Is My Child Manipulating Me? No!

By Lesley Iwinski

You are walking through the mall with your 2½-year-old, finishing up that last errand before you head home. It’s naptime.

When she starts to whine, you know she is tired and needs some help, so you pick her up and carry her. Someone nearby says loudly enough for you to hear: “Don’t let her get her way. Make her walk!”

You may have heard similar comments in the past: “If you let her get her way, she will learn to manipulate you.” “You’re going to spoil that child.”

Feeling judged, undermined or simply annoyed, you may feel the need to defend yourself, or worse, allow yourself to be influenced by that stranger.

Stay the course, because you are on the right road.

Remember: Young children do not manipulate. They communicate.

They express their needs to the caring adults in their lives in the best way they know how.

Meeting your child’s needs is your No. 1 job as a parent, and it also can be a satisfying way for you to stay connected to them and to nurture them.

Children whose needs are consistently met have no reason to manipulate.

They are getting the things they need to grow and learn. Those needs are basic:

  • Regular sleep, food, shelter and care (including naps)
  • Unconditional love
  • A sense of belonging
  • The knowledge that they are valuable and capable
  • The security of knowing they are supported and safe

If these needs seem manipulative, you might want to ask yourself why.

To cultivate a positive relationship with your future teenager and young adult, stay responsive to your child’s needs.

Teach him how to identify his feelings. Show her how to ask for what she needs.

Offer empathy when things don’t go their way.

Share the skills of problem-solving and win-win negotiation.

Stay warm and connected to your child, and if you can, smile at anyone – friend, relative, or stranger – who gives you unwelcome advice.

Then go ahead and do what you know is right for your child.