Q. My daughter has gotten very good at manipulating us, and sometimes we do not even know it has happened until much later. How can we tell if we are being manipulated, and how can we stop it, or at least handle it better?
A. Here's the thing about teens and manipulation:
The average 15-year-old is 15 going on 25 and 15 going on 5 all at the same time.
What this means is they combine the verbal ability and "wisdom" of the 15-going-on-25-year-old with the "I want what I want when I want it which is NOW! and I will make you pay if you say no" of the 15-going-on-5-year-old and come up with some very powerful manipulation.
For now, all you need to know is that if you think you are being manipulated, you probably are, and not only that, you probably already have been.
Trust your "parenting gut." If you get an uneasy feeling about what is happening, that can be an indication that manipulation is going on.
Some other ways to tell if teens are manipulating:
=>Behavior does not match words
=>Stories either don't match what you know, keep changing, just don't make sense, or some combination of these three indicators.
Here are some things you can do:
One of the very best defenses against manipulation is to let your "yes" mean "yes" and let your "no" mean "no."
If you say no at first, and your teen keeps asking you and asking you over and over, and then you give in and say yes, you have taught them that your no does not mean no.
What makes it even worse is that you have taught them that no really means
"I just haven't bugged my parent enough to get to yes."
And each and every teen I have ever known is more than up to that challenge.
Another way to look at this is a concept I call "Concrete Parenting."
Have you ever walked through a concrete wall?
Of course not.
But what if one day you slipped and fell into a concrete wall and went through without any harm?
Human nature would say that you would be much more likely to try it again.
It's the same way with parenting. If kids get it that trying to bug and manipulate you is like running into a concrete wall, eventually they are going to get tired of getting their head all bloody and stop.
Let me make two predictions about what will happen as you try to change your responses to your daughter's manipulation.
Prediction One: It won't work. At least not at first. This is because for a while now, your daughter has had it made. She is not going to welcome any changes that you are making. She will try to get you to change back. So you have to resolve to keep at it, no matter the resistance you get.
Hang in there, it's worth it, for both of you.
Prediction Two: For a while, you will still get manipulated. It will go something like this:
First, you will not realize you have been manipulated until after it has already happened.
Next, you will begin to notice it while it is happening, and be able to take corrective action.
Then finally, you will see it coming, and be able to cut it off before it gets going.
Visit ParentingYourTeenager.com to subscribe to leading Parenting Coach Jeff Herring's f'ree internet newsletter "Parenting Your Teenager" and the f'ree 5 day e-program on the "5 Things to Avoid Saying to Your Teenager."