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I hate it when small children are called "manipulative"

(59 Posts)
emkana Sun 12-Jun-05 10:47:11

Was talking to a group of mums about an 18-month-old toddler who cries at night because he wants to get into his parents' bed. When they let him into their bed he's content and smiles and goes to sleep. All the mums were saying how "manipulative" this little one was and how he knew exactly how to get his own way and how you had to stamp down on this kind of behaviour etc.
Now I'm not saying everybody has to co-sleep - if you don't want to do it, fine. But it really gets to me when "evil" intentions are ascribed to a small child. This little boy loves his parents and wants to be close to them at night. Of course a child has to learn that they can't get their own way all the time, and every parent has their own feelings what is acceptable and what isn't.
I'm not making myself very clear here, does anybody understand what I'm saying?

compo Sun 12-Jun-05 10:48:02

I understand! I don't think at 18 months they know how to be manipulative fgs!!

colditz Sun 12-Jun-05 10:50:21

I agree with you, but I do think the word "manipulative" has been made a much stronger word, with unnecessary negative connotations. All the word means is "Able to manipulate" which is true of most small children. They have to be able to manipulate us, even if it is just with charm!

colditz Sun 12-Jun-05 10:51:59

What I mean is, they know how to behave to get their own way, but adults connect it to adult behavior, making it unacceptable, instead of accepting it as normal toddlerness.

colditz Sun 12-Jun-05 10:52:17

<<ramble, ramble>>

aloha Sun 12-Jun-05 11:04:48

totally agree emkana - i absolutely hate it too.

Mud Sun 12-Jun-05 11:08:33

but he is manipulating them into doing what he wants. what's 'evil' about using the word manipulative - it is exactly what he is doing. I want this I am going to cry and scream until you give me what I want

aloha Sun 12-Jun-05 11:18:27

He is expressing his desire for something in a very clear way. He is very small with limited understanding of what anyone else thinks. He has no ability to be cunning and evil. Manipulative is a very negative word, and implies a high level of cunning and a very strong understanding of someone else's thoughts and feelings so as to 'manipulate' them. Small children just don't have that ability.

aloha Sun 12-Jun-05 11:19:27

It's hardly manipulative to want to sleep with your parents. It may be undesirable to the parents - I wouldn't care for it myself - but I fail to see an 'manipulating' going on.

Mud Sun 12-Jun-05 11:22:23

small child wants something whether or not parents want the same. he is incapable of empathising with parents desires but is only concerned with own desires and wants. he has an end goal in mind and makes as much noise as possible to communicate (non-verbally) that he is upset/unhappy with current situation. as soon as parents give him what he wants he is quiet and content. and that isn't manipulating a situation?

basketcase Sun 12-Jun-05 11:30:32

I reckon it is about the terminology more than anything else. "Manipulation" sounds underhand, controlling, selfish etc. terms no-one would want to use to describe a young child. Fact is that young child quickly learns how to get around the lack of language to get their desires and needs across - such as crying. The adult is the one in the position to acknowledge the child’s needs/desires and do something about it - if they give in easily and allow the child what they want even if it doesn’t match up with the parents needs -that is the adults’ problem, not the child’s fault or problem fgs.
Personally - I think those mums were not trying to ascribe evil intentions, just talking about how hard it can be to deal with demanding children in the middle of the night when it feels like the child knows every emotional button to press to get their message across - but then I wasn’t there so could be readng it all wrong. Gonna butt out now!

aloha Sun 12-Jun-05 11:31:13

I'd say not manipulative at all. How can a straightforward expression of a desire be manipulative?
Say you are in a restaurant and you ask for a cup of tea. The waiter ignores you. You ask again more forcefully. You ask again until you get your cup of tea, sometimes getting quite cross, and then when the tea is finally brought, you don't ask again, but sit happily drinking your tea. Is that manipulative? I don't think so!
It might be manipulative if the child pretended to cry or be in pain in order to get what they want because that would show that they understood your thoughts and could manipulate them. Just as if you were in the cafe and pretended to have had your purse stolen and cry a lot in order to get a free cup of tea.

