Meltdowns Or Manipulation?
Do you ever consider the consequences of forcing your children to kiss or embrace strangers? Do you insist on If you’ve ever looked for parenting advice on how to deal with a kid who is prone to tantrums or meltdowns, you’ve undoubtedly read that offering comfort and meeting him or her where they are is critical. In reality, we know that a childrens emotional brain has taken control and that they are in fight or flight mode when they are having a true meltdown. They can’t be reasoned with, and they surely can’t be forced to use their logical brain. Telling this child to relax or think about the implications would simply make them more agitated. It’s best to speak to them in a calm tone and make them feel secure.
This post may contain affiliate links. Full disclosure here.
Want to learn how to get your kids to listen without nagging, yelling or losing control?
–>check out this free parenting class<–
It’s possible to think about what they could have done differently once they’ve cooled down. So, why are so many parents perplexed about what to do when their child throws a tantrum, even after reading this solid advice?
The problem with this advice is that it fails to distinguish between what to do if your child is suffering a real meltdown and what to do if your child is manipulating you. The distinction between breakdown and manipulation must be made apparent.
Manipulation Uses The Logical Brain
Your son is manipulating you when he requests pizza for the fourth night in a row and says angryly, “I hate you, you never serve anything I like, I’m not eating.” If he is instantaneously well without any recovery time after getting his way, you could be sure he has effectively employed this approach. When your daughter makes a terrible decision because she is utterly overwhelmed by the fact that she can’t figure out her homework, or when your boy loses his cool when a buddy knocks over the Lego tower he has spent the whole afternoon building, both children are likely to be in meltdown mode.
Manipulation, Control, and Defiance in a Cycle
Parents are frequently irritated by their children’s deceptive attempts to acquire what they want. When you believe your child is attempting to manipulate you or take advantage of you, it’s difficult to stay calm and level-headed. You may feel harassed and lose your cool. Perhaps you retreat when you are insulted. Alternatively, you may try to prevent confrontation and maintain peace by giving in to your childrens demands.
You may even tighten your grasp to demonstrate that you’re in command. Unfortunately, this generally results in a power battle with your child, who begins tugging as hard as she can on the tug of war rope. The continuous circle of manipulation, control, and resistance may continue if you tighten your hold even more firmly and drawback in reaction.
As a mom, I realize how easy it is to get caught up in deceptive methods. “If he truly loved me, he would never lie to me,” you reason. Or, “If she truly cared about me, she would never try to sneak into her friend’s house behind my back.” Furthermore, some parents make broad generalizations about their children’s behaviour. “If someone can fool me in front of my eyes, it indicates he’s a deceptive person,” they argue. But it’s best not to give these actions too much weight; instead, confront them.
When we take a step back, we can see that our children can only manipulate us because we enable them to do so. Children, like all humans, want to have their way. (After all, who doesn’t?) But, over time and through the use of common tactics like emotional blackmail, lying, tantrums, shutting down, persistent negotiation, dividing and conquering, and playing the victim, they’ve learned that they can get what they want. And there you have it—it works! The problem comes when those practises become ingrained in people’s lives.
But keep in mind that children can only influence us if we allow them to. To tango, two people are required, yet just one is required to modify this pattern.
Meltdowns Trigger Fight Or Flight Responses
The distinction between the two might be subtle, but if your childrens behaviour sends the message that “if I don’t get what I want, I’ll make your life difficult,” your child is attempting to engage you in a power struggle– and this is manipulation.
It is entirely natural for a child to begin to discover how strong they can be at this age. This occurs between the ages of three and six years, and it is at this period that childrens learn how to meet their own needs while also considering the needs of others. Children wield power in a variety of ways, despite their little size. They may pretend not to hear you, appear helpless, slap or shove you with their small bodies, threaten you, or even refuse you outright.
Many parents would not tolerate this when we were childrens, and they made it plain with their tone of voice and other harsh repercussions. Today, the pendulum has gone the other way, and parents could be trampled by children who are experimenting with their authority in order to achieve what they want. Even if you have clear rules in your house regarding striking and saying hurtful things, a parent who tries to understand their childrens point of view might wind up creating a perpetual negotiator who refuses to accept the word “no.”
The approach is to educate your child to utilize their power collaboratively while maintaining clear boundaries about what is and is not acceptable behaviour. This implies that if your child has been watching TV all morning and becomes irritated when you ask them to turn it off, they must pause, acknowledge their distress, calm down, and then give a respectful proposal. If your child says, “This programme is just two minutes longer.” Is it acceptable if I complete it before turning off the television?” he has respectfully suggested a solution that may suit both of your requirements.
