Dealing with the manipulative child

Dennis and Barb Rainey wrote a helpful piece about dealing with “your teen and sneaky deceit.”

The scene they described will sound painfully familiar to some parents. But it will only help parents who arehonest enough to admit that they are being taken by a slick kid.

The parent who always blames herself or is in denial about the deceitfulness of her child is not likely to benefit from wise counsel.

The parent who is unwilling to restrain the strong willed tendencies of a child who wants his own way will find reasons to avoid the counsel.

The Raineys invite us to consider the child who will take advantage of you in any way he can to get to do what he wants. “Just when you think you’ve told him what is expected of him, he comes back with statements like:

  • “I didn’t understand what you were saying. I thought you meant…”
  • “I forgot.”
  • “I didn’t hear you.”
  • “You didn’t say that.”

“The solid ground you thought you were standing on starts to shift, and as a parent you wind up thinking,’Was I unclear? What did I tell him, anyway?'”

Did you notice the evasive moves the teen makes in the statements above? Some kids know how to fast-talk a weak parent into seeing things their way.

Don’t treat it lightly if he shows a pattern of avoiding responsibility or shifting blame. Watch out if he’s always trying to talk you into a corner to get what he wants. Don’t let such a child control conversations or press you with questions. 

The deeper character issues behind these behaviors are a set-up for failure in life and in adult relationships. Son’t praise such disrespectful and controlling behavior by saying, “O he’s such a logical thinker.” or “He’s our little lawyer.”

If you don’t correct this behavior, when your child becomes an adult, he’ll will be in for a lot of conflict and trouble — unless, of course, he can continue to surround himself with people he can control; people who are willing to enable him. If you allow this kind of maneuvering and fast talk to manipulate you as a parent, you only participate in the demise of his future.

As the Raineys put it, “When you are an adult, you can pretend not to hear, but it will get you fired from a job.”

A few recommendations

1. Start by looking at your own tendencies as parents. Be very honest with yourselves. Do either of you have a tendency to be evasive or to twist the truth a little when you’re on the spot about forgetting to do something or being wrong about something? When confronted about something, do you have a habit of saying things like:

  • “I didn’t understand what you were saying. I thought you meant…”
  • “I forgot.”
  • “I didn’t hear you.”
  • “You didn’t say that.”

Are you the kind of wife who enables your a husband when he talks around things or doesn’t want to appear to be wrong? Then you’ll likely enable some of your children in the same behavior.

Parents must model the right responses for their children. Be honest with your mate if they tend to display the same behaviors you’re seeing in your son. Don’t claim to love your mate if you’re not being honest with him. 

2. Make you child hear the lines he uses. Restate what he says and then expose it for what it is. Let him clearly know that it just won’t work. Don’t allow him to put you on the defensive so that you start backpedaling. If necessary (as the Raineys suggest) write your expectations down so they can’t be debated. You must not allow him to think that evasiveness and manipulation will work.

3. Parent as a team. It’s disastrous when a father, for example, allows his son to talk wrongly about his mother or to repeatedly question his mother. If a son repeatedly responds this way, he doesn’t adequately respect or fear his father.  The father is not exercising sufficient authority. If you are not on the same page as parents, do your best to work this out privately. A unified parental front is important in developing good character in children.


  • Ps. 101:7 “No one who practices deceit shall dwell in my house; no one who utters lies shall continue before my eyes.”
  • Ps. 120:2 “Deliver me, O Lord, from lying lips, from a deceitful tongue.”
  • Ro. 16:8 “For such persons … by smooth talk and flattery .. deceive the hearts of the naive.”
  • Prov. 3:7-8 “Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the Lord and turn away from evil. It will be healing to your body, And refreshment to your bones.”
  • Prov. 8:13 “The fear of the Lord is to hate evil; Pride and ignorance and the evil way, And the perverted mouth, I hate” (Proverbs 8:13).

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another field worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Deception, Parenting, Parenting teens, Teenagers, Wisdom and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Dealing with the manipulative child

  1. Reblogged this on WisdomForLife and commented:

    Another one for parents.

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