My 30-month old daughter is in the habit of going silent when she is repeatedly cautioned. Yesterday, she was playing with a breakable flower vase when I cautioned her repeatedly. Predictably, she went silent on me.
Despite my cautions, my daughter continued unperturbed at playing with the flower vase. My patience was stretched. But for her kid sister who was soundly asleep on my arm, I would have given her a good spanking. Suddenly, Michelle stopped her play, turned and gave me a sweet smile. She then walked up to hug me and said, ” I love you, mommy”. I was neither charmed nor amused by her display of affection. I still did feel like spanking Michelle whose action, though innocent, seemed manipulative.
As I couldn’t contain the provocative thought, I asked my daughter out rightly, “Mimi I hope you are not being manipulative?” I knew that she might not make out (decipher) the connotation of the word “manipulative”. Nevertheless, I still used it.
The bible aptly puts, “folly is the heart of a child, but the rod of discipline dispels it.”
The incidence caused me to undertake a quick research on the manipulative tendencies inherent in children. I did discover a lot of these tendencies anyway. But when I narrowed my search to the question: Can toddlers be manipulative? The answer was not far fetch. Below is an extract from an article by Unwirklich Vin Zant , which I consider quite insightful.
I honestly did not expect to face manipulative tactics from my children until they were in their teens – at the earliest, preteens. My eldest is only 3 years old, and he already has begun to attempt to manipulate his father and me.“Mom,” he said, “I’m gonna starve. I’m gonna get smaller and smaller and die.”“Oh, really?” I replied. “Yeah, mom I need cookies,” he finished.The first part he heard from his dad the night prior in an attempt to get him to eat his dinner, the later was all his crafting, and frankly pretty clever. While I laughed hysterically at the time, this is not the first inkling of manipulation I’ve seen from my toddlers, and I don’t really see the skill as a positive trait. Perhaps, I was just raised with old world morals, but I’d prefer my children live life in an honest and straight-forward way if at all possible. So, how do you deal with a manipulative toddler?
See the upsideYou should recognize that life in general will always contain certain degree of manipulation. It is indeed a life skill that your child will be faced with from others and may have to play their hand at someday to avoid being played. It’s a positive thing your toddler has the intelligence to be a novice at this skill, as it requires a good deal of logic. Try not to view it as the beginning of a dishonest and shifty life, but the development of a new ability and comprehension of human interaction. You do, however, need to work towards an understanding that lying or tricking people into doing things that can hurt someone or for personal gain is wrong. Your toddler needs to understand that while others may not always be truthful, they should try to be. This can be as easy as addressing manipulation when it happens. In my cookie example, I just said, “Torsten, if you want a cookie just ask for one. It hurts mommy’s feelings when you try to trick me.”
Set an exampleWhen I really thought about it, my toddlers likely learned manipulation from me. When it comes to adult interactions I may be the blunt and honest type, but I manipulate my children on a regular basis whether it’s telling them dinner is candy or convincing them that their favorite cartoon character wants them to take a nap. In the interest of ease of care on my part, I was setting the example that it’s OK to lie and manipulate people. As a parent, you should try to avoid manipulative tactics – even though it can make life slightly more difficult.
Reward the direct approachWhen your toddler does take the direct route rather than the sneakier alternative, reward that when possible. Sometimes you may just have to verbally commend the action, but that’s enough to encourage the behavior for most toddlers.Even at a young age, children are just beginning to establish life habits, morals and the ability to tell right from wrong. Be sure you know where you stand, and help your toddler head the right direction.
Indeed, the words of a victim mom!
Has your toddler ever tried manipulating you? How did you react? From my experience, I can say that it could be both annoying and funny, especially when caught off guard.
After my first baptism on toddler manipulative tendencies, I sure know how best to respond when next my 30-month old puts up a manipulative act.
If you’ve got a toddler, prepare for same experience! I hope you don’t react badly when that happens, because they aren’t really guilty!
Image Credit – http://www.colorific.com.au