basketcase Sun 12-Jun-05 11:34:31

well put aloha - as ever, you have clarified it better than I ever could with my tons of waffle and brain fuddled nonsense.

aloha Sun 12-Jun-05 11:35:17

My real problem with the expression is that I think it affects how parents treat young children. ie a baby cries for food/a cuddle/reassurance - parent things, 'uh, oh, he's being manipulative - he's actively trying to make me feel guilty - so I must respond by stamping out this manipulative behaviour by not feeding/ cuddling/reassuring."

Mud Sun 12-Jun-05 11:36:52

ok so its about definition of the term then, I personally don't have the strong negative connotations when I use the word manipulate in terms of baby/toddler actions but can accept that others may

Mud Sun 12-Jun-05 11:38:09

x-posted with your last comment aloha and again I do not make that leap. I think s/he's being manipulative, how cute, lets give them what they want because they're my baby and I want them to be happy/content/secure

Issymum Sun 12-Jun-05 12:47:02

I''m not sure about small babies, but small children do manipulate e.g. DD2 (aged 2) wants an icecream, I say 'no', she tries whining, that doesn't work, she starts screaming and (and this is really important) constantly glances back at me to check my reaction. If I don't react, she quietly tails off and goes off to do something else. Of course she's trying to manipulate me where "manipulate" means control someone else's reactions through your own actions. However, I don't see "manipulative" in this context as having negative connotations since it's perfectly appropriate behaviour for a normal and well-adjusted 2 year old who is trying to work out how to control the world around her.

I should add that my favourite parenting book is "The Maniuplative Child" !

aloha Sun 12-Jun-05 17:16:22

Well I did specifically say that when children pretend to cry to get what they want it could well be manipulative (or persuasive or just plain clever) Issymum!
My problem is when the term is used to describe the actions of very little children who are simply asking - rather forcefully - for what they want.

edam Sun 12-Jun-05 17:26:32

Agree with Aloha - as usual . Seems wrong to describe very small children in such negative terms - although it's interesting to see that some people don't use the word in that sense, I've come across plenty of mothers who do and it makes me very uncomfortable.
Ds, nearly 2, is just starting to 'pretend' in order to get his own way - insisting he's filled his nappy when I'm trying to get him to bed, for instance. He's trying to get his own way, but it's not manipulative in the sense of being nasty and controlling.

NotQuiteCockney Sun 12-Jun-05 17:44:10

The thing is, if you're a grownup, and you can argue your corner, and you have rights, and control over significant parts of your life, then being manipulative isn't very nice (or necessary, generally).

If you're a child, of whatever age, manipulative behaviour is almost all you've got.

I'm not a fan of the term, because of its negative connotations. And in the original example, as everyone says, the child isn't being manipulative, s/he is asking for what she wants pretty clearly.

tigermoth Sun 12-Jun-05 17:46:16

very much agree with aloha's posts here.

Tortington Sun 12-Jun-05 18:02:33

but at 18months he clearly knows what floats his boat. he would rather sleep with parents than not.

thats like he would prolly like to eat chocolate than sprouts

both these situations the child is manipulating the situation for its own preference.

if the kid cried until it gets what it wants rather that what the parents think is thebest thing - then no way round it - its manipulative.

weesaidie Sun 12-Jun-05 18:03:35

Agree with aloha.

I have read that children are not really capable of being 'manipulative' until they are about 2. They are not getting upset because they know it will make you give in, they are getting upset because they are unhappy in a certain situation. Maybe it can appear manipulative but they have no idea what that even involves.

motherinferior Sun 12-Jun-05 18:25:46

It's 'naughty' that gets me. I think DD2 is just about working out the concept of being naughty, but she's nearly 2.

Tortington Sun 12-Jun-05 18:33:41

i agree with naughty - however i do believe that babies can manipulte a situation they do not feel comfortable in. however this may not be in their best interest.

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