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to teach my kids about very superficial, charming, borderline abusive people?

(39 Posts)
Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 19:04:45

I feel like I've almost had enough of reading the threads on MN where men are clearly manipulating and emotionally abusing women, and parents have such a hold over their children that they can basically do whatever the chuffing bollocks they like to them, and where so-called friends just keep on using people time after time. It's hard to read these things repeatedly.

My son is 8. He has a friend who is already showing signs of behaving like a user. Everyone "likes" him, wants to like him, and he has clearly got used to being able to say whatever the hell he likes to them (and take what he likes), causing anguish and strife, but at the same time they gravitate to him. After an incident yesterday, I sat ds down and gently warned him that some people seem to have a kind of power over others, and that the best thing to do is to RUN A MILE and stop caring what they think. I gave examples from work, but I could have given examples from my friends, my family, from here.

I'm just fed up with it. What is wrong with us as a society that we don't DO something about these people? There's a group of people who are almost never told their behaviour is appalling. We're all guilty of it I bet, I know I am: not speaking out when these turds abuse us. The trouble is when it happens to us, we're too involved to see it. We can usually spot it from outside though.

We teach out kids how to stay physically safe, but we're not so good at teaching them how to stay emotionally safe, and how to spot charming, manipulative people who will end up taking and abusing. Why not?!

aldiwhore Fri 16-Sep-11 19:13:55

YANBU but be gentle, don't make him hate the world (yet).

My eldest is very sensitive, he NEEDED a gentle chat about the harsher realities of life and how to deal with them, so with every warning/negative I try and give a positve so at least he has balance. He needs to be warned though, last year he had some awful trouble with a little shit oppressive child and my son was putting more effort into being liked by HIM than with those who really liked him for him and who he really liked. He needed 'arming' to stop him being used.

I didn't wish to kill his childhood though, or make choices for him, so we had many a discussion about society in general, relationships etc etc ., including the wonderful stuff.

GetAwayFromHerYouBitch Fri 16-Sep-11 19:19:40

Oh, I do agree with you. These children pull the wool over adults eyes even in school, as they do their dirty work quietly. in the playground.

At around 8 I started to talk to my sons about evaluating how other people relate t them, whether how they behave is kind, or not kind, regardless of whether other children seem to notice or not.

LadyBeagleEyes Fri 16-Sep-11 19:24:28

Good post OP.
I've had many conversations over the years with my ds telling him that the popular kids are not neccessarily the best kids to make friends with.
He's a confident 16 year old now with a lovely circle of friends.

sloggies Fri 16-Sep-11 19:26:04

I agree, and sometimes its 'the elephant in the room' we're not allowed to talk about, particularly when it's an adult, especially within the family. Needs to be gently challenged I say. Aldi makes good points.

marriedinwhite Fri 16-Sep-11 19:30:19

yanbu - totally agree - odd isn't it, the power such nasty types seem to hold over others and the fact that others do gravitate to them. All very Goldingesque.

Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 19:35:30

No intention of making him hate the world! I am careful to tell him (and dd when her time comes) what makes a person a good friend and how to be a good friend.

I think part of the problem is that of course we teach forgiveness, tolerance and also, how to smooth things over and aplogise, from a really, really ridiculously early age, to keep people from thinking our kids are little shits. The kids have no chance but to become used to saying sorry even if they don't understand the effect it has when they do. Once in a while we should be teaching them to speak out, be responsible but not apologetic for hitting a nasty kid or not sharing with a pesterer.

It pains me to see how many of us have to deal with a charming manipulator. I grew up with one and now I'm outside it I can see the pattern. (Everyone loves him of course.) Two of my friends are married to men who are universally idolised, but scratch the surface, and my GOD it's not nice.

I think we need some rules. Is there a book? What about a book for kids?

Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 19:36:59

I mean we teach forgiveness and tolerance as a kind of default position (especially to girls). We should be more sophisticated. I don't mean we shouldn't bother!

aldiwhore Fri 16-Sep-11 19:39:06

There should be a book for kids really shouldn't there? But no one wants to demonise any child.

I'm SO glad that my eldest isn't into football because the boy who caused him trouble is mad on it and plays it every playtime, so fortunately there is a natural separation. But he used to be SO MEAN!! He still is actually, just not to my son anymore.

Sleepglorioussleep Fri 16-Sep-11 19:40:27

Oh no, I'm about to have a paranoid moment. How would I know if dd was this type of charming manipulator and not just a popular child? I am nervous because she is nearly 6 and seems to like to share other people's things more than her own and to encourage people to play her games on her terms. So is this normal and if not how do I help her?

sue52 Fri 16-Sep-11 19:41:46

I know exactly what you mean. There is one of those in every classroom and office. I think with maturity you can learn to recognise them, however it's very difficult to teach a child how to cope.

Ifancyashandy Fri 16-Sep-11 19:41:55

I do agree but like others suggest, exercise some caution and include the fact that people can change....

I knew a girl at infant school and we were great friends. I then moved to a different Junior school. Fast forward to Secondary and we were both at the same one again. She was 'alpha'; pretty, confident and popular. I was desperate to be her friend again. She was less so. Teased me, belittled me and made me feel shit. Which made me more desperate (although I appreciate this had something to do with me and my - then unknown - issues).

