3 Tips on How Parents Can Deal with Manipulation

One evening while my husband and I were dating, he was voicing how upset he was with his ex-wife about how she handled their son, Bubba.  Bubba had run to his dad’s house, and began lamenting about his mother: “She said I couldn’t go with you to visit my cousins!

Angry that his ex-wife, Medusa, was encroaching on his plans with Bubba, my husband went to her home and they began arguing.  Bubba hadn’t complete his chore of taking out the trash, and she had given him a consequence.  As my husband and Medusa were arguing, Bubba went to them and said, “I took out the trash.”

When my husband relayed this story to me, he was struck back as I began laughing out loud.  “Sweetheart, don’t you see? Your son is manipulating you. He knows exactly how to get you and Medusa arguing to take the pressure off of him.

Triangulation – when a child plays one parent against another in a manipulative way.

photo credit: .craig via photopin cc

My husband and I rarely argue; however, we found ourselves arguing more and more after our 12-year-old foster girl, Big Helper, joined our home. It was only after she left that we discovered how crafty she was in subtly pitting us against one another. We didn’t even realize it.

All children, not just foster children, will try and manipulate a situation to gain control and get their needs/wants met.  However, for foster children, manipulation can be a technique they learned in order to survive.


  1. Encourage your child to use honest words.  Let them know that they don’t need use tricks to ask for what they want.
  2. Check with your spouse. If a child says that the other parent said so — always, always, always check with your spouse before agreeing.
  3. Become more connected with your child to help them learn that you are there to meet their needs.

If you follow on Facebook, just last week, my 5-year-old didn’t want to go to school. After numerous attempts to get him in the car, I exclaimed: “Get in the car NOW or I’m leaving without you!”  My Kindergärtner walked to the car, opened the door, pulled out his blanket, closed the door, and said, “Bye, Mom.”

I was furious! But I had to drive away…  When I returned a few minutes later (to take him directly to the principal’s office), he had gone inside and told my husband: “Mommy left — She said I could stay home today.

He’s only FIVE!!! But already learning the art of manipulation.

What has been your experience with manipulation? What suggestions do you have?

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