Sunday, February 12, 2012


There's been a little discussion at a couple of blogs about what manipulation in these hurt kids looks like. To the unaccustomed onlooker it appears petty, but when you add up all the little angles multiplied by the sheer volume of the incidences you soon realize there is nothing petty about it at all. Everything is well calculated. So long as these children are allowed to work their little strategies progress in healing can't happen because they remain independent and rely heavily on manipulation to get what they want as well as to feel safe. It's their comfort zone.

I'm sure I hardly need to point out the spiritual lessons seen in this...  I guess you could say we are all at least a little bit manipulative in seeking to get our way with God and man. We have a great desire to be independent when our only salvation is in dependence on Christ.

Anyway, back to what manipulation looks like....

One of the things we see a lot here that one might not even notice on casual observation is they make statements that imply what they want but they won't come out and ask for it. Missy, in particular will go to great lengths to avoid asking.

I require direct communication. I don't want to promote beating around the bush and them thinking people will jump to their whim at a mere suggestion.

For instance this morning instead of asking for breakfast Missy stood by saying, "I did all my jobs".

I told her that was great.

She tried again, "I washed my hands".

I acknowledged that that was good.

She made several attempts in that direction. Vanessa and I were sitting across from each other with knowing smiles and we sort of discussed what was happening over  Missy's head with use of  sign and ambiguous words. Vanessa wavered and signed to the effect, "Maybe she isn't that smart."

I laughed. "You can bet your boots she knows exactly what she is doing."

Missy drew nearer. "I'm hungry."

"Really? So am I!!" and then to try and lighten the exchange I said, "Glad to meet you, hungry." She smiled.

She got even closer and pushed up against my shoulder. "I'm hungry!!!"

"I know, you told me. I am quite hungry myself, but what are you going to do about it?" (This probably wasn't the best thing to ask. I've gone and given her a clue of my expectations, and I'm prompting her to ask. She might then believe her words are having their intended effect and she's reeling me in?)

"Sit at the table?"

I looked at Vanessa and said, "It's amazing, isn't it? She'd rather hold off from what she needs and play this game."

I turned to Missy, "We know what is going on, sweety." (I messed up when I asked her what she was going to do about it, so I might as well be up front with her.)

She stands back and visibly weighs the matter. With great effort she finally pushes herself to ask, "Please, may I have something to eat?"

"Why of course, kiddo. Coming right up! I'm so glad you asked."

It's hard to be super consistent to respond just right. I miss the clues sometimes. Sometimes I push against the grain a little too hard.

There was a time I thought maybe I was being too hard and expecting too much, but do I really think it's fair that they will believe that we can read their minds? That speaking in clues and riddles is the way to go? If they can avoid direct conversation in little things, could they think that it's okay in the realm of repentance and apology, in the world of feelings and love. Could they live on the outside edge of reality always? We know it doesn't really work well in the real world.  I was encouraged that this isn't right in a few books I read, too.

It's sister to the manipulation we encounter often that says, "I don't know anything." James saw me take the cleaner out of the cupboard, but when I asked him to put it back for me, he went on a wild goose chase asking question after question, "Does it go downstairs on the dryer?" "Does it go in the hall closet?" etc.... all the while avoiding the cupboard he saw me take it out of. Avoiding truth. Avoiding reality.


Jenny said...

I agree! I have had the same type conversations at my house. We make them ask, not just try to get us to wait on them. My girls have improved a lot in this area. We often use the response, "Nice to meet you____, I am Mommy." They really don't like when we make them talk in complete LOGICAL sentences. Like your house, the older kids don't let them by either.

Jennifer P said...

Great example of a maddening behavior. Some days it's seem like their only goal is to drive us to distraction. Pointing out the spiritual lesson is always valid. I, for one, need to be reminded again and again.

Sophie said...

Jackson will do anything to avoid asking me directly. When he finally gives in and asks I tell him good job asking and have him ask a couple more times for practice.

Delaney, on the other hand, is very demanding and is very rude by telling me what to do all.the.time. No beating around the bush for her...because she knows just how to get me. I do.not. like to be told what to do, esp. by my children.

Both of them are manipulative, just in different ways. Keeps it very exciting around here. :)

Mama D.'s Dozen said...

Right. There. With. You.

:) :) :)