Your kid is manipulating you if she brazenly ignores you, claims, “I’ve barely watched any,” or starts weeping only to get her way. In a nutshell, your children are manipulating you if they are rude, using nasty words, or other types of power to get you to give in to their demands.
It’s true that teaching your child that they can never question your authority eliminates power struggles entirely, but this style of parenting (authoritarian) might be troublesome in the long term. Right now, your children are paying attention to you and are interested in what you have to say.
This is an important time to educate your kid to listen to their inner voice, understand how they feel, and respectfully express their thoughts. As your children get older and seek counsel from their friends, they will become more accustomed to thinking for themselves and will be less prone to succumb to the mindless following. If negotiating with a five-year-old seems difficult today, consider if it will be worthwhile in the long run if the end result is an adolescent who is confident in expressing her own opinion when a classmate recommends she drinks, smokes, or sleeps with their partner.
There are a few basic parenting techniques you can use to ensure you land on your feet the next time you ask your child to do something and their reply gives you that familiar tug-of-war sensation.
How To Handle Manipulation and Meltdowns
Recognize Manipulative Behaviors
Recognize manipulative actions so that you don’t fall for them. As a natural component of their survival, children are born with tools to help them acquire what they want and avoid what they don’t want. When these strategies elicit a response from us, they are effective. Pay attention to the things that set you off. Your child, for example, could try to emotionally blackmail you by being unhappy until he gets his way. If you feel your duty is to keep your child happy, this will be a trigger for you. Begin by determining if your goal is to make your child happy or to assist him in preparing for adulthood. “I’m sorry you’re upset, but you’re still grounded this weekend,” you might say if it’s the latter.
Lying, dividing and conquering, shutting down, and yelling “I Hate You” or “You Don’t Care About Me” or “That’s Not Fair!” are all typical behaviours. Take these assertions with a grain of salt. “I know you’re mad at me, but you need to put your bike away right now,” you say. Or, “I know you don’t think it’s fair, but you have to go to bed when I say so.”
Some childrens will blame others, saying things like, “All the other kids’ parents let them stay out till 11:00.” Don’t fall for the ruse. Distinguish between the emotional content and what your child is attempting to obtain. Listen to her concerns about being the “only one,” but stick to your curfew schedule. Tip: To throw you off balance, compile a note of all the varied actions and phrases your child does and says. Prepare your response for the next time you hear them.
What Your Triggers
Behaviors that irritate you and cause you to respond are known as triggers. They might be in the form of a tone of voice, a certain face, an attitude, or specific behaviours. As a result, manipulative actions may set you off. They will be less likely to be pushed if you prepare for them by understanding your buttons. Hearing your child say “I hate you” can set off a chain reaction in you if you have a great desire for approval from him. You could wish to keep the peace between you two. You may feel compelled to let him off the hook so that he will not be not content with you. Recognizing your triggers can assist you in planning and preparing for how to avoid allowing your child to press your buttons. Tip: Make a list of your top three triggers by sitting down and writing them down.
This means that when you become irritated and your temper begins to flare, take a breath and recognize that you are angry because your child is attempting to engage you in a power struggle. Remind yourself that the only reaction you have control over is your own. Invest your energy in keeping calm by taking deep, steady breaths until the frustration subsides. Children respond favourably to people who are obviously in command and seeing you remain cool and in control of your emotions may help deescalate them.
Manipulative tactics are meant to throw you off and make you doubt yourself. Knowing your own bottom line as a parent will assist you when your children use clever methods to make you doubt yourself and lose your focus. Keep your sanity by sticking to your parenting beliefs. Take cautious not to be swayed by your children’s emotions. Listen to their sentiments so they know you care, but follow the ground rules you’ve set. It is typically preferable for your children to be guided by your well-thought-out values than to make sure everyone is happy. Make a list of some of your guiding principles and refer to it anytime you feel like you’re losing your way.
Don’t chastise your child for striving to achieve her goals in life. Wouldn’t it be better if she didn’t? Help her learn how to achieve what she wants more directly, honestly, and successfully by being sympathetic to her needs and objectives.
Help your kid understand that “shutting down” or “avoiding the problem” by not responding to your request is not going to get him what he wants. In reality, it will just lead to him getting into further problems. Assist him in learning how to “approach the bench.” In other words, encourage him to ask directly for what he requires during a quiet moment. Instead of battling you, he may learn to say something like, “Mom, it’s tough for me to come off the computer the second you ask.” Could you give me a heads-up?” or “Dad, I hate it when you yell at me when I don’t do what you want.” It would be helpful if you questioned me in a more pleasant manner.
