A. If you think you are being manipulated, you probably are, and not only that, you probably already have been.

Trust your “parenting gut.” If you get an uneasy feeling about what is happening, that can be an indication that manipulation is going on. Some other ways to tell if teens are manipulating:

• Behavior does not match words

• Stories either don’t match what you know, keep changing, just don’t make sense, or some combination of these three indicators.

Here are some things you can do.

One of the very best defenses against manipulation is to let your “yes” mean “yes” and let your “no” mean “no.” If you say no at first, and your teen keeps asking you and then you give in and say yes, you have taught them that your no does not mean no. What makes it even worse is that you have taught them that no really means “I just haven’t bugged my parent enough to get to yes.” And each and every teen I have ever known is more than up to that challenge.

Another way to look at this is a concept I call “Concrete Parenting.” Have you ever walked through a concrete wall? Of course not. But what if one day you slipped and fell into a concrete wall and went through without any harm? Human nature would say that you would be much more likely to try it again. It’s the same way with parenting. If kids get it that trying to bug and manipulate you is like running into a concrete wall, eventually they are going to get tired of it and stop.

Let me make two predictions about what will happen as you try to change your responses to your daughter’s manipulation.

Prediction One: It won’t work. At least not at first. This is because for a while now, your daughter has had it made. She is not going to welcome any changes that you are making. She will try to get you to change back. So you have to resolve to remain firm.

Prediction Two: For a while, you will still get manipulated. Now you may not realize you have been manipulated but you will soon begin to notice while it is happening and be able to take corrective action. Eventually, you will see it coming, and be able to cut it off before it gets going. Instead of before, during and after, think of it as after, during and before.

Jeff Herring is a licensed marriage and family therapist.


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