Fast forward another 20 years and we are good friends, albeit ones who only see each other now and then due to work, family, life.

Point is, she is now lovely! Empathetic, kind, funny, non judgemental and a good friend.

So yes, gently prepare and arm him - but also say it's worth remembering that can people grow up to be a different person.

Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 19:45:33

I know it's such a fine line.
I am sure this kid's parents don't think he's a manipulative little shit with megalomaniac tendencies who will undoubtedly end up emotionally abusing his wife and daughters... <rolls eyes at self>
I don't know, I think it is good not just to teach kids how to be sweet and appeasing but also scrupulously FAIR and to stand up to unfairness.

Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 19:48:15

Ifancyashandy I have come to realise over say the past ten years that I don't in fact feel that it's all right to give the people you describe a chance. It's great that your friend changed but you have to recognise that that's maybe quite a rare case.

Mostly, people by their mid to late teens are who they are for life, with a few bits of fine tuning which come with life experience.

OddBoots Fri 16-Sep-11 19:51:43

As far as books go I have found 'Bullies, Big-Mouths and So-called Friends' to cover this kind of stuff in a child friendly way.

afussyphase Fri 16-Sep-11 19:51:55

I think it's a great idea to teach kids more about these issues and it would probably help with bullying immensely. And it might inspire our children with more of a sense of justice, too. Have you seen this? They looked at a group of girls and their social dynamic and made a film. It was really interesting. I hope I can provide my girls with better tools than I had for coping with manipulators. I finally learned the hard way but I was in my mid 20s by then!

Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 19:52:32

And (sorry ifancyashandy I don't want to pick on you) I think the idea that 'everyone must always at every turn be given a second chance because that's what a good person does' is the dangerous idea that has got us into this mess (having said that I am happy for you that your friend got her act together).

Slambang Fri 16-Sep-11 19:53:15

Oh yes, so agree. Ds2 has suffered immensley at the hands of a charming manipulator who attracts adoration from less confident, less assertive boys only to pour scorn on one victim or another and encourage others to ostracize whoever is out of favour that week.

After the 3rd occasion when Mr Popular decided that ds2 was no longer allowed to associate with his elite group (after being so-called 'best friends' for 3 days) I ended up being pretty forthright with ds2 about Mr Popular's character. I pointed out how he had 'played' ds2 and others gaining sweets, gifts, being let in the lunch queue, endless invites etc along the way, not because everyone actually wanted to be his friend but because all the boys were so scared of not being his friend.

We now refer to him at home as Mr Popular (or Mr P) and ds2 has built the confidence to stick up for others who are currently suffering Mr P's treatment. It's bloody hard when you're only young to decide not to care about someone that everyone else seems to worship.

GetAwayFromHerYouBitch Fri 16-Sep-11 19:55:14

OddBoots - I like that book too.
afussy - I like the look of that.

Ifancyashandy Fri 16-Sep-11 20:00:30

See your point but I do think I would teach the 'see the best in people whilst ensuring you protect yourself' message.

Trippler Fri 16-Sep-11 20:28:25

I agree, I just think that it is sometimes hard to truly see the best in people and to confuse 'the superficial things which make me feel good' with 'the best' - not in your case maybe but in slambang's example.

I know someone who always talks about seeing the best in someone we both know. "He's really nice at heart" ok yes he is funny and flirty and he can be very kind but he also cruelly belittles people and we know he cheated on his wife - so what does she want to see that is nice? She likes it when he shines his light on her, he is really funny and it flatters her that he comes to her house for dinner. She manages to ignore two or three really quite big indicators of him not really being a very nice person at heart at all.

I think it's so common to do this (especially among women) and it worries me.

GetAwayFromHerYouBitch Fri 16-Sep-11 20:36:21

It's the old - "see how he treats waitresses" test

minimisschief Fri 16-Sep-11 21:01:16

To be honest the children would be learning this as they grow up through all the playground antics. You do not need to teach it because they learn it on their own.

AngryFeet Fri 16-Sep-11 21:11:21

Yes I know where you are coming from. DD is 7 and her best friend is a bit of a nasty sort sadly. Puts DD down a lot and makes nasty comments. DD loves her though so there is very little I can so apart from encourage other friendships in and out of school and tell her how good friends should act. She is so like me though, very shy and nervous and finds it hard to stand up for herself. I had a similar friend in primary school who was a great friend but she did take the mickey out of me a lot to get laughs which was not good for my self esteem. I chose to go to a different secondary school which was a very good move for me as I came out of my shell and was very popular in my set of friends. Like ifancy though we met up again in our teenage years and she had grown up a lot. She is still one of my best friends and actually one of the most thoughtful and selfless of all my friends as an adult. The good person was there all along underneath the stupid growing up crap which I guess is why I was friends with her in the first place smile

CactusRash Fri 16-Sep-11 21:18:31

Well no I don't agree. I think we need to teach hat to children because otherwise they pick different information on how to react from where ever and it won't always be appropriate.

I've just looked at the book OddBoots was talking about, looked at the pages on Amazon. Some of the 'stupid' advices given to children incl. 'Ignore it'. Well that's what I have been taught by my mum and it hasn't helped me all not the least in my marriage

I will be buying that book. If I can teach another way to my dcs, I will.

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