renegotiating any curfew issues on the phone and standing firm. I am talking to my children differently...asking for their version of what went right and wrong about an incident and what they could have done better. It seems to defuse their anger and make them think (instead of me issuing commands and directives). It actually feels better..thank you .

Comment By : Linda B, in NJ

This article contained some information that I thought might be helpful for my 13 year old boy with ADHD,ODD,who is typically mid manered, but does suffer from outburst occasionally. I have a 16 year old boy, who I don't think it may work with. He does the yelling,name calling,interrupting while I'm talking, and gets right in my face to intimidate me all the while his friends (girls or boys) are present.He is very defiant,bad mouthed,disrespectful,and not setting a good exaple to my youngest.I want to call the police, but because he has allready been in trouble and trying(I think)to do better I beleive that would be counterproductive for him.

Comment By : Liane D, in ON

Update: my daughter told me last night that she will continue to engage in inappropriate and risky behavior until I give her the freedom and privileges she wants. I told her no privileges until she talks to me about some recent problems she is having. We are at a stalemate but having read the workbook and listened to the CDs gave me the strength to resist the manipulation and to see it for what it is. I was not upset and did not "freak out" at her threat as I would have in the past. Thanks.

Comment By : Linda B

* To Liane D in ON: I wanted to let you and other parents reading EP to know that James Lehman will be addressing disrespect and other hardcore behavior problems in upcoming issues. I believe he offers real, practical solutions that will help a lot of parents out there. Please keep reading--we know this is a tough problem for many of you, and we're going to be addressing it soon.

Comment By : Elisabeth Wilkins, Editor of Empowering Parents

I have a 14 yr old with ADHD and behavioral problems. I am looking forward to implementing this program (as well as with my 10 and 8 yr olds). I'll let you all know how we do!

Comment By : Lisa A.

My 14 yo son said a doozy last week, in answer to my statement, "I will not tolerate out-of-control behavior." He said, "I'm only out-of-control when I don't get what I want." I just stared at him and I think the silence startled him into actually hearing the absurdity of his statement. I'm just starting the program and I'm really excited about it...I think James has been living under my bed and knows my son better than I do!

Comment By : amber

my two childern are 11 months apart and they try to use my husband and i againest each other all the time. my son has ADD and has a very abustive attuide, but we cope with everything they think of but we also commucate alot.

Comment By : tigeress

I called the police on my 16-yr. old son when he was smaksing up our wooden swingset. This is before my exposure to TT (but it was the right thing to do). Since my only alternative is to physically fight him when something like that happens, I have to summon in a greater authority, in that case, the police. If the kid won't answer to us, or is a threat in the house, the police have to be brought it. This is not easy to do, and it is not always easy to know when the line has been crossed

Comment By : John B. in IL

HANG IN THERE! Last night the daughters boyfriend asked if she could come to Thanksgiving dinner. I told him no bcz she was still grounded for letting him in the house when I was not home...and she will be on punishment for awhile for their then having sex on my couch...He just stood there with his mouth hanging open. I called her inside and waited for the explosion...nothing...I waited...nothing...finally after 15 minutes I asked her if she was ok....and why no tantrum..She said "I'm tired and it doesnt get me what I want." I swear she said that,...Then I stood there with my mouth open...when I finally recovered I complimented her and told her that learning THIS was the way to redeem herself (not doing extra chores around the house). I still am in shock today...BUT I wanted to say HANG ON there is a small light at the end of the tunnel.

Comment By : LindaB

This article was really powerful and helpful.

Comment By : Brenda

My kids have been in (weekly & sometimes group)therapy for over a year and I now FINALLY feel strong enough to tell the therapists that we are going to take a break for awhile...Thank's to this program. Honestly, I was feeling so overwhelmed by my children's behavior that I just did not feel like I could handle it...so I took them to therapy in hopes that the therapy would "fix" things...It helped a bit...But now I no longer feel out of control or unable to handle things. I feel stronger and more competent...Believe me, we still have problems on a daily basis but I feel that I can cope with them..Thank you Total Transformation...If I find that we need help I can always call the therapist for help...but I want a break for a few months to see how things develop...

