Are you feeling exhausted and frustrated from dealing with a child who has learned the art of manipulation? If so you are not alone. When a child acts like a con artist, he is also being disrespectful and defiant towards his parents. As parents, we want to raise our children to have good values, so how do we eliminate this behavior in our children?

These days, even the media seems to glorify children when they successfully deceive their parents. In a recent commercial for Yoplait, a teenage girl tells the viewers she knows her mom has been switching her high calorie junk food out with yogurt. In retaliation, the daughter decides to trick her mom. Since the teen’s mom disapproved of her original boyfriend, she pretends to swap him out for a worse boyfriend and says to the camera, “I can play this game, too.” It ends with the original boyfriend back on the couch with the daughter and they celebrate fooling her mom with a high-five hand slap. Although the writers may have been targeting humor, they’ve instead produced a commercial that teaches kids to get what they want by manipulating their parents.

The Bible teaches us that children should respect their parents, and that parents need to discipline their children in accordance with God’s Word.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother,” which is the first commandment with a promise: “that it may be well with you, and you may live long on the earth.” You fathers, don’t provoke your children to wrath, but nurture them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. Ephesians 6:1-4 

While it is normal for children to test their boundaries, a truly manipulative child will continually challenge you and push beyond these limits on a regular basis. Here are some tools to help diffuse this behavior and repair the damage it’s done to your relationship.

Start With You 

Before you try to change your child’s behavior, first take a step back and look at how you react when the manipulation is occurring. Do you get angry and yell? Do you enable her by giving in when she begins her con artistry? Are you afraid that if you set rules your child will no longer love you? Another thing to consider is whether you unknowingly display these controlling traits in your daily routine. These are tough questions and examining ourselves is a difficult, but necessary, task. When you open yourself up to explore the true answers, you may be surprised at what you find.

Set Rules 

There is a point in every con artist’s life that marks the original act of deceit. When he achieved the desired result, the action was then repeated. Each time this behavior provided him with the preferred outcome, it strengthened the trait of manipulation. When raising children, one of the hardest tests we encounter is being a parent versus being a friend. This is a crucial piece of the puzzle when curbing this type of behavior. You must have clear set rules that you require to be followed. The consequences of failing to adhere to these rules must be equally defined. As adults we must follow the laws and rules of society, and learning to do this properly begins at home when we are children.

Be Consistent

The penalties for not following the set rules of conduct must always be consistent. When they try to rebel against these rules, which they will, you must stay the course. Don’t feel defeated and don’t give up. The one time you give in to a whining child and she gets what she wants, or goes where she wants, you’ve just opened the door to your child learning that she can successfully manipulate you. Is your child trying to get out of going somewhere or doing something specific? While we all encounter things in our daily lives that we’d prefer not to do, part of being a responsible adult is knowing that when these instances arise, we simply step up and get them done. Teaching your children this important trait will strengthen their character and create a strong foundation for them to rely on in the future.

While it is never easy to handle a manipulative child, setting and maintaining specific rules and consequences are key ways to minimize and eliminate this type of behavior.

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