How To Deal With A Manipulative Child (11 Diplomatic Ways)

As a parent, your child may be taking note of the preferential treatment he gets from you which may be different from how you treat your older children or the adults around you.

At a very tender age, children observe their parents’ mannerisms and weaknesses and use them to their advantage.

For whatever reason, manipulation is not good and if left unchecked, it may hurt their psyche and relationship with people.

The methods you implore when thinking of how to deal with a manipulative child are very vital, and if care is not taken, the situation can worsen rather than make things better.

In this article, we discuss everything you need to know about a manipulative child and tips on how to deal with a manipulative child. Read On…

How To Know If Your Child is Manipulative

If your child is fond of exhibiting the following behaviors then you’re most likely dealing with a manipulative child.

1. Excessive Emotional Outbursts

To some children, the word “No” is difficult to accept, and when you do not grant their requests, they become extremely exhausted.

Such children can lose control and struggle to manage their emotions, resulting in outbursts, aggression, rudeness, or crying.

Such emotionally charged behavior may perplex the parents and cause them to comply with the child’s request.

2. Temper Tantrums

Temper tantrums are another common sign of a manipulative child. It is characterized by intense anger outbursts for a short period or until the child succeeds in getting what he or she wants.

To get an expensive toy, they may resort to saying hurtful things like, “I hate you,” “You are the worst parent ever,” “I don’t want to live with you anymore,” and so on, or they may lay down on the floor of the toy store and cry out loud.

Temper tantrums are common in young children, but if the behavior becomes repetitive, you should intervene.

3. Lying

Typically, to obtain something more from their parents, the child may resort to lying and then play the victim card to convince others that their parents are incompetent.

This may compel parents to provide their children with more than is necessary.

Aside from these, the child may engage in the following behavior.

  • Emotionally blackmailing you
  • Refusing to eat during mealtimes
  • Ignoring you
  • Doing things he knows you dislike
  • Being disrespectful, especially in public places

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Reasons Why Your Child is Manipulative

Kids learn how to use manipulation to get what they want at a very early stage. Although it is sometimes unintentional, many kids tend to be very manipulative since they’re sure you will eventually give in to their demands.

There could be several reasons why your child is manipulative and one of the following should be why your kid is manipulating you.

To Get What They Want

Your child could be trying to play with something that you have prevented him from playing with or to eat an extra candy which you’ve objected to and since he knows you wouldn’t just let him have it, he’d manipulate you into feeling guilty about it until you’d give in to his demands.

For Attention                                                                                                                  

If you have a child who loves attention, he can get jealous sometimes especially when he sees that someone or something else is having your attention.

The easiest way to get your attention is to trigger you either by crying, throwing tantrums, or some other way.

To Provoke You

A child can attempt to manipulate you over a grudge. Perhaps he’s still mad at you for not letting him have more candy or play with his toy. Your child may try to provoke you to anger just to feel better for hurting him.

To Feel Powerful

This may be hard to imagine but kids can sometimes want to feel powerful over the adults in their lives. If yours is a narcissistic kid, one of the major reasons for manipulation is to exercise some power over you.

To Cover-Up Their Wrongs

Your child may try to manipulate you just to divert your attention from a wrong he has committed. He may be aware of the consequences of his actions and will try to dodge the punishment for the said wrong.

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To Gain Love        

Just as some kids love attention, some like to be shown, love. If you’re dealing with such a kid, this may be a reason for his manipulative behavior.

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How To Deal With A Manipulative Child

If you’ve been wondering how to deal with a manipulative child either as a parent, caregiver, or teacher, here are things you should know.

  • A manipulative child doesn’t necessarily equate to a selfish child. Just because your kid is manipulating you into doing what he wants doesn’t necessarily mean he is selfish. Children always want to get what they want at all costs, not minding how it makes you feel because sometimes they honestly don’t know how it makes you feel.
  • How you handle their manipulative behaviors can either make them stop or make them worse so it’s better to use tactics that are diplomatic rather than coercive.

Below are a few diplomatic ways how to deal with a manipulative child.

1. Respond But Don’t React

Your reaction to your child’s manipulation is a direct response to their actions such that instead of making him see reasons why you can’t do what he asks you to do, he senses provocation from your reaction, and in the end, it results in a fight or a grudge that may give room for more manipulation.

Instead of yelling, explain to your child why you can’t do what he wants you to do.

2. Do Not Negotiate

You may be subtly aiding your child’s manipulation without knowing.