Comment By : LindaB

This describes a daily occurrence at our house. I'm going to try these additional techniques. This program has been a life saver!

Comment By : jonniebones13

I have a stepson who bullys and threatens me. He's 7 yrs. old. I will definitely have to try this. The one thing that I have an issue with is that I have a 1 and 2 yr old and when I try to walk away, my boyfriend's kids follow me. It is definitely a power struggle. I was told this for attention and I have to learn to ignore them or tell them that no is no and mean it and that's it.....I just got the system and I'm waiting for it in the mail...I hope it comes soon, because these power struggles are draining on their father and I. He says I add to the problem and all I want to do is make things easier for us all.

Comment By : crazyathome

* To Crazyathome: Relationships in blended families can be challenging. One helpful thing to remember is that the biological parent should play the leading role in choosing and implementing consequences for their own child. Step-parents support the biological parent’s decisions. If a step-child is bullying and threatening you, his father should discipline him. If his father is not present, you could say, “It’s not okay to make threats or behave in the way that you are behaving.” If kids follow when you try to walk away, do not continue to talk to them. Use James’ Disconnect technique where he advises to “Cut off communication immediately if a child is being disrespectful, obnoxious or abusive.” Power struggles can occur when a parent tries to force a child to do something right then and there, and the child digs in. Instead, step out of that struggle and give the child a choice. Tell them, “If you refuse to comply, there will be a consequence.” Stop talking to the child and let them have a moment to choose. You have effectively stopped the power struggle. Discuss the incident with the biological parent and allow him to decide on consequences and enforce those consequences.

Comment By : Carole Banks, Parental Support Line Advisor

I am right now having that struggle. My son is demanding that I get him out of a grounding he got because he blatantly would not do his school work (I homeschool). I being the weakest link in the parent chain, was doomed the second my husband left to take my eldest son to church. He was telling me how mad he was at me and that all this was my fault for talking to my husband about his inappropriate behavior. I had been threatening him that I would tell his dad if he continued like he was. He did not care, he did not think I do it. This time I did. I know I was wrong not to do it a month ago, but I couldn't deal this time. I am so glad I came back to this site.We have the Total Transformation, and we started it, but only got to the first CD and then, I really don't know what happened. I emailed this article to my husbands work and told him that it was time to get it back out and really work at it and finish it.. Just this article has given me the confidence to stand up to him and just block out the tantrum he was throwing while I was reading the article. Thank You for this site. It was a life saver tonight....

Comment By : Juls

This article was great! I have a manipulative 16 yo daughter, mainly because my ex lets her do whatever she wants to (she lives with him). Recently, I had a great moment due to your program, I actually felt like a mom again. My daughter had been allowed to stay the night at her boyfriends house and the boy had stayed the night at her dads house. When she stayed with me, she wanted to stay overnight at the boys house. I said no, gave her other options and walked away. She had a fit, packed her things and walked out. Next thing I know, her dad calls me and tells me that it is now in his hands and he let her spend the night at the boys house. So the next time she came to my house, I sat her down and told her my rule. I said I cant control what happens at other peoples homes but when she is at my house, it will never be acceptable to spend the night at her boyfriends. So she schemed and lied to me the very next day about spending the night at a girlfriends house. I had a feeling something was up. Later that night I showed up at the girls house she was supposed to be at and of course she was not there. So I went immediately to the boys house (at midnight. I was shaking and my heart was pounding because I was expecting an explosion and her to tell me that she was not leaving and calling her dad. But I credit TT for teaching me the proper way to handle the situation. When she showed up at the door, very calmly I said "I guess plans changed, get your things we are going home." She said "right now". I said "Yes, its midnight, your curfew" She turned around silently, got her things and walked out the door that I held open for her. The next day, she apologized tearily to me and said she felt really bad and wouldnt do it again. Well let me tell you when I got home that night, I was jumping up and down in my bedroom (silently of course) because despite everything her dad had done to undermine my authority, I got through to her. I used to be a yeller but the TT program taught me to deliver my message calmly and I have used it so many times recently. It has been a building process, little steps at a time to change my behavior with her which in affect changes her behavior and she had become more compliant. But this one was the goose with the golden egg. THANK YOU TT and James Lehman. There is a God!!!

