Manipulative Children

As a teacher for almost twenty years, I was often surprised and distressed to hear my students complaining about their other teachers — actually undermining them in front of me, as if I was a co-conspirator, and would be entirely sympathetic to their complaints. Statements such as, “he’s unfair” or “my teacher is stupid and I don’t have to listen to her” were common themes, particularly when a student was doing poorly in a class. I knew, of course, that my name would be bandied about to other teachers and that if they could be so transparent in their ridicule of my peers, I too would be blamed for something. So, in an effort to save myself and my peers from embarrassment, I decided to have a meeting so we were all “on the same page”, and could share suggestions on how to deal with the situation.
If kids can undermine their teachers so easily, they can also do this with their parents — playing one against the other.
I’m suggesting that when one parent is undermined by a child to another parent, or a child gets a response he doesn’t like from a parent and manipulates the other one for a response he prefers, it’s time for both parents to sit down and get on the same page. It’s also time to give instructions so the child understands you are talking to each other, and working together as a unit.
Make sure your child understands that manipulation (and this is understood at an early age because kids have a sense when their parents aren’t in sync), and running from one parent to the other won’t work. You then need to hold your child accountable for maintaining the level of performance (per age capacity) you expect. As an example, you explain what chores need to be done before going out, or how to speak respectfully to you. Tell them what the rules are, and what consequences will be enacted for breaking the rules. Make sure your child knows how they are supposed to behave, and always take action with consequences. Have them repeat the rules and consequences if need be.
”If you disagree on consequences or how to discipline the child, never discuss it in front of the child, because in doing this, you hurt each other. It’s the same way that a parent or teacher can’t undermine the teacher’s authority without undermining their own later.”
The more a child undermines authority figures, the more he undermines your own authority.


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