July 19, 2002
July 19, 2002

(This is #1 of a 2 part series.)
Teenager's game strategies must be understood in order to stop manipulation of the parents and to prevent the frustration that parents experience when dealing with their youth.

I have observed these patterns of behavior in teens. Moreover bright younger children can and may also be using these strategies:

1. Authority over you: Young children, especially, like to pit one parent against the other, and/or cite teachers, to manipulate the parent. A bright child as young as three is capable of twisting words and rules. As they grow older they might use laws to suit their purpose, such as holding CPS over the parents head for any perceived minor infringement. Parents’ not as well versed with the law cave in to these tactics which minimize their ability to require correct behavior. This is not what the State wishes to do. The State wants to protect youths from being criminally mistreated. Parents must be alert to manipulation strategies because it can cause arguments between them. Families that have Yours, Mine, and/or Ours offspring from different spouses are especially vulnerable to these tactics.

2. Wear you down: Every parent will identify with this behavior especially when exhausted, ill, or stressed. Refuse to hear it. Send them to their room with a promise that you will take it into consideration at another time. That statement in no way promises that they will get their way, but allows you time to consider what is the best approach to the problem. Even the very youngest infant senses your most stressed moments and will cry (if a few months old) or demand more attention (at walking and talking ages). Try to respond tenderly to the little ones, or if your patience is depleted, ask someone else to take over until you regain your composure.

3. Make you feel guilty: Children are very aware of what bothers you. For example; you left your spouse and they blame you. You blame yourself. Another form of guilt is feeling that you should give them more than you had as a child. Whatever the source of guilt, which allows your offspring to have special privileges, must be examined as such. Kids will use guilt by complaining that the kids down the block have more than they, and therefore create a wedge to pry more from you which is not in their best interests. Always keep in mind what your goals are for their character development. Go with those plans rather than the guilt ones. There are short term consequences and long terms ones. Keep the long term commitments to building their good character and morals in mind. The short term peace and quiet will become a sleeping monster if you do not.

4. Another variation of a kid laying a guilt trip is; “I hate you.” “I am going to run away.” They know you love them so they use these methods as a tool to gain the upper hand over the parent. Let them know that there are times when the behavior is unlovable. However you will always love them. In this manner the parent may insist on the corrective demands. If you find you are unable to pursue this action, then obtain counseling for your low self-esteem. It is damaging yourself and your children by allowing them to flaunt society’s rules.

5. Ignore your advice or instructions, rules,etc: This brings them negative attention. Regardless of the type of attention, they would rather have discipline than be totally ignored. Children are comfortable with boundaries. It creates a secure environment. Just as you check to make certain the door is locked at night, they also test to make certain that the rules are solid.

6. Distract you: When you are trying to speak to them about their incorrect acts they will knock something over, antagonize an animal or a younger sibling. Stop the action. Verbalize what they are doing. Return to the issue at hand.

7. Merry go round: This is similar to the distraction excepting that they verbally change the focus of the discussion by changing the subject therefore focusing on their wants rather than yours. To correct the behavior, follow the advice from #6.

8. Assuming control: They have taken over. Parents react explosively to this. Instead adults should quietly reclaim the issue and not be swayed from it.