Comment By : Happy Mom

Comment by Jen made my blood run cold. HOW DARE that cop threaten that girl with "going to a foster home"! I am a FOSTER MOM . . . and it is for love of - and frustration with - a 17-yr-old foster daughter (with a whole alphabet soup of diagnoses) that drove me to FIND this site! I'm still learning

Comment By : jiggs

I can't believe that so many kids act out this way. My child has been this way for years. This will all stop shortly. These articles have helped me so much! Our parents would never have stood for such behavior and I'm not either. Thumbs up to you Sir, God bless you!

Comment By : angelheart

I am having a hal-lay-lu-ha break down. My husband and I are adoptive parents of two older daughters. They came to us at 4 and 8 years old and were finally adopted at 6 and 10. When the oldest was 12, she began a series of behaviors that range from tryancy at school and running away to stealing and "assaulting" us and others in very violent ways too many times to recall. She was institutionized three times (2 of which she broke out of), put in numerous homes and foster homes, in and out of "juvie", and given wonderful opportunities to prove herself with independent living. We failed, she failed, and "the system" failed. She is now 19 years old and I have not seen her outside of a court room for 7 years. Now her younger sister is following in her footsteps. The oldest has made contact through the years with her younger sister and has caused much turmoil and distress for her younger sister and us. We have taken great pains to assure our youngest daughter's protection, but we now realize the manipulation of her older sister has been on-going for years right under our noise. That coupled with the ignorance of well meaning judges who have denied every restraining order request has left us with little to no hope. Although we have been in almost continual therapy through the years, nothing could address the immediate day-to-day needs of our family and all the elements of it. Our youngest daughter is now a runaway for her second time and we must make plans for her return. We hesitate, yet we know that children are worth every pain-staking moment. We have been through so many channels of different agencies, councelors, and programs. This program gives me hope, if not for my children, then for me. Perhaps that is selfish to say, but we parents need help and hope as well. This is truely a blessing.

Comment By : jg

I think the article is insightful....but, my issue is different, my child diagnosed with adhd....does not throw these tantrums or fits at home....but, at school. His teachers say he is defiant, and is hyper focused on entertaining the class and/or antagonizing his classmates. And he gets VERY ANGRY when his teacher chastises him(kicks his chair, mumbles, grumbles...) Don't get me wrong, we have some tense times at home, but when I call him on it...I can SEE him reign himself in. How do we handle these behaviors in the classroom. When I sit in class with him, he's fine...but I HAVE to work. This is very frustrating to me. He is 10 years old, and until now this has not affected his school work. Now he is getting put out of class EVERY day...so of course it is going to affect his work soon. Right now his teacher allows him to do his work outside of class and turn it in. And since I don't have any problems getting him to do his homework, he's not behind. But, we need to really reign this behavior in and I'm at a loss. OK, it felt good just to get all of that out.

Comment By : --Stressed

The comment posted my Stressed really hit home for me. To make a long story short, we have the same issues with my 9 year old son's school. His behavior is totally different in the school environment than at home. We went so far as to bring in an outside specialist to do a functional behavioral assessment in his classroom. When I asked the school why it took us bringing someone in for this to be done, they stated they "thought they knew the function of his behavior". Their assumptions, interpretations and labels only serve to put a spotlight on his challenges. Their responses escalate behavior instead of helping him get his needs met in a appropriate way like Dr. Lehman teaches in TT. I know what helped us was having experts outside the school "system" to support what we have been trying to tell them all along. The adults need to change what they are doing and lose the belief that they can punish these behaviors out of him. It bothers me that they assume we have "battles" with homework and difficulty with him at home. He has many responsibilities, including homework and does them willingly and for the most part independently. We are following through and making sure the school is using the tools and information provided from the FBA. It is still a challenge, but they know we are paying attention to their role in a postive outcome.

