Step Expose the Underlying Deception

Once you recognize your kid's manipulative tactics and underlying purpose, let him know you're onto him. As soon as you see him starting to be manipulative, stop him on the spot (and that means anywhere you are—in a restaurant, on a soccer field, in a supermarket, or in your family room). If he is agitated or losing control, do wait until he is calm enough to talk. For a younger kid, this might mean sitting him next to you for a brief period or putting him in a quiet area until he can settle down. For an older kid, ask him to go to his room a few minutes, or tell him you will wait in another room until he is in control. Only then should you confront your kid with his deception and your theory as to why he is using it. Use a calm, firm voice, and stick to the facts. Cut out judgments, lengthy sermons, and admonitions ("You keep this up, you'll end up in juvenile detention"): they are never helpful. Here are a few examples:

"I've noticed that every time it's your turn for sharing, you say you have a headache. Do you feel a little scared about talking in front of your class?" "I saw how you pulled that tantrum as soon as we got to the toy section and you saw those cars.You did the same thing with Dad last week."A young kid will not be able to explain, so just jump to the chase: "Throwing a fit to get what you want will not work." "Every time Mrs. Castro carpools, you can't seem to find your backpack so I end up driving you.What's going on so you don't want to be in Mrs. Castro's car?" "You've been pretending that you can't lift your toy box to that upper shelf. But I've seen you stand on a chair to get down that heavy box of video games. I don't want to hear any more about being so helpless." "Each time you get red-carded by the umpire for your poor sportsmanship, you blame someone else. How can your teammate be the cause of your tripping an opponent? You are responsible for your own actions, and you are the one getting red-carded."

A few words of caution: First, don't ask your kid to explain why he is deceptive. He honestly may not know.

Manipulators (especially younger ones) usually don't calculate their attitudes; they just respond to the situation. Older kids often act out of a habit that just kicks in automatically.Also, don't expect a profound ethical discussion to take place between the two of you. It would be nice, but chances are it won't happen.After all, you are confronting your kid about his devious, dishonest ways, so he is likely to be embarrassed, deny the charges, or flat-out refuse to listen.Your goal here is to have your kid hear you out and let him know in no uncertain terms that the attitude will not be tolerated. Do make sure other potential manipulated victims are aware of your kid's tactics and the new policy so you're on board together.

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