Listen to your child when he begs for anything. Give his demands the time and attention that they deserve. That doesn’t mean you should always answer yes, but it does imply you should think about it. Your child will be less inclined to try to acquire what he wants indirectly if he knows he can come to you directly.
Don’t Engage In Manipulation
We could begin calmly but rapidly revert to our previous practice of participating in a power struggle. Remember that manipulative children are seeking a way to gain attention. They can’t influence you if there’s no one to pull back on the rope. Explaining, threatening, shouting, or arguing are all techniques that will exacerbate an already combustible situation, as you have undoubtedly previously experienced. When you attempt this technique, your childrens tantrum could become louder at first. Remember that they are accustomed to eliciting a response from you, and they are attempting to entice you back in. Keep your cool and don’t let them get the best of you.
Avoiding a power conflict is the aim. Post the rules in the kitchen or other areas where fights are likely to occur. They should be reviewed with your child in the morning or at night when they are calm, not during a fight. My seven-year-old son is always attempting to assert his dominance, and when he disagrees with us, we require him to follow the following rules:
1) Recognize that you’re unhappy and put a name to it.
2) Take a few slow, deep breaths to relax and think of a nice suggestion.
3) Use polite words and be respectful while making a compromise offer.
4) Keep in mind that bullying is defined as the use of hurtful words or actions. Bullying is something that no one deserves. If this happens, we will either ask you to move or we will leave. After you’ve calmed down, you may apologize and try again.
5) Adults are the ones in charge, and they are the ones who make the final choice. Accept the answer if it is no.
Believe In Your Child
Don’t doubt your childrens good intentions. Have faith in him. Recognize that children are work in progress. They may need to improve (growth mindset) their life management skills, but they are neither evil or nasty. They don’t want to “get us” or make our lives difficult. If we believe such is their goal, though, we will view them as such. Believing in our children will enable them to view themselves with all of their inherent kindness and good intentions.
Teach Deep Breaths
Regularly practise deep breathing with them. This establishes new neural connections in the brain, making it easier for individuals to use this ability when they are angry.
It’s difficult to teach childrens how to deal with frustration. Even as adults, we lose control of our emotions on a daily basis.
If Manipulation Is A Problem In Your Home Already
If they threaten you or begin to manipulate you, call their attention to it and ask if they’d like to try asking in a more polite manner. If they refuse to interact politely, either walks away and explain that you deserve to be treated well, or gently enforce your request regardless of their opposition. Your child will eventually learn that politely engaging you rather than manipulating you is the best approach to achieve what they want. They’ll have to understand that “no” means “no” and that there’s no space for bargaining in these situations.
What You Should Do Next:
1. Subscribe To My Parenting NewsletterSign Up For My Parenting Newsletter for tips on creating a happier home and becoming a more positive parent. As a bonus when you subscribe you’ll get a copy of my FREE Growth Mindset Printout For Kids which is the KEY to raising resilient kids with a growth mindset.
2. Register For A Pretty Awesome FREE 60-Minute Class:Register for a free class called GET KIDS TO LISTEN THE RIGHT WAY; an exclusive FREE class from nationally recognized parenting coach, Amy McCready.
3. Sign Up For A 7 Step Positive Parenting CourseEnroll now in the most in-depth parenting class. After discovering these common sense, easy-to-implement, research-based tools you can learn how to:
- Easily get kids to listen – the FIRST time. No yelling or reminding…not even once!
- Put an end to daily power struggles. Bedtime became a breeze, and all the dawdling, chore wars, sibling rivalry, and mealtime meltdowns disappeared.
- Reduce backtalk by HALF! It’s simple once you know the secrets of these two ‘buckets.’
- Say goodbye to punishments that DON’T work. There’s a 5-step formula that works WAYYY better than time-outs.
- Feel amazing, confident, and empowered as a parent, every day. I NEVER go to bed feeling guilty anymore! (Okay, well maybe sometimes…’ mom guilt’ is still a thing.)
More Discipline Tips
- How To Teach Lessons Through Discipline Instead Of Shame
- Mistakes You May Be Making When Responding To Tantrums
- 5 Powerful Responses For Backtalk
- How You May Accidentally Be Raising Ungrateful Children (And how To Fix That)
- What Is Positive Discipline: 6 Simple Techniques To Use At Home
- Setting Consequences For Kids Who Do Not Care About Consequences
- Is Positive Parenting Solutions Parenting Course Worth It? (Yes…But Why?)
- Natural Consequences You Should Allow Your Children To Experience
- 8 Easy Ways To Battle The “I Can’t Do It” Attitude
- Tips For Parenting An Angry Child