Comment By : Beenthere

what would have happened if your son had not cleaned up his room. He was compliant but what if he wasnt? what would the consequences have been?

Comment By : concerned parent

When will we EVER be able to have a burial ceremony for the words "appropriate" and "inappropriate". If I never see those words in print again, I will be happy as a lark. Oh come on...with all the words in the dictionary (as phrases that can be created), we're still stuck on those two words? I'm so sick of them, I do not allow them to be spoken in my house. We have dumped the appropriate and "inappropriate" robot into the trash. I speak free flowing english to my kids. Like....knock it off....be pleasant...do the right thing...that's not nice....I'm going to bop you one....zip the lip....is that how you want people to remember you?.... That's communication, folks.....human style!

Comment By : morningmood

I have a step daughter that uses munipulation constantly. She is always making her dad "feel sorry" for her saying things like .. " its not fair" or when she is doing something wrong and knows she is going to face consiquences, she does this thing with her father.. where she will tell him something my daughter did months ago and he will start yelling at me to punish my daughter again for something she already had faced her comsequence for but it gets his focus off of her and on the other kids and he never gives her any consequence then she looks at me and laughs shrigs and walks away like .. " it worked" and we end up fighting all night over it and recently she did it again only this time she p[layed his whole family, she was supposed to stay home until I got off work and then she could leave. she is 13, and she took off like usual, when I came home on my break, she had taken off. so I took the tv out of her room and wrote her a note, she gets no tv for 2 weeks.when i got home her dad was here and he said he was mad at me for taking her tv, right on front of her. and I said i am mad at her for deliberately defying authority and taking off. so he faught with me about how she said it wasnt her fault, right in front of the children. then he left with his kids and when he got back his daughter came in to appoliguise and cry, and she says im sorry i took off i just didnt wanna stay home, and his family got here and we rwere sitting around the table talking and the subject came up and because her dad and his family was there, she changed her story, blaming everyone else for the choice she made, and they all bought into it, i said just be honest, you took off because you didnt want to stay home, she starts crying puts her hands in the air and says im not living here anymore, I hate how you never believe me and you say I am lying, and she walked out, everyone felt sorry for her and bought it after she told me when we were alone the truth and I was the bad person..her grandma took her for the night and she comes back today, and we are at walmart and her grandma is buying her a journal and new pancils and while she is away, my st.daughter says, since grama is buying me stuff and letting me watch tv and stuff, can i get my tv back now? I said do u know why i took it from you she said yes, i said y? she said because i ran away again, I said and y did you run away this time, she said because i didnt want to stay home. I just wanted to stress cry, here she is again admitting to me when were alone she knows exactly what she is doing, and if I bring it up its going to be another fight... im all stressed out and dont know how to get it to end but she knows how to play people, i am stressed out...

Comment By : stressssed...

* To ‘stressssed...’: It can be so very difficult to support your spouse when you disagree with his parenting decisions or when you don’t see things the same way. And it’s so frustrating when kids seem to try to play one parent against the other. I have included some links to articles about blended families. I think you will find them to be helpful.
“My Blended Family Won’t Blend—Help!” Part I: How You and Your Spouse Can Get on the Same Page
“My Blended Family Won’t Blend!” Part II: What to Do When Your Stepkids Disrespect You
We wish you luck as you continue to work through this. Take care.

