Parenting Articles about Manipulative Child Behavior

It is very common for children to use acting out as a way of solving their problems. As a result, parents can get stuck in patterns where they are being manipulated to respond in a certain way to their child’s behavior.  Common or not, manipulation can be a really challenging and frustrating behavior to deal with. 

Have you noticed that your child has started to use power and control in an attempt to get what s/he wants? From the preschooler who uses your fear of a public tantrum to get you to buy a candy bar in the checkout line to the teenager who gets angry and verbally abusive when you tell him he can’t go to a party, our experts have seen it all and know the proven techniques to help you reset the power dynamic in your family. You will find advice about seeing the difference between persuasion and manipulation and what is a normal and healthy part of development versus what crosses the line, as well as how to respond effectively when your child is using manipulation to gain control. Ready to end the manipulation once and for all? Below you’ll find our suggested articles to get you started. 

Negotiating with Kids: When You Should and Shouldn’t

Does it seem like every time you tell your child “No,” it turns into a tug-of-war? One mom shared with us recently, “Absolutely everything’s an argument with my son. Even the simplest request. He just can’t take no for an answer. It’s so frustrating!”  Many parents find themselves in a negotiation with their children when they are met with any kind of resistance. Negotiating is an important life skill. By definition, it means coming to an agreement through discussion. It’s about finding a middle or common ground.  But negotiation can also mean to get over or around something, such as negotiating the vacuum around the furniture. When it comes to children, they often try to negotiate “around” us to get the result they want. Read More

How to Talk to Teens: 3 Ways to Get Your Teen to Listen

You know the drill: you’re trying to talk to your teen about curfew. Or dinner. Or absolutely anything—and they pretend they can’t hear you. They start an argument with you, or give you an eye roll and a "Whatever." Or they turn up their music. They won’t lift their eyes from their screens. They scoff or grunt in your general direction. There’s no eye contact, no acknowledgement, and absolutely no hint of, “Yes, Mom, I understand what you’re saying to me.” Read More

In Over Your Head? How to Improve Your Child's Behavior and Regain Control as a Parent

Recently, a frustrated mom sat in my office and said, “I just don’t know what to do anymore. We’ve tried everything! There’s no punishment that gets through to our child; there’s nothing we can say that will fix her behavior. There’s so much going on we just don’t know where to start.” Sound familiar? Parents often get by on intuition and advice from others, but let’s face it–that’s not always enough, especially if you have a child who doesn’t respond well to your attempts to manage their behavior. Read More

"I Caught My Child Lying." How to Manage Sneaky Behavior in Kids

Let’s face it; we are probably all guilty of some type of “sneaking around” when we were younger. We may have stolen cigarettes from our parents, or lied about going to a friend’s house, or said we were going to the “library” when we were really going to a dance. We may have even thought we were justified at the time and come up with all kinds of reasons to explain our misbehavior. Read More

How to Keep Calm and Guide Your Child to Better Behavior This Year

Have you been looking back on the last year, reflecting on how things went with your child? If so, perhaps you feel frustrated when you think about his or her behavior—and your reaction to it. Maybe you feel like no matter what you do, nothing changes. But understand that positive change can happen in your family. You’re not stuck in those negative patterns—you really do have the power to improve things, starting today. Read More

6 Ways to Manage Tantrums, Misbehavior and Meltdowns During the Holidays

If you have a child or teen who misbehaves, the holidays can be a source of infinite stress and anxiety. Your individual expectations of the holidays can be seriously at odds: you expect to have a nice, shared time with your whole family and maybe attend some larger family gatherings; they expect to get every gift they demand, and they intend to spend their school break staying up late, sleeping in, and playing video games. The resulting holiday season can be filled with tantrums, obnoxious behavior, and lots of yelling and screaming. Read More

Demanding Children and Teens: Is Entitlement Just a Stage?

