Children often use tantrums to manipulate parents into giving them what they want.

How to Stop Children Who Are Manipulative

by Amber Keefer

If you feel like you’re always going head to head with your child, you aren’t the only parent in the world dealing with a youngster’s less-than-stellar behavior. Toddlers are particularly skilled at the art of manipulation when it comes to getting what they want. You're headed for trouble as long as you give your little one an audience when she’s trying to wield her power. The alternative? take immediate control of the situation and don't back down.

Watch out for signs that your child may be manipulating you. Kids who try to manipulate adults into getting what they want often blame others when things go wrong, make excuses or pretend to be sick as strategies to get their way. Some kids even get physically or verbally abusive, while others turn on the charm. No matter what form your youngster’s manipulation takes, don’t get upset if he pouts or gives you the silent treatment if you don’t give in.

Toughen up. Your child can’t prey on your emotions unless you let yourself become an easy mark. Instead of pulling out your hair when she plays you, be sensitive to her woes but don’t let her tears, feelings of self-pity or manipulative tantrums wear you down. Whatever you do, don’t let your child put a guilt trip on you.

Look for patterns in your child’s manipulative behavior. Manipulation isn’t always motivated by selfishness. There’s often another reason behind a youngster’s inappropriate behavior. Children sometimes use manipulation when they have a need that isn’t being met. Your child may feel anxious or insecure about certain situations he wants to avoid. Or, he may be afraid of disappointing you. You can help your child overcome the habit of manipulating you and others to get what he wants by playing detective to find out what’s behind his behavior.

Let your child know that you’re on to her. Rather than scolding her, tell her that you’re there and willing to help when she asks for what she wants in a nice way. Spare her the sermon, but firmly let her know that you will no longer put up with this type of behavior. The Parenting Doctor, Dr. Ann Corwin, Ph.D., M.Ed., points out that a child’s brain is still developing, which means kids are still learning how to behave and may need help with the process.

Encourage your child to behave responsibly. Make it clear that you intend to hold him accountable for his actions. He needs to know that bad behavior on his part is not acceptable and that there will be consequences for anything he says or does that demonstrates undesirable behavior. Stand by what you say. If you tell your child there will be no television the next evening as a consequence of his behavior, make sure the set stays off.

Keep from losing your own self control and remain calm when dealing with your child’s less-than-desirable behavior. However, be consistent in the message you send. Talk show host and mental health expert, Dr. Phil McGraw, cautions parents against giving in to a child even sometimes. If you give your youngster just an inkling that she might be able to reel you in, she'll simply work harder at manipulating you into getting her way. On the other hand, if you work from the notion that she learned the behavior so she can just as well unlearn it, you're likely to have better success.

About the Author

Amber Keefer has more than 25 years of experience working in the fields of human services and health care administration. Writing professionally since 1997, she has written articles covering business and finance, health, fitness, parenting and senior living issues for both print and online publications. Keefer holds a B.A. from Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and an M.B.A. in health care management from Baker College.

Photo Credits

  • Hemera Technologies/ Images