Comment By : Sara A. Bean, M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

My step-daughter manipulates her father against me because her mother is a manipulater. Before we got married, my SD(age12) wanted me to play and talk with me. Her father divorced her mother because of abuse. As soon as we married, she told me she needed two years to get use to me and would talk to me during that time.(very hurtful).My husband and SD lived in his relatives home and used to their rules of the home before we married. While SDs father at work, he didn't tell SD what was expected of her regarding being respectful to her relatives. Anytime SD had a meal, her relatives would clean up after her or have her leaves dirty dishes in their kitchen sink. When I moved in, my husband and i had our own living quarters with our own kitchen. Our rules inluded everyone: clean up after themselves, rinse dishes and put in dishwasher. My SD had to follow the rules for both sections of the house. While my husband at work, my SD would leave fork full of food on the carpet, open cans of food on furniture(that I owned before the marriage) etc. I told SD to clean up after herself and she told me " your not my mother". My husband would tell me to leave the items where I found it until he got home 5 hours later and he would make SD clean it up. I told him by that time the carpet and furniture would be ruined and I would clean it up now. Couples years later, my husband, SD, myself moved into our own place thinking it would be better for SD. Well, it wasn't. She wouldn't clean up after herself, her bedroom was a garbage dump, and disrespectful to her father and me. Her father wouldn't allow me in her room and he wouldn't go in her room. While her father at work, she would have her boyfriends over, making food in the kitchen for them and leave the mess for me to clean up. Whenever my husband had a conversation between us that was not about her, she physically get in-between us, interrupting with(example)"daddy, remember...". We could only have conversation with each other when she was not home. It got to the point where it came to shores, she wanted to make shore schedule on who would do what and her father let her. She told me in front her father since I was not blood relative I didn't have a say. Her father told me to go along with it. She had her father and me per shore list do most of the shores. She followed the month shores list for only one week. I have read elsewhere that a daughter will try to take the place of her absent mother and compete with the stepmother. Got to the point that she caused us to divorce becaused her father was afraid if something happened to him, I would kick her out. We are still living together and when SD turned 18, her father told her she had to clean up after herself(she have been told way before this), no guys in house when he's not home, and no running around middle of the night. She didn't like this and moved into her father's relatives house in separate section so she could what she wanted. She has stolen my personal belongings and her father can only say "sorry to hear that". SD living now with her boyfriend and still comes over whenever she wants. I keep most of my personal belongings locked in separate room so she won't steal from me. Every chance she gets , she's gunning for me. Her mother wants nothing to do with her, she hates her brother because he's gay, and causes or backtalks to her own family members. Her mouth gets her in trouble and she has lost friends because of this. When she moved in with her boyfriend, her relatives told her she couldn't move back in for being disrespectful in living in their home. Don't want her living with us if SD relationship goes south with her boyfriend.

Comment By : Had enough!

I have a 16yr old daughter who is adhd and odd and her father is 67 and also adhd. He never has a kind word for her and they often are in screaming matches with each other. They threaten each other with her often saying she is leaving and quite often does. Then I spend the rest of the time trying to locate her and getting mad at my husband. Im not sure ignoring her will work at this point. I am really at a loss as to what to do.

Comment By : Pat

* To Pat: It sounds like you have quite a stressful situation going on between your husband and your daughter, and it can be hard feeling like you are in the middle of this. We recommend talking with your daughter about some things she can do instead of leaving the house when she gets into an argument with her father, and letting her know that leaving is not solving her problem of getting along with her dad. You might also try contacting Operation Go Home, which the runaway prevention program in Canada. You can reach them at 1-800-668-6868, 24/7 or visit their website at Operation Go Home. I am including a link to an article series you might find helpful: Running Away Part I: Why Kids Do It and How to Stop Them & Running Away Part II: "Mom, I Want to Come Home." When Your Child is on the Streets. Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this-we know this isn’t easy.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

what to do when you tell your child you will discuss later when he calms down and he does not stop talking , i cannot even walk away he follows me and keeps talking and talking until i cannot take it anymore.

