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Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Avoiding Manipulation

Children will normally and naturally try to avoid consequences by manipulating their parents.  This is a normal development process and does not mean that anything is wrong with your child.

Children will do more manipulating either when they are strong-willed or find you, the parent, teacher or guardian, an easy target.  These manipulations are also called “hooks” because your child is trying to “hook” you into an emotional discussion where, eventually, they hope to wear you down.  By avoiding the hook, you encourage children to think for themselves and then learn from the situation.  Remember to respond with sadness or indifference, but never respond with anger or sarcasm since that will only encourage your child to struggle with you.

Please note: The same phrase can be extremely useful in many different situations.

Here are some common ways that children hook parents:

  • ” Child: “I was in only 30 minutes late!” (child was actually 2 hours late from curfew) Parent: (Calmly, and with a smile) “Nice Try Child disputes facts
  •  Child: “Time Out doesn’t work, it’s stupid.” Parent: “Probably so.” (said in a matter-of-fact tone)Child challenges the rule
  • Your child adamantly claims he/she was not responsible for his/her behaviour - Child: (After your child hits you in a fit of rage) “It was your fault that I hit you because you made me mad.” Parent: (with sadness, not sarcasm) “Sorry you feel that way.” (then administers the consequences anyway)
  • Arguing about the fairness of the rule or consequences - Child: “That’s not fair, I shouldn’t be grounded for a week.  I just missed one assignment.” Parent: “I know.” (stated with sadness)
  • Your child personally attacks a quality of your parenting

a. Your intentions - Child: “You’re mean and you’re just a power junkie and you’re just doing this because it makes you feel good.” Parent: “Thanks for letting me know how you are thinking about this..”
b. Your love/devotions - Child: “You wouldn’t do this to Michael, you love him more than you do me.” Parent: “Sorry you feel this way … hope you get over it real soon.” c. Your values - Child: “You’re cheap, that’s why you won’t buy me that video game.” Parent: (with a smile) “Nice try.”

  • Your child tries to bargain or negotiates about the consequences - Child: “O.K., I’ll take the grounding, but not this weekend because I have tickets already for the Bon Jovi concert.  I’ll stay in next weekend.” Parent: “Nice try.”
  • Your child attempts to use terrorism to get you to give in - Child: “If you take my phone line out then I’ll run away.” Parent (calmly) “Sorry that you feel that you have to resort to that.” Parent then breaks eye contact and walks away. Never negotiate with a terrorist.


Often children will appear to argue for the sake of arguing. For instance, they may argue over the most insignificant detail or fact.   As an adult, it is tempting to sink to their level and prove them wrong or argue out of your frustration. THIS EXACERBATES THE PROBLEM

To counter this urge to “do battle” with your child, practice the Ghandi technique. Ghandi was the Prime Minister of India who won the war with the British by refusing to fight.  Instead, he staged sit-ins and refused to eat, as a way of not engaging in battle as the British would have preferred. This is also known as “benevolent non-involvement”  (Passive Resistance)

To do benevolent non-involvement:

  • Remain calm whenever possible when the child is arguing
  • Never challenge what he/she says This will just encourage your child to argue more.
  • Instead, respond as if you are taking note of what they are saying.  You can still hold your child responsible without arguing.  Child “I handed in all my homework, the teacher is lying and just lost it” Parent: “Oh, so that is how you see it “(not said sarcastically)
  • Your response should be stated with a tone of interest and acknowledgement. Remember, acknowledgement does not mean acceptance.
  • After a while you can let your child know that it is not fun listening to him/her when they are arguing. Remember, many times your child argues for attention.
     Parent, “You know, it is just not fun listening and talking to you when you are arguing.” (parent walks away)
  • Do not speak in terms of absolutes, such as, “always” and “never” First of all, this is not true, e.g. your child does not argue all the time, although it may feel that way. Secondly, this will only entice your child to argue more about your absolute statement.


  • Arguing and battling gives your child a sense of control over the situation because they are controlling your emotions; that is, provoking anger in you.
  • Children will argue when they feel a loss of dignity from you and they are trying to regain their sense of dignity or self.
    e.g. Parent: “This is not right. This is how this project should be done.” Child: “I’m not wrong, the teacher said I could complete the project anyway I wanted.”
  • Children will argue when they are feeling a loss of control, especially over their freedom to think and make decisions that will affect them. Even in situations when the parent is trying to spare the child from making an unwitting mistake, the child will rebel and argue as a way to try to regain control over their thought process.
    eg. Child: “I like G Gordon Liddy because he believes everyone should carry a gun and use it if necessary.”