Your 10-year-old son begs you to buy him the newest video game. He cries, “All my friends have it. Why can’t you be like all the other parents? They buy their kids the stuff they want!” Or, your 16-year-old daughter is annoyed that she has to drive the old beat up Chevy to school. “I don’t want to be seen in this piece of junk! Have you seen what kind of cars the other kids drive!?” Read More

Manipulative Child Behavior? My Kids Are "Too Smart for Their Own Good"

Does this sound familiar? "My middle schooler blackmails me emotionally – he cries that I 'don’t care about him and love his brother more' when I ask him to stop playing his video games. It's true that he's a more difficult kid, and his words make me feel so bad that I often feel guilty and let him continue to play." Or "My teenager negotiates with me relentlessly to get her way. 'If you let me go to the party tonight,' she'll say, 'then I promise I'll get all my work done tomorrow.' I figure, why not? So I let her go. But then, 'Oops!' She conveniently forgets all her promises." Read More

Screen Time: Using Technology as a Consequence or Reward for Your Child

It's important to understand that you can’t get your child to care about homework, chores or hygiene just because you do. What you can do is help them complete those tasks and reach certain goals regardless of how they feel about them. You do this by offering something important to them, in order to get them to complete something important to you. What do kids value? Screen time. In other words, phone, Internet, TV and video games. Read More

Does Your Child Act Out to Manipulate You? How to Stop Falling for It

Does your child use anger or threats to get what he wants? Does he pick fights and blackmail you emotionally? Or maybe he acts helpless or plays sick to get out of doing chores or homework. Whether kids manipulate us aggressively or passively, this behavior makes most of us feel out of control and “played” by our kids. Debbie Pincus, creator of Calm Parent: AM & PM, tells you how you can break this cycle while staying calm and in control. Read More

"Anger with an Angle": Is Your Child Using Anger to Control You?

Have your child’s angry outbursts worn you down so much that you’ve simply learned to give in? You should know that this is not a phase or a behavior that will “just go away on its own.” Read on to discover 5 things you can do to stop your child from using “Anger with an Angle” today. Read More

Anger as a Weapon: When Your Child “Points the Gun” at You

From young children to teens, James Lehman, MSW explains why your child is in trouble if he or she uses anger and acting out behavior to control others. When children use anger to get what they want, it can feel for all the world like they’re pointing a loaded weapon at you. As a parent, you dread the ugly and sometimes violent emotional outbursts that come with this type of behavior. I want to caution people that once a child is using extreme anger, they’re in a lot of trouble. Read More

Does Your Child Say This? "You don't love me."

Does your child use guilt to manipulate you? In this month’s issue, James Lehman, creator of The Total Transformation Program for parents, shows you how to deflect the guilt by using an effective response that puts the emphasis where it should be: on your child and the importance of following family rules. Read More

Gut Check: Do You Tiptoe around Your Child?

You may not want to admit it, but you do it. You’re afraid of setting your child off, so you don’t ask him to pull his fair share around the house. You dread the next outburst, so you put on a happy face, ask him politely to help and end up doing it yourself anyway. There’s a difference between being considerate of your child and tiptoeing around him. Here, James Lehman talks about tiptoeing around kids who are reactive in a negative way. He defines tiptoeing as being afraid to ask your child to do routine responsibilities or to meet age appropriate expectations out of fear of that child’s reaction. How did this happen and what can you do about it? Read More

Masters of Manipulation: How Kids Control You With Behavior

Kids manipulate their parents as part of their normal routine. They learn to use their charms and strengths to get their way and negotiate more power in the family. Sometimes that manipulation is harmless, but there are other times when the stakes are higher and kids use bad behavior to make you back down. In this situation, the manipulation becomes a power and control game for the child, and that’s where it gets dangerous for parents. The real problem with manipulation is when kids use behavioral threats to manipulate you. Read More

The Jekyll and Hyde Child: Targeted Behavior Problems

For many children, behavior problems are not universal; they’re targeted. Targeted at dad, at mom, at the stepmother, at the fiancé, at a sibling. James Lehman examines why children can be compliant and charming with most people and defiant or even abusive with one person in their crosshairs. Read More