Comment By : gabz

* Hi ‘gabz’: Thanks for your question. We have another article that addresses your exact question. You can read it by clicking here: How to Walk Away from a Fight with Your Child: Why It's Harder Than You Think. We wish you luck as you continue to work through this—we know it’s really tough. Take care.

Comment By : Sara Bean. M.Ed., Parental Support Advisor

I have a step daughter who is most of the time a very well behaved child. Her father and I got custody only a year ago(she is 7)Her mother has no means to support her and abuses drugs. My step daughter is never disrespectful to us. Right now our only problem is that she only/always is concerned about going to her mothers on visitation days. I feel like it is causing her to fall behind in school because this is all she worries about. the school has had to call numerous times because she was crying at school thinking she does not have a bus note to go to her moms. When she gets home from her moms house she doesn't want anything to do with us for a few days. She cries alot too, if we have to get on to her about school or her attitude when she comes home from her moms she will just cry and she shuts down and wont say anything. She will just give us a blank stare. I am worried for her to keep all of these emotions inside and worried about her having STRESS/anxiety issues because she hates living with us. I also feels like she is scared to be herself around us and it's like she is not being a kid. I know it is normal for them to misbehave and I feel like she is trying to impress us or something because she never does anything except cry for petty things, she never acts out. She has never been spanked and only grounded for one day. I feel it is hard to discipline her for what she is doing. But it is very frustrating how ungratful she can be. I don't know what else to do to make her realize she is in a better place and why she doesn't realize we care for her just as much. At her mothers she has no rules and engages in an adult lifestyle. Her mother has been know to tell her secrets and talk to her about things I don't think are appropriate. We do everything for her. Her mother does nothing and She does not appreciate what we do for her or care at all. She will act really sweet if we are going somewhere or getting her something, but as soon as the fun is over, she is asking "when do I go to my moms". This has just gotten very frustrating and I feel like it will never change. any advice

Comment By : help please

* To 'help please': It sounds like you are worried about your stepdaughter, and frustrated as well. In terms of her feelings of fear and anxiety, it might help to do some planning around what she can expect when she is going to visit with her mom. Perhaps you can walk through what that will look like with her to ensure she is prepared for her visit. In addition, it is normal for kids to have a hard time transitioning between their parents’ houses, so you might do some problem solving around that. For example, you or her dad might say to her “I have noticed that when you come home from visiting your mom, you cry a lot and won’t talk to us. What is going on for you? What can you do to make it easier for you when you come back here?” It might be helpful as well to look into some local supports for your family to help you with these emotional transitions. A good place to start is www.211.org. 211 is an informational service that can help to connect you with resources in your area. You can also reach them by calling 1 (800) 273-6222. Also, it is common to feel frustrated that your stepdaughter does not appear to recognize or appreciate that she is in a better living situation with you and her dad rather than her mom. This is normal because kids often feel very protective of their parents, especially since it sounds like she was living with her mom full-time until about a year ago. It is a positive sign that she is able to control herself overall while in your home, even though the transition is difficult for her. At this point in her life developmentally, she is not able to offer you much in the way of appreciation and gratitude. Sometimes it can be helpful to talk with another adult about the frustration you are experiencing, and receive feedback about what you are doing, and how hard you are working. We advise checking in with another adult who can give you that reassurance, and know that we support you in providing your stepdaughter with a safe, nurturing environment. I am including a link to an article I think you might find helpful: A Message from Janet Lehman: Does Parenting Feel Like a Thankless Job? (Then Read This). Good luck to you and your family as you continue to work through this.

