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The Top Three Ways Teens Manipulate Parents: Conclusion-Part V
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, January 31, 2009

The conclusion of our Five-part series: We continue with the last role-play from part IV.

The Top Three Ways Teens Manipulate Parents: Part I.

Approaches To Dealing With Teen Lying: Part II.

Guilting the Parent: Part III.

Doing Good Temporarily- Just to get privileges back- Part-IV

Teen: It’s like you’re giving me the bread, but you’re not giving me the peanut butter and jelly!
Me: I love it that you use analogies. You can really express yourself well. But look it- you find the peanut butter and Jelly yourself.
Teen: Where?
Me: Look inside.
Teen: When can I expect to have some of my privileges back?
Me: When we feel like we can start to trust you.
Teen: When is that and how can I get that trust?

Me: It would help if you took your recovery program seriously.
Teen: Then, if I start to go to meetings again, when can I expect to get back my privileges?
Me: When I feel like I can start trust you.
Teen: When is that?
Me: I don’t know but as long as I see you pushing like this, it makes me feel less and less like I can trust you.
Teen: What is that supposed to mean?
Me: Well, I don’t really think you feel any remorse for what you did.
Teen: I do. See, you just ALWAYS see the negative side of what I do. I could use more encouragement.
Me:Yes, I suppose you could use more support. You know, you could have killed someone through your drinking and driving…
Teen: I don't think so.
Me: ?So you think you can drive safe after drinking?

Teen: I wasn't that drunk, I could still drive.

Me: I'm glad you are telling the truth about how you feel about it. That's what I mean when I say you feel no remors. You don't think that what you did was that bad really.

Teen: [glaring again]

Me: Right now you could be in Jail for Manslaughter or Vehicular Homicide. If that happened you wouldn't be pushing us to restore your privileges when we’re not ready. Also, [holding up hand in the universal stop traffic sign] I would hope that you had started going to meetings not just because that’s the way to get your privileges back, but because you realized that you could have killed someone over a relapse. But you see, that’s not what’s happening here is it?
Teen: If you don’t give me something to work for then I’m just going to give up and go back to doing whatever I can get away with. You’re kinda forcing me to do that; you know that don’t you?
Me: Thank you.
Teen: For what?
Me: You just helped me understand why I’m having so much trouble feeling the trust thing come back.
Teen: Why [glaring]?
Me: Cause if you are that ready to go back to getting away with whatever, then you aren’t feeling any remorse. You’re just feeling –angry, angry with us, like you’re really the victim here.
Teen: I didn’t say that. You’re putting words in my mouth.
Me: And if you’re that ready to return to your old ways, then I have no business putting trust in you.
Teen: [Glares.]
Me: I just wanted to thank you for being honest and I don’t mean that in a facetious way. You don’t feel any remorse or guilt for drinking, for violating your contract with us, or for putting others at risk over your drinking and driving. You’re just feeling angry and you just want your privileges back, cause let’s face it- you had it made! We trusted you. We trusted you to drive. We trusted you to make good use of a cell phone. We trusted you to only contact peers that were on your approved contact list. We recognized the good things you had done and we rewarded you for it. But things have changed; we don’t feel that now, not me, and from what your mother tells me, not her either. So, you deal with that the best way you can. You have lost our trust. Deal with it.
Teen: [glaring]

Analysis: When something like the above happens, the tension is so thick that everyone is uncomfortable. Everyone wants the situation resolved and as quickly as possible. But consider this. Your teen wants it resolved even more than you do. Or at least that should be the way it is. After all, you still have your car, your cell phone, etc. Now is the time to make the impact that you have wanted to make. Now is not the time to go soft, for by doing that we allow ourselves to be manipulated once again.

We all want to make an impact. How do we know that our message is being heard by our teen? Sometimes, we know that they hear us because they glare at us. They threaten us. They guilt us. They give us the silent treatment. They yell at us. They are angry at us. So they hear us. Finally, they hear us. That's a start.

A few days later, after this teen got caught by his mother with yet another shady suspicious deal, he called me to say this:

Teen: Listen; I just wanted you to know. I found my Peanut Butter and Jelly.
Me: You did?
Teen: Yes, I was so stupid.
Me: What do you mean?
Teen: Well, I had everything. I had the car, the phone, and my mother’s trust. Now I’ve been treating her like sh&t and I’m not getting anywhere. I know how to build trust back; I’ve got to be the best kid I can be, like I used to be. Well, I’m going to show her and you that I can do that again. I’m going to go to meetings again because I know that’s where I need to be. Eventually, you guys will see that I can be trusted, and I’ll wait till you're both ready. I just wanted you to know, that I get it now and I’m going to showing you both that I’m really changing.
Me: OK, well thanks for telling me that. I’m really glad to hear that you are seeing things this way.

Me: OK, we’ll be in touch- you just keep it up then. Oh and what about that therapist you said you can’t talk to, you know they guy you don’t like?

Teen: I’m going to give him a chance. I think it’s more me- not him. I was just trying to control things.

Me: OK, call me soon and let me know how that is going.

Teen: OK, later.

Analysis: Has he changed now or has he just finally just figured out what we want to hear? Time will tell. It’s important what he says, but it’s much more important to see if can follow-through with all this.

I know for many readers, this may bring up more questions than answers. Everything in an interaction can’t be recorded in a role-play and there are different sides to consider. But always give importance to your gut feelings. I started to feel better about this young man after that last interaction because I think if he has figured out what we want to him to say at least he is hearing our message. And it is important that he says these things without pushing for privileges back. Now let’s see if he can follow-though with anything. So far, this story is still continuing...

To summarize: we know that the biggest thing teens do to manipulate us is to lie. And yet, we often fail to point out to them the biggest consequence for lying: even when you are telling the truth we will probably not believe you.

When lies fail the teen is likely to revert to the second most effective way to manipulate us: make us feel guilty. They know us and they know us well. Therefore, they can make us feel the guilt like nobody else. When we allow ouselves to succumb to the guilt we allow ouselves to be manipulated.

When guilting us fails to achieve the desired effect, teens tend to revert to the third most effective way to manipulate us. They do good for a while so as to make us belive that they have changed. Of course, some teen really do change and we feel guilty when we don't restore privileges right away. Once again, we allow ourselves to be manipulated when we restore privilges back to soon especially if they are pushing us to do so. This becomes a double problem because when we give in to soon they also learn that by nagging and pushing us we will falter and restore the privileges back even though we really don't feel like we can trust them.


Anonymous said...

Did someone from PSST hide in my living room and car to get this scenerio? I am so glad to see that I am not the only one who lived this and lived to tell about it! Thanks

Anonymous said...

I know a mother who needs this. She's going to throw bags and crates of thank yous for whoever writes this. 18 yr old boy, years of counseling, and nothing change. Its lie after lie and changes of strategies to manipulate anyone he can (i mean, ANYONE) to get what he wants and not have to take responsibility for anything. Ran away from home and expect his parents to pay for all cost while he's "moved out because his parents are just crazy". Complain about having to get a job, can't keep a job, complain about not being provided by the option to go to the best university while he skipped classes and failed multiple classes. Wants to get a scholarship but refuse to do research or apply... Mad because he can't get a $3000 worth of bass and amp because his parents had to pay lawyers to save his ass from jail after a night of illegal racing in 25mph limit neighborhood area where he drove 80mph.

Spoiled little brat.... who thinks he's smarter than the adults or anyone in the world.


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