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Attitude Makeover: Manipulative

What's Wrong With Your Current Response?
Think about the last few times your kid employed his manipulative schemes on you. What tactic did he use? What was the issue about? And most important, how did you respond? Did you threaten or scold? Argue? Plead, coax, or bribe him to act right? Ignore him and hope the attitude would go away? Tell another adult to deal with it?

Did you address his manipulative attitude at all and make him accountable? If so, how did that happen? Did you make him apologize? Did you encourage him to admit he was quite capable of doing whatever it was himself? Make him do what he was trying to avoid? Ground him or remove a privilege? Was it effective in squelching his attitude or not? Why? Or did you give in to his manipulative tactic and let him win? If so: Did you write an excuse? Do his responsibility? Blame the person? Let him off the hook? Sympathize? Why did you give in? What did your kid learn from your giving in?

Manipulative kids are great at recognizing what works so the manipulated parent gives up and once again they get their way. So what has your kid learned about you? How is he able to push your buttons so you finally acquiesce? Does he play on your impatience? Your desire to pump up his confidence? Has he learned your weakness for his self-pity, his charm, or his posture of helplessness? Might it be that he can recognize when you're on overload: if he keeps it up a little longer, he figures he'll just wear you out? You just don't have the energy to deal with it? Or do you believe him (or want to believe him)? Could it be that you want to save face before he pulls his antics in front of others? You're afraid you'll harm his self-esteem? You don't think it's worth jeopardizing your relationship with your kid?

What is the one response you know does not work? Write it so you will remember to never use it again.

I will not

Facing Your Own Bad Attitudes
Did you ever manipulate your parents? Of course, you did, but how much and over what issues? For example, was it over a missed curfew, a bad grade, going somewhere without permission, blaming your little sister for something you did, or avoiding a music lesson, schoolwork, recital, or doing chores? What tactics did you use? For instance, did you fib, use your charm, debate them to death, feign helplessness, play one parent against the other, aim for their sympathy? Did they ever call your bluff? Which parent was the easier mark? Which parent was tougher to manipulate? Why? What were their hot buttons that if you pushed enough, they'd give in?

What about now? Do you ever try manipulating a situation at home or work so it comes out in your favor? Who are you most likely to try to manipulate? Your kids? Spouse? Colleagues? Friends? Relatives? What tactics are you most likely to use? Bribe or threaten your kids to comply? Blame your boss? Tell white lies? Fake illness, a headache, or fatigue to get out of something? Use anger, threats, or guilt? Do the targets ever see through you? How far will you carry out your deception?

What kind of manipulative interactions are you noticing between yourself and others? What about between your spouse and you? Between your children and you? Make a list of those interactions. Next, try to identify what the real issue is that you are trying to hide from in each situation. Is it work, change, pain, loss of power, or a confrontation? What are you really trying to avoid that is causing you to use manipulation tactics? Which of those fears are legitimate? Which ones should you be facing instead of avoiding?

And just why are you allowing your kid to manipulate you? Are you thinking it is just a phase (that your kid will grow out of)? Might your kid be learning to be manipulative because you are afraid to take charge and say no? If so, why? Do you want to minimize your kid's stress? Think it might hinder his self-esteem? Fear your relationship with your child might be jeopardized? Feel guilty because you don't always have the time you wish to spend with your child? Worry that it may somehow taint his childhood memories? When you realize you're being manipulated, do you say nothing for fear of confronting a difficult situation, hurting your kid's feelings, spoiling your best-pals relationship, or embarrassing your kid by telling the painful truth? Well don't feel alone; lots of parents do this all the time. The key to change is that first honest admission and then committing yourself to that change.

What is the first step you need to take in yourself to be a better example to your kids? Write it down, and then commit yourself to doing it.

I will

Next: Steps 1 & 2 >>

From Don't Give Me That Attitude by Michele Borba, Ed.D. Copyright © 2004 by Michele Borba. All rights reserved. Used by arrangement with John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Buy the book at www.amazon.com.

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