Comment By : Rebecca Wolfenden, Parental Support Advisor

I HAD SCENARIO LIKE THIS TEMPER TANTRUM WITH MY TEN YEAR OLD JUST THE OTHER NITE.IVE BEEN A SINGLE MUM/DAD TO HIM ALL THIS TEN YEARS HE WAS TERRIBLE AT THE AGE OF TWO THREE AND FOUR SAME WORSE TANTRUMS.I FOUND CONSISTANTLY USING NAUGHTY STEP AT ONE POINT I WAS AT A FRIENDS HOUSE (SHE HAS NO CHILDREN HERSELF)SHE WITNESSED HIS MINDLESS BEHAVOIUR HE WAS FIVE OR SIX AT THIS TIME I USED HER BOTTOM STAIR AS THE NAUGHTY SEAT,MY FRIEND SATT BACK AND WITNESSED SAYING NOTHING IT FELT AWKWARD BUT I NEW I HAD TO DO IT IT MEANT SPENDING LESS CHAT TIME WITH HER, TOO, THIS HAS TO BE DONE. AFTER 20MINS OF CONSISTANTLY REPLACING HIM ON THIS STEP(AS HE REMOVE HIMSELF AND KICK RIGHT OFF AGAIN AND AGAIN AND AGAIN ECT ECT ECT)MY MATE SAW I WAS TIRING OUT MYSELF AND TO MY GRATEFUL SURPRISE SHE SAID ILL TAKE IT FROM HERE YOU MAKE A CUP OF TEA, BETWEEN THE PAIR OF US 30YEAR OLDS AT THE TIME IT TOOK US A WHOLE HOUR AND A HALF BELIEVE IT OR NOT BEFORE IT DAWNED ON MY BOY "HANG ON A MINUIT THIS IS NEVER GOIN TO END MY MUM AND HER FRIEND WILL KEEP PUTTING ME ON THIS STEP TILL I DO MY SIX MINS OR FIVE WHICHEVER AGE HE WAS AT (I FORGET NOW)TIME OUT,ON THIS STEP HE NEW WHY HE WAS PLACED THERE AND TOLD EACH TIME,AND EACH TIME HE WAS TOLD "6 MINS TIME OUT FOR THIS BEHAVIOR AND AN ACCEPTABLE APPOLLOGY"AFTER THE 6 MINS WAS UP. BY GOD DONT GET ME WRONG MY FRIEND AND I WERE BOTH COMPLETLY EXHAUSTED BUT APART FROM THE TELLING WHY HE WAS PLACED AND HAVE TO REMAIN THERE WE COMPLETLTY IGNORED HIM AND HIS DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOUR HE GAVE UP DID HIS TIME APPOLGISED GOT A HUGE HUG OF BOTH OF US AND HE REALISED THERE NOT THAT DAFT AFTER ALL..ALL WAS GOOD AND KEEP THIS ACTION UP WITHIN WEEKS HIS ATTENTION SEEKING TEMPER FADED..HE IS NOW TEN,THE OTHER DAY IT WAS LIKE HE WAS FIVE AGAIN I WAS ALONE AND HE WAS KICKING OFF ABOUT SOMETHING OR ANOTHER I SENT HIM TO HIS ROOM WHERE HE WAS STILL SHOUTING AND TRYING TO ARGUE WITH ME I KEPT SUPER CALM TOOK A SHOWER WHICH IS NEXT TO HIS ROOM MY IGRONANCE AND SINGIN IN THE SHOWER IF NOT TO BLOT HIM OUT. HE WAS BRAYING ON THE WALL EVEN MORE SO BANGING AROUND HIS BEDROOM I GOT OUT THE SHOWER IT WAS STILL GOIN ON I DID NOT DECIDE TO INTERVINE AT ALL I LET THE COLD TAP ON FULL FLOW ON THE BATH AND THE SINK I WAS IMPRESSED WITH THE RESULTS HOPE THIS HELPS OTHERS. PITY ABOUT WATER RATES THO :)HE DID ACTUALLY CALM DOWN AND BECAUSE OF MY CONSISTANCY FROM HIS EARLY AGE HE HAD KNACKERED HIMSELF OUT THAT MUCH I THINK THE RUNNING OF THE WATER HELPED WHEN ALL WAS QUIET I WENT TO SEE HIM AT 9 PM AFTER ID GOT READY FOR BED HE WAS UNDER HIS QUILT P.J"S ON LIGHTS OFF (BINGO)I FELT PROUD AND RELEIVED HE DID HOWEVER AFTER SCHOOL THE NEXT DAY ASK TO GO OUT I GROUNDED HIM FOR HIS PERFORMANCE THE NIGHT BEFOR WHICH I THINK HE THOUGHT ID FORGOTTEN ABOUT HE TOOK IT ON THE CHIN AND WAS COOL ABOUT IT.KEEP UP WITH CONSISTANT RULES AND BEHAVOUIR TIME OUTS ITS TIRING I KNOW GOD KNOWS I KNOW,BUT MY TEMPER TANTRUM KID IS TURNING OUT JUST FINE. HE CAN BE A LOVELY YOUNG MAN HE KNOWS WHOS BOSS NOW BUT DOES TRY TO PULL THE WOOL OVER MY EYES REMEMBER YOUR CHILD IS A MINI YOU... :).......................YOUR THE ADULT DONT LET THEM GET THE BETTER OF YOU..ILL BE HONEST AND ADD AT ONE STAGE WHEN HE WAS THROWING FITS AT FOUR FIVE OR SIX YEAR OLD I HATE TO ADMIT BUT AS I WAS SINGLE NO FAMILY HELP AT ALL I DID CONSIDER I CANT DO THIS ANYMORE AND ADOPTION EVEN ENTERED MY MIND I DID NOT GO THROUGH WITH THIS JUST MERELY STATING AND UNDERSTANDING HOW TRAUMATIC AND DIFFICULT IT IS ESP FOR SINGLE PARENTS GOOD LUCK WALK AWAY IF YOU FIND U WANT TO SHOUT BACK OR ARGUE BACK YOU CAN OFTEN FORGET BUT GET IN TO SOME ROUTINE AND JUST WALK AWAY FROM THE SITUATION IF ITS ALL TOO MUCH and deal with it later calmly ...

