Teen Manipulation to Get What They Want

On  a daily basis I hear from parents and amazed at the stories their teen comes up with to get what they want.  I also know personally, what my own teenager (now an adult) would do to get her own way.  They stop at nothing…. As their friends all seem to have that curfew at 3am (NOT), our teenager is the only one that has to be home by 11pm (or whatever your curfew is).  I personally believe nothing good happens after midnight.  I recently came across a great article about this topic and wanted to share it with my readers.

Manipulation in Relational Aggression: Jockeying for the Position of Victim

By Jane Balvanz

If manipulation, as a noun defined, is artful or skillful management, and as a verb, means to negotiate, control, or influence (something or someone) cleverly, skillfully, or deviously, then manipulation, as a relationship tool, is just plain scary.  It’s a sideways method for getting what you want instead of using direct, honest communication.

In one sense, manipulation can be innocuous.  Parents use manipulative techniques to persuade their children to eat healthily.  And who among us hasn’t helped manage some sort of situation to pull off a surprise for someone’s birthday?  Intentions, in these cases, are meant to help or create a pleasant situation for someone else.  Both examples illustrate the sunnier side of manipulation.  But there is a dark side, a very dark side.

The Shadow Side of Manipulation

When kids meet and form new friendships, there is joy and abandon.  This is particularly true for our youngest.  Small children form bonds easily with little thought of gain or how a friendship could improve their social status.  They just want to play.  It doesn’t take long, though, for cliques to form and manipulation to begin.

Kids discover ways to keep others from joining in play.  Changing the truth just a little can keep an unpleasant situation at bay.  Forgetting on purpose can explain away an indiscretion.  And gathering a group together to “explain” one version of a story first before someone else’s opposing view can be told gives a certain stronghold over the most believable version of the truth.

It’s natural for kids to experiment with manipulation, but it’s a sad place to stay.   With girls and boys equally using it, anyone who continually succeeds through manipulation increases their chances of becoming a manipulative adult.  Spending enough time with a relationship manipulator eventually exposes their MO.  Unfortunately for the manipulator, relationships are shallow and ever changing.  It becomes a heartache for manipulators and their targets alike.

Victim, Victim – Who Gets to Be the Victim?

A masterful manipulator knows how to appear as the wronged party.  The best defense is a good offense; that is the manipulator’s mantra.  She knows how to set things up.  Victim is the desired role, because if you are the victim, you cannot be in the wrong.   Let me illustrate through roles and age groups:
Preschool:  Sarah retrieves a toy Mia has just snatched out of her hands. (Mia, crying to an adult)  “Sarah took my toy!”  Sarah is reprimanded to share.
Siblings:  Younger Child wants to play with Older Child’s science experiment.  Older Child, not wanting to have the school assignment destroyed, denies the request.   Younger Child cries to Parent that Older Child is mean.  Older Child is reprimanded because, of course, she/he is older and should know better.  (Younger Child smiles at Older Child)
Grade School:  A group of girls calls Mary names.  Mary, in tears, says she will report the group to the teacher after recess.   After recess, the group reaches the teacher first and reports that Mary has been calling them names.
Junior High and High School:  Maria and Eve were friends who told each other everything.  Their relationship included privately venting about others and sharing their opinions.  A fight ends the relationship, so Eve seeks “justice” by proclaiming herself Victim while sharing Maria’s private, negative views of others.  As a result, Maria is ostracized, and Victim Eve is embraced.
Romantic Relationships:  Maggie doesn’t like Josh’s friends, so each time he goes out with them, she sulks for days.  When Josh asks what’s wrong, Maggie responds, “Nothing.”
Work:  Analise’s boss asked her to do extra assignments without any compensation.  When Analise spoke up to say she would need extra compensation to pay for her babysitter’s additional time, the boss became incensed.  In conversations now, the boss calls Analise his Prima Dona employee.  When others ask about the obvious change in their relationship, he just shrugs his shoulders as if to suggest she is a difficult employee.  His actions cause others to stay away from Analise.
Character Qualities That Eschew Victimhood and Embrace Self-Efficacy

To raise a 21st Century Citizen who is able to become happy, self-reliant and successful in relationships and life itself, guide your child to live these five character qualities.  They are the antidotes to manipulation:

1. Respect
2. Responsibility
3. Resiliency
4. Honesty
5. Courage

When you respect yourself and others, it allows you to be honest in your communications and to take responsibility for your words and actions.  Resiliency gets you through the difficult times, and courage helps keep you in alignment with the other character values.

What gifts you will give your child – your guidance toward characteristics that lead to fulfilling relationships without manipulation and victimhood!

© 2011 A Way Through, LLC

Female friendship experts Jane Balvanz and Blair Wagner publish A Way Through, LLC’s Guiding Girls Ezine. If you’re ready to guide girls in grades K – 8 through painful friendships, get your FREE mini audio workshop and ongoing tips now at www.AWayThrough.com

Join me on Facebook and follow me on Twitter for more information and educational articles on parenting today’s teenagers.

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