Parent (said with disgust) “That’s wrong to think that way, that would cause total chaos in our society.  Where did you get such a stupid idea?”
Child.(with anger or excitement) “No it wouldn’t. We’d have more order in our society etc”
-a better response-
Parent’ “Really. I’m to know what you are thinking these days.  That wouldn’t work for me but thanks for telling me.

Children will often throw out provocative statements to not only see the reaction it will get but also to try it on for size, similar to clothes shopping. If you don’t make a big deal out of their statements, nine times out of ten, they will drop it on their own accord and move onto something different. Remember, just because they say it doesn’t mean that they will do it or necessarily believe it.  Don’t get hooked.


Time out is an effective consequence for children. The full name for time out is Time Out From Positive Reinforcement; that is, time out from positive attention and all the other interesting and fun things that children usually enjoy.

  • This does not mean time out from nagging, yelling, or complaining. Be careful not to get into a pattern of timing your child out after you have been nagging or complaining, otherwise you are actually giving your child a break by taking him away from that unpleasant situation.
  • Never threaten time out. If you tell a child to go to time out, follow through.


Example: If you tell your child they have to go to time out and they say, “No, I’ll make my bed,” then tell your child, “You can make your bed after you sit in time-out.” Any activity should be done only after time out is completed, including going to the bathroom or getting a drink of water.  If you let them make the bed instead of going to time-out then you have lost the battle.

  • Second, give time-out with sadness or empathy, instead of anger This will keep the struggle within the child rather than between you and the child.


Rule 1. Child must serve the specified time in time-out
This is 1-2 minutes per year of age.

Example: An 8 year old child should be in time out for 8-16 minutes. If after 5 minutes, he/she says they are ready to get up, your response can be, “I’m glad to hear that, I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Rule 2. Your child must be quiet before you approach him/her in time-out.
A general rule of thumb is that he/she must be fairly quiet before you start the time, and they must be quiet 2-3 minutes before you approach them. That is, the child cannot be kicking scratching screaming yelling obscenities or asking you when they are going to get out of time out.

Example: You are walking towards your child in time out and he/she yells, “When do I get out?” You can walk away and say, “Oh bummer! I’ll see you in a couple of minutes.”

Exception:   It Is not unusual for children to soothe themselves by talking or singing to themselves during time-out.   Do not extend their time under these conditions as long as they are not being disrespectful, loud or obnoxious.

Rule 3. Your child cannot get out of time-out until you approach him/her and ask them one
            question which they must answer with a “yes”
If they respond with anything besides ‘yes’, break eye contact, turn around, and come back after the specified time has been served

Example: You approach the child and say, “Are you ready to apologise for hitting your
sister?” or “Are you ready to (whatever got them into time out originally)?”
Wait for a ‘yes” before allowing them to leave time out. Silence from the child should be interpreted as a “no”.
- or -
Your child must have a plan about what he/she will do differently when in the same situation agan.
This works well with children over the age of 6. The plan of action describes specific behaviours the child will do or say, not what they won’t do.

Example: Your child is in time-out for hitting his/her younger brother. You approach
him/her to ask what their plan is, and your child says, “I won’t do it again.”
This is a wish and not a plan. Explain that a plan is some specific set of actions that they can take, ie, walk away or tell a parent, if he/she becomes frustrated. Only give the child help in formulating a plan once or twice. The objective is to get them to do the thinking, not for the parent.
Sometimes children do not grasp the concept the first 5-10 minutes that they are in time out, and often require more time (up to an hour or more.) Children are not in jeopardy of starving or any other serious physical or psychological problems from sitting in time out for longer periods of time when they have been out of control.  If time out consistently is lasting over 1 hour, consult your therapist.


The Hold Down is a process for holding your child in Time Out when they refuse to stay

In a hold down, sit on the floor with your child sitting between your legs with their back to your chest. Keep the child as close to you as possible to avoid attempts to butt you with their head. Cross their arms (not yours) in front of them until their elbows touch. Place your legs over their legs to keep them still.  Be careful not to put too much pressure or weight on their legs.  While this position is difficult to describe, the child looks as if they are wearing you as an imaginary strait-jacket.

If your child refuses to go to time-out, give them the choice, “Would you like to sit in time-out by yourself or with my help?” or you can say, “Would you like to go to time-out with your feet touching the ground or off the ground?” At times, it will come down to physical force,; that is you exerting your force over your child to help them go to time-out. Use a hold down the first time they are out of time-out, refuse to go at all, or if they move around the floor or out of the chair. The criteria should be that if you can slip a piece of paper between their bottom and the floor or chair seat, then your child is out of time-out.

The rules for hold downs are similar to the rules for time-outs.