Tag Archives: manipulation

Communication

I’ve been keying in on the fact that my ex is not that great at communicating.  I’m not either, but I really believe I’m not as bad off in that department as he is.  Yep, I just said I’m better than him!

We had a discussion via text this morning, that although most people would consider mild – for us it was equivalent to a screaming match.  It was because I resisted the passive / aggressive and manipulative conversation style that we typically fall into when there is conflict.  Read here for more educated descriptions of the basic communication styles.

The gist of the disagreement was that he wanted me to do something that was inconvenient for me because it was also inconvenient for him.  But he did not want to say “no” so hinted at how difficult it would be for him.  He wanted me to take the hint (manipulation).  I wanted him to be more direct and say either “yes” or “no.”

In other words, I didn’t want to let him off easy like I have so many times before.  He’s done this to me too many times.  Forcing me to make a decision that is rightfully his to make (which it was in this case), just so he doesn’t have to feel like the bad guy.  And apparently that is very difficult for him because he DID back down and agree to do this thing.

I would have equally accepted a “no” answer, which I told him.  May not have been happy with it, but I would have gotten over it pretty quickly.

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Manipulation

I’ve written about this before, here, regarding my oldest son.  But it is clear where he gets this trait from, at least the majority of it anyway.  From his father.  No, I’m not perfect and I’m using this as a learning opportunity – not as a rag on the ex opportunity.

As a refresher, here’s the definition:

/məˈnipyəˌlāt/

Merriam Webster says that manipulation is “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

Here’s the situation:

Oldest son mows the yard for $5 with an extra $5 if he string trims.  It’s a BIG yard.  His dad comes bustling into the house yesterday afternoon after several days away and only seeing them for 5 minutes over the weekend.  He promptly tells oldest to get his shoes on because it is time to mow.  Oldest says he’s really not in the mood to mow.  Ex is clearly irritated and in a confrontational mood and says oldest cannot have computer for the night.  Ex knows that this is the way to get oldest son’s attention.  Oldest was willing to go without earning the $5 to $10, but was NOT expecting to have computer taken away.  Ex clearly did not want to mow the lawn either, but knew that it needed to be done.

What could happen differently?

In my humble (Ok – not so humble) opinion, ex would have had much more success if he had sat down and had a conversation for a few minutes and then gradually brought up that the lawn needed to be mowed.  But ex seemed to be in a hurry to get it done, which gave the impression that he didn’t really want to hang out.  As soon as oldest indicated his lack of desire to mow, in a very respectful way – mind you, ex chose not to show any empathy but instead went on the attack.  If he had shown a little empathy for oldest’s feelings, oldest most likely would have come around quickly and would not have been upset about the whole situation.

If by chance oldest did NOT come around as quickly as I suspect, ex could have given a reminder that the only way oldest earns the extra $5 to $10 is to mow the lawn.  I believe that the only cause for taking computer away would have been if oldest were disrespectful.  It felt like a manipulation tactic to me, more than skillful parenting.

Manipulation

/məˈnipyəˌlāt/

Merriam Webster says that manipulation is “to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one’s own advantage.”

My 12 year old son loves to manipulate me.  My husband is very aware of this, but I have not been a believer until yesterday.  I think that my mom saying that my son was manipulating me is what turned me into a full believer.  I was describing our horrible Tuesday morning when she observed that he was likely manipulating me.

Tuesday morning:

  • 12 yr old usually gets woken up by me at 6:20ish AM, but I needed to get him up at 6 AM.  A mere 20 minutes early.  Son whines and had several prompts to get busy doing his morning routine.  After it took 20 minutes to traverse from his bedroom to the kitchen to feed the cats, I lost it when he said, “I can’t.”  So I let him know that he lost his electronics for the day.  There were raised voices on both sides, him accusing me of hating him, him claiming that he was about to feed the cats, him wondering why he lost his electronics, and me telling him to just get dressed.  I really try not to raise my voice, but this kid is trying my patience lately.
  • We were finally able to make it into the car, where he proceeded to whine about having to go to a “program” for the summer.  Then he tells me more about the kid who is picking on him and telling him that he might as well just kill himself.  He’s in full meltdown mode now and wonders why I don’t care enough to help him.  But I think that in his mind, that help is in the form of me turning the car around and letting him play on his computer all day.  In my mind, I am helping him by taking him to his psychologist so that he can learn how to cope with life’s disappointments (like bullies and dealing with consequences grownups give him due to his behavior).  In a recent therapy session he indicated that he wouldn’t mind dying, but that he didn’t want to hurt himself.  I DO NOT want to be the parent that people talk about and say, “Well, why didn’t his mother help him?  Why didn’t she see that things were getting so bad and admit him to a hospital?”  Etc. etc. etc.  So I contacted hubby to get his opinion.  I was nearly ready to take this kid to the hospital and admit him (took him once before but they did not admit him).
  • Ultimately, I think that hubby made a really good call and urged me to take son to his program, tell the facilitator the name of the boy who has been bullying him, and request that the bully’s parents be notified.  The facilitators counciled the bully and plan to keep the two boys separated.

Back to manipulation.  I need to learn more about this, so as to be better prepared to defend against this evil tactic.  WebMD has an article regarding teens manipulating their parents.  I do believe I was victim of #2. Lying (his telling me that the kids were no longer picking on him), #3. Retaliation (he does NOT like to have his electronics taken away and retaliated by playing the innocent victim), 4. Emotional blackmail (we are ruining his life by limiting electronics time and making him go to his summer program, and why would I send him to a place where the people hurt him and EVERYONE hates him).

Tuesday evening my son sincerely apologized for his behavior from the morning.  He said that most of what he said was true, that he was being picked on and that a kid did tell him he should kill himself, but that he exaggerated because he was mad about needing to get up early and then losing his electronics.

Now that I recognize that he is manipulative and have a confession of sorts from him, I hope that I will be better able to cut him off at the pass when he tries this with me again.