If you have set rules but keep taking excuses from your kid whenever he flaunts the rules, he’d hold onto that and keep doing what you dislike because in the end, “you’ll understand”.

Instead, make him understand that your No is No and your Yes is Yes, and stick to it. This way, you’ve managed to turn the table around which will make your parenting journey easier.

3. Distract Your Child’s Attention

Distractions can also be used to manage your child’s manipulative behavior. Engaging your child in play or activity can serve as a coping mechanism for the child when you refuse or delay fulfilling their request.

Find a few distractions around your house that are appropriate for your child’s sensory modalities so that the child can easily use or become interested in them.

There may be visual distractions, such as their favorite cartoon show or an image of their favorite animal that your child finds appealing.

You can also use auditory distractions, such as melodious music or a song that is different from the sounds around your child. The novelty will pique the child’s interest and easily distract them.

Alternatively, you can explore the option of using tactile distractions, including living or non-living objects.

Tactile distractions (such as football or balloon) offer stimulation to the child as when the child touches these objects, they will get a warm feeling and get distracted.

4. Be a Role Model

The best method of parenting is being an example of the kind of child you want to raise.

If you want to get your child to do their homework, you have to do your chores around the house in the same manner you want your kids to do their work.

If you want to make your child accountable, be accountable for your actions as a parent.

Children learn by observation, so as he is seeing you do your part; he’d be left with no option but to do his part.

You can also teach your children using an indirect role modeling strategy, such as showing a movie or telling a story that includes lessons on manipulative behavior management.

Characters in the film or story would be distinct from the child’s identity, allowing you to avoid condemning and humiliating them while still educating them.

5. Reward Their Actions

Another way to get kids to do what you want them to do is to reward their actions.

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It may not necessarily mean buying them new toys but something as ordinary as a compliment or a drive to the park can make them excited and they’d want to earn more gratification by doing the things you want them to do.

6. Don’t Be Emotionally Blackmailed

Kids are cute quite alright but you shouldn’t always allow your child’s cuteness to get at you else you’ll have yourself to blame for each time he manipulates you into going against your own will.

7. Hold Him Accountable

Always let your child know when he or she is wrong and apologize, make him accountable for his actions.

Yes, you may be tempted to wave off a few of his poor decisions for being a kid, but that only makes him unaccountable in the long run.

8. Assist Your Child in Achieving Catharsis

Catharsis is a psychological process that is beneficial for releasing painful and negative feelings and relieving our souls of the burden. Everyone will require it at some point in their lives.

People who keep their emotions hidden may find it difficult to escape them, resulting in outbursts that can be harmful to themselves and others.

Even your child may need to release negative or bad emotions from time to time.

As a parent, to encourage your child to express themselves freely, you can engage in a few activities such as a verbal game in which you share an annoying incident related to the given word, asking your child questions that encourage them to share their feelings or writing letters to someone without posting them or tossing them in the bin afterward.

9. Teach Your Child Journaling 

Teach your child journaling to help him focus on his mental health and treat manipulative child development.

You can request that your child write down their thoughts and feelings, both good and bad.

This excellent process is a great way to ensure your child maintains a positive attitude and purges negative thoughts and feelings.

You can encourage your child to keep a colorful journal and to set aside a regular time each day to journal about their joys and sorrows.

10. Set Clear Rules

You must give your children clear instructions on how to behave. Make a note of them and keep them somewhere visible.

These rules should be simple and not too stringent, and they shouldn’t limit your child’s thoughts or actions.

Everyone in the family should follow the same rules, and the children should understand what they can and cannot do.

The rules will teach your children responsibility, and the likelihood of tantrums will decrease.

11. Engage Your Child in Healthy Family Activities

To strengthen your bond and build a deep and strong relationship with your child, involve them in the planning of daily meals, weekly activities, and leisure time.

You could also do a variety of activities together after school and on weekends.

Your child’s antics and manipulative behavior can get on your nerves at times, and managing their behavior can be overwhelming, especially since it is not always obvious.

Try one or more of the suggestions provided here, and if, despite your best efforts, there appears to be no positive outcome, always feel free to seek professional assistance.

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Wind Up

How to deal with a manipulative child is a thing of concern for many parents who are at the mercy of their children’s actions.

But as a parent, allowing your child’s actions to control your own emotions is the wrong method of parenting.

If you always find yourself doing the exact thing you don’t want to do because of your child’s actions, you may be heading for a long and stressful journey of parenting.

I hope this article has given very insightful ways to tackle your child’s manipulative behaviors without tampering with the bond you share with him.