We have a good family life and two great kids – but recently things have changed as they have now reached their teens. I feel I’m being manipulated by them. How can I regain the control I had?
The teenage years can prove tricky for everyone involved. Your children are not yet adults, but obviously are no longer kids; they’re still a ‘work in progress’. They want what they want, and are willing to test how far they can go to get it.
The key for the parent of the teen is to somehow harness this energy and channel it towards a more harmonious and rewarding future for all. That you have two teens means there could also be a power struggle within a power struggle going on – double the trouble. If you then intensify your parenting response, become angry and take the bait, the endless cycle of you being manipulated, them being in control, and a sense of family struggle continues.
Now, let’s look at it from their perspective; they believe it’s their right to make demands of you and expect their demands to be met. Your role is to not rise to the challenge, stay in control and not become agitated by it. And, importantly, not give in to them.
You are naturally frustrated by your teens’ manipulative attempts to always get their own way. It’s not easy to remain calm when anyone is pushing you around, so we must ask ourselves, why are we letting our own kids do it? Maybe when we feel disrespect, we’re hurt, and we withdraw and capitulate. Or possibly we want to avoid conflict at any cost.
Take a closer look at what’s going on. You’ll see they can only manipulate you because you’ve allowed this behaviour to become so effective for them. You’ll discover that they’ve learned emotional techniques such as lying, tantrums, relentlessly negotiating and dividing and conquering, all so they can get what they want. And they discover it works.
Learn to recognise these signs of manipulative behaviour and understand your own trigger points.
Your response might be anger or giving in. Once you know what your triggers are, I recommend writing them down. You can then work to alter your response to a trigger event/comment. This way you are able to manage conflict without an obvious display of emotion. So, when a yelling teen states, ‘you don’t even care about me,’ do not to take this to heart but reply: ‘I understand you’re feeling angry with me, but you do need to do your studies now.’
I have another rule. Never let them off the hook for bad behaviour. You can let the game flow and then go back and deal with a misdemeanour.
Please don’t forget that they’re not always manipulating you or a situation. When they ask for what they genuinely require you must listen. Give all requests the consideration they warrant.
Finally, not always getting what we want is a good life-lesson for them to discover. It reflects the real adult world they’re transitioning into.
Russell Hemmings is a life coach and cognitive behavioural hypnotherapist, and author of The Mind Diet and Active Positive Parenting. Contact Russell on 055 286 7275 or russellhemmings.co.uk.