you always manipulate the ones you love


Our littlest is just 2 years old.  Recently, his language has exploded and he is communicating his needs.  He says really adorable things like “bless you Mami” when I cough or “shoes on” when he wants to leave.  I didn’t say he was bright, I said he was adorable.  One of these incredi-cute things he is doing is requesting something that he has previously been denied with a final “Pllllllllleeeeezzzzzzzzeeee” and his hands pressed together in prayer. He has even perfected the doe eyes that are required for that kind of begging. It is hard to deny him but we do and then hug him for learning how to work his parents like a job.

Lee says:  The art of manipulation is learned at a very early age as a survival technique. When a child is old enough to express his/her desires, they go up against a parent or care taker that have their own agendas which often contradict the wants of the child.  As adults, we tend to see the transparent attempts at manipulation and become angry at the kids. “How dare they treat me like that!”  I’ll tell you why.  It’s normal and get over it.

          We start manipulating at a very early age. As parents we don’t identify it as such but it is. So how do babies manipulate?  They cry. They use their only form of communication to get picked up, changed, fed and to tell you that something is wrong. But you say, “Lee, that isn’t manipulation!”  Well, you’re wrong. It is. To manipulate simply means to behave in such a manner as to have others feel, do or say what you want. We have decided as a society that manipulating is wrong but everybody does it to one extent or the other. Some are done for positive reasons and others are for cruel and unusual reasons. It is the latter that creates the negative reaction people get from manipulation. We react because someone screwed us.  Forever more, manipulation is a bad thing. 

          I am pretty savvy to the whole manipulation thing and tend to take it in stride when a kid tries to manipulate me. I see my job as keeping them safe and teaching them right from wrong.  Obviously, if a child manipulates in such a manner that their desired result could bring harm to themselves, then I nip that in the bud.  I also take a moment to point out to the child how they are manipulating and why I can’t acquiesce to their veiled demands. If the child is not from my loins, it tends to freak them out.   My kids already know I’m scary like that. I guess as a therapist, manipulation doesn’t bother me so much. I see it coming from a mile away and watch the fun. With children, I enjoy messing with their little minds because what good is it to be an adult if you can’t warp a child? 

          Ricky, the two year old, has a head start. I will keep an eye on him and temper his blatant manipulation with a dash of empathy. I guess this whole manipulation thing depends on whether we are training them to be sociopaths or the senior class president.  Do you know the difference between the two?

          Paul says: I have mixed feeling on the subject of manipulation. If you buy into the inner child stuff, which I do, then my inner kid has written ‘manipulation is evil’ all over my psyche with a big black crayon. My higher self, that superego person that prevents me from running naked in the grocery store, assures me that my connotation of manipulation needn’t be the same as my denotation.  This is a topic that I am currently working on.

          As an example of my crazy, my 16 year old had to write a paper on the Jewish holocaust. It was to be an empathy piece, placing the reader into the mind of the victim of the atrocity. My sage advice to my daughter was that if she could make her teacher cry, she would get an A.  As I spoke the words, my inner child cried out “nooooo” like he was throwing himself onto a grenade while my higher self nodded in agreement with my words. My daughter wrote something brilliant and received an A on the paper and I took one more step into my little world of parenting paranoia.

          So there you go. If neurotics build castles in the sky, then welcome to my kingdumb.  

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