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7 Signs Your Toddler is Manipulating YOU

November 8, 2011

Children start learning how to manipulate their parents when they’re mere infants, and by the time they’re toddlers, they really start to hone their manipulative skills. A baby quickly learns that crying gets attention and will figure out how to fake it in order to get more. As they grow older kids want to establish some control over their parents who are ultimately in charge. Unless they’re handled effectively, these power struggles can really get out of hand. Once children figure out how to manipulate their parents and get away with it, they can become little demons. Here are 7 signs your toddler is trying to manipulate you.

  1. Fake crying – As mentioned before, fake crying is the first method used by children to manipulate their parents. By the time they’re toddlers, parents should know the difference between real crying and the manipulative kind. If your toddler starts to cry or whine only when they know you’re within earshot, you’re being manipulated, especially if they follow you when you walk away.
  2. Screaming – Toddlers watch their parent’s reactions and will use whatever is effective. If screaming or throwing a tantrum gets their parents upset, they’ll keep trying it as long as it works. They soon figure out that screaming gets a much better reaction in public places than it does at home and will save their tantrums for just such occasions.
  3. Affection – These little darlings will also use affection to manipulate you if they can. Toddlers can use fake affection to get what they want, or if that doesn’t work, they’ll withhold affection. When your 2 year old comes over and gives you a big hug and a kiss for now reason, watch out, he’s probably up to something. If you say no and try to console him with a hug, he’s likely to push you away to get what he wants.
  4. Dueling parents – Another manipulation technique used by toddlers is pitting one parent against the other. If mommy says no, they’ll give daddy a try to get a different result. It’s very important that both parents remain consistent with each other, or the child will soon learn which one is likely to give in.
  5. Big deal – A good sign that your toddler is manipulating you is when she constantly makes a big deal out of little issues. If there’s a big battle over every day things like dressing, meals or bedtime, the child is trying to exert control. This can be very tiresome and kids will use this to their advantage to wear you down.
  6. Naughty on purpose – If your toddler does something he knows is naughty, chances are he’s trying to manipulate you. When you say no and he immediately dumps your plant out on the carpet, he’s out for revenge. He hopes you’ll live in dread of whatever he’ll do next time you defy him.
  7. Pouting – One of the most obvious methods of manipulation by toddlers is pouting. They’ll go off and sulk in an attempt to make you feel sorry for them. Don’t fall for it! This is the oldest trick in the book.

The important thing to remember about child manipulation is to never let it get you angry. Toddlers will attempt these different techniques in order to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Keep in mind that you are the adult in the situation and it’s up to you to handle yourself maturely. Don’t get into power struggles with your toddler or interpret their misbehavior as a personal attack on you. By consistently maintaining a cheerful firmness with your children, they will quickly learn that they can’t manipulate you.


8 Responses to 7 Signs Your Toddler is Manipulating YOU

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Cara says:

Awesome article – I think every parent can identify with at least a few of these, if not all of them!

Illiana says:

Ha, YEP! My little girl is a master fake crier. Too bad I can always tell when she’s doing it!

michael hill says:

My stepchildren often get up from bed, using every excuse in the world to keep coming out of bed. I get upset because my husband thinks is cute, and they are just doing it because is the kid thing to do. Sometimes they are almost a sleep, and he is the one to go in their room to stir them up. Often they throw their dirty clothes on the floor, even when I have placed a basket in their room so that will stop from happening. When I call their attention my husband thinks I’m mean to them, and he will often say it in front of the kids. Now I’m almost convinced they already Know how to use Dad against stepmom, I try to discuss this issues with my husband, but he says that he is not going to stop exercising his fatherly duty’s and I have to get used to it. Another concern of mine is their mother using one child’s Asthma condition to manipulate my husband, and in turn now I feel his son is starting to get a taste of this attention, and manipulating his father with any little symptoms. He seems to know, anything will attract attention, so he will often say his ear feels weird, he can’t breath out of his nostril, or his knee hurts. etc What can I do, or how can we approach this issues without neglecting the real issues. And how can I explain to my husband that after a certain time is not accceptable for the children who are 7 and 5 to be up late making noise. is 10:26 pm and I hear banging on the walls, giggling and other noises. My husband doesn’t understand that his children are playing us one against the other.

admin says:

That definitely sounds like a tough situation – I’ll reach out to some of our experts and see if I can find a good answer for you :)

I would leave him. I had a similar situation. If your husband is not open to change and cannot see that his kids are manipulating him, as well as his ex-wife, then it will always and forever be him and his kids, and ex against you. I hate to say this, but the fact that he’s “got to do his fatherly duties” is evidence that he’s not going to change anytime soon. Save yourself the grief and get out and get on with your life!

victoria says:

Thank you so much for showing all the ways that a child can manipulate the parent. Thanks to your comment I now know that my child is definately manipulating me and I have to put a stop to it. Hopefully by ignoring it, not giving in and not getting mad, this manipulation will stop.

Nicole says:

Thank you! The best article on the web about manipulative toddlers

John says:

Thanks. I’ve been telling my woman that her grandson was rather obviously manipulating her, and that she was feeding into it by constantly giving him excessive affection for his age. These signs you give are pretty much dead-on. Since she does not listen to me — and a man typically knows what’s good or bad in a boy better than a woman does, just as a woman recognizes good and bad in a girl better — I need all the printed material I can put in front of her on these things.