Comment By : SINGLEMUM

At what age do you need to start doing this? I have a three year old boy who will throw a fit and cru if he doesn't get what he wants. My wife usually gives in and just lets him have his way. It makes me look like the bad guy and it has really been upsetting me? Does it only have to be on big issues, or is it towards anything at all? For example, my wife and i was playing a game. My son wanted one of our game pieces to play with. I told him no seveal times and he consisted of taking the piece. I would take it from him and he would throw a fit. After about three times of this happening, m wife said its fine, why can't he just play ith it. I told her because i already said no. Does this constitute as undermining and does it relate? I eally need your help.

Comment By : CRiemens

* To “CRiemens”: Thank you for asking such a great question. I can understand your frustration. It can be difficult when you feel your spouse isn’t on the same parenting page as you are. What is probably going to be most effective in your situation is for you and your wife to determine what the rules and expectations for behavior are in your house and how to best support each other to help your son meet those expectations. It is going to be most effective to present a “united front” so to speak when parenting your son. There are going to be times when you and your wife don’t agree on how to parent. That’s to be expected. You are two different people coming at parenting from two different perspectives. When you and your wife disagree about a parenting related issue, it’s going to be most beneficial to do this where your son won’t be able to witness it. Keep in mind, 3 year olds tend to have low frustration tolerance and limited problem-solving skills to deal with that frustration. It’s not unusual for them to cry and/or act out when faced with a frustrating situation. As he gets older, you will be able to work with him to help him develop better problem-solving skills. In the meantime, it will be best to focus on setting limits and remaining calm in your responses to him. There are many great articles on our website that address younger children, such as Stopping a Temper Tantrum in its Tracks: What to Do When Kids Lose It. For the most part though, the majority of tools and techniques on our website are going to be most useful for children who are 5 and older. We wish you and your family the best as you continue to address these challenges. Take care.

Comment By : D. Rowden, Parental Support Advisor

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