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"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Idea: Manny the Manipulator
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Ken and I have been talking about having one place where you can go to see all the manipulative techniques that our kids use. This could be ongoing, and we can start now by collecting comments from readers. What great diversions and power-plays do your teens throw at you? We thought about calling this one Manny the Manipulator...

We thought that we can divide these into types or categories (like power plays or pushing limits) under which there will be many variations. Ken's thinking is we can end up with something like "If your teen says this ____; you can reply with ______. "
Of course, a lot of the time, we are just recommending that the reply is a power word such as "nevertheless" or "regardless," but not all the time. Rather than just becoming robot responders, we can throw in an empathic statement along with the power word, or if the manipulation opens the door to one of our talking points, then we can respond with something like, "that is a really good question" OR "I'm so glad you brought that up. "

Also, some particular things that teens say might call for very specific responses, such as a suicidal threat. We never want to treat a suicidal threat as a mere manipulation, because we know that teens who threaten suicide, and who do not really seem to be trying very hard to carry out that threat, actually do kill themselves. Therefore, all threats to hurt themselves or to hurt others should be taken seriously and the teen should be taken to an ER at a local hospital or at WPIC for evaluation. In an emergency, 911 should be called. Oddly enough, once the teen knows that this is your standard response, they are less likely to use this threat as a manipulative ploy.

The first category of manipulations that I am thinking of is when the teen tries to turn things back on the parent. For example:

Manny: You always let (insert name of older sibling) stay out till one, why can't I stay out that late?
Manny: You lie all the time! I could never trust you!
Manny: You have a drink or two every night, why can't i smoke weed?
Manny: You only want me to stay home because you have no life, and no friends! You want me to be a looser like you are!
Manny: You are so uncool. You don't know anything about kids today Mom. I have to tell you everything.
Manny: You need to wear better clothes. Throw those rags away! I'll tell you what to wear, gee you don't know anything- do you!
Manny: You don't know anything about recovery or about drug addiction, do you? Don't tell me I need to call my sponsor when you never had a sponsor and you don't know squat.
Manny: You always need to call my Probation Officer. You can't just be a parent and handle me. Why can't you just be my mom and we can handle it instead of always calling my PO and whining about me. You need to grow up and be a mom! That PO ain't my Daddy!
Manny: You're just jealous because I HAVE friends!
Manny: You're trying to work my program for me!
Manny: You are so negative! All you do is bytch at me! Can't you say anything good? What about all those days that I didn't get high? All I hear about is the stuff I do wrong!
Manny: You put me in this place. It's cause you don't want me at home! Now you can just be with your boyfriend; that's why you got rid of me!

This is just a few of the one's where the "Teen Turns Things Back On The Parent." This is just to start us off. There are so many of these both in this category and in other categories. Other categories might include, "Turning Parent against Parent, PO, Teacher, Counselor, or Rehab," "Getting loud and having a tantrum," "Threatening (such as 'I am going out anyway')," "Badgering (where any thing is thown out until the parent just caves in), and other categories as well. I realize that some of these overlap. We want this to end up being comprehensive, so we really need help to gather them all up- so please leave some comments here. Eventually, we think we might devote a dedicated space on the web site to these so that parents can see the manipulations and possible answers to them.


Anonymous said...

Great idea Ken & Lloyd! You two are the best!
Hopefully, parents will take advantage of this chance to share their experiences. We can all learn from each other.

I would like to share a positive experience.

Everyday I remember to tell my son how proud of him I am. Whether I say this in person or send him a text message, I do this every single day!! He thanks me and responds with "I am not going to use anything today". I thank him in return.

It is easy to forget the struggle our kids deal with while in recovery. Recovery from heroin is no simple task. It takes determination and courage to fight this horrible disease.

My son has manipulated me in the past- plenty of times. Today, he is working a strong program. So, I thought I would share a simple but powerful exchange of words that my son & I share. It works for US!!!!

Anonymous said...

Power Play manipulations

Music management - rap music on the car radio

Positioning - I'll go if I can sight up front, I get car sick in the back.

Servitude - can you make me something to eat.

Anonymous said...

Voice Manipulation
-Threatening tone
-Commands like "Shut up" or "get out of my room"
-dismissive tone - "...what ever..."

it is easy to let just ignore these and let them ride but I htink it empowers them if you don't challenge these subtle manipulations

Anonymous said...

My 17 year old daughter (non addict) tries to manipulate me. I have caught her drinking before. After my husband & I decide what the consequences will be- usually we ground her & take her cell phone away. I have learned from experience not to rattle off the consequences when I am mad or in the heat of the moment. Telling her she is grounded for a year is something I know I won't follow through with. I need to say what I mean & mean what I say.

Anyway, following are examples of her attempt to manipulate me after I have caught her drinking:

Daughter: I was only drinking. I'm sure you drank when you were a teenager.
Me: Regardless, it is illegal.

Daughter: It's not like I'm gonna do heroin. Just because Eric's a heroin addict doesn't mean I will. You are totally over reacting.
Me: Regardless of Eric's situation, you have broken the law & our house rules.

Daughter: I can't believe you read my text messages. That is total bull sh**. You have no right to do that.
Me: As long as I pay the bill for your cell phone I have the right.

Daughter: Well, do you read (younger sister's) text messages?
Me: She has not given me reason to yet.

Daughter: You can ground me all you want, it doesn't do anything.
Me: Grounding you gives me peace of mind.

Lloyd Woodward said...

Those are great examples. Here are two that I've seen lately.

Son: I guess staying clean did me a lot of good! (said one-week out of rehab) I got screwed anyway. I got sanctioned by my PO, so why did I bother to stay clean- it doesn't matter!

Mom: Nevertheless, you know you were not allowed to hang out with Johnny. You just signed the paper two days ago- and then running away like that wasn't good either.

Son: I would never have run if Dad hadn't yelled at me. He had me thinking the swat team was gonna be here in a minute to take me to jail!

Mom: Regardless, you have a sanction now- and blaming others for it does not help.

Son: I'm not blaming him, I'm just saying that he is so negative everytime he talks to me that I just hate it- that's why I ran away!

Mom: Nevertheless, take responsiblity for your actions- blaming your father does not help.

The "why did I even bother to stay clean" is a smoke screen- he knows that his consequences for relapse would have been greater. He wanted people to back off and say, "Gee, he did stay clean, didn't he? Ok, we'll give you another chance" (meaning no consequences).

Blaming Dad is two manipulative things rolled into one. It is the generic "Blaming of Others," or playing the "Victim." However, it is also the "Divide and Conqueor Strategy."

Right now Dad is an important part of the team. He is big on accountability. If the Son can have his father discounted, then we loose a guy on our team. Father is not perfect. None of us are, but the Son gets way too much power almost immediatley if he can get the Mom and the PO to allow Son to blame Dad for running away. Dad stays on this team.


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