Her Behavior Isn’t Manipulation, It’s Survival!

It’s easy to view your child’s behavior, especially manipulation, as that of a rotten child. But there’s something deeper going on that is hard to see on the surface…

I press my fingers into the temples of my head because I’m so…unbelievably…done! (I just inserted the word “unbelievably” instead of the word floating around in my head in order to keep this post family friendly). I can’t take one more second of the manipulation…the lies…the conniving…the sneakiness!

It’s a mind-game of sorts. One that I’m on to and I don’t really understand the motive. “What are you getting from this?” I want to scream at the top of my lungs! “Are you not happy unless you are mind-twisting me (another softer word than the one in my head) into a complete frustrated puddle of a parent?

I want to run away. I want to send him to his room forever just so my mind can have a rest. I want to throw my hands up and conclude that this is the best it’s gonna get!

And then it hits me….this isn’t manipulation as it appears to be.

This is survival. This is, I’m afraid so I’m going to fight. This is, I’ve lost so deeply that all I know to do is work my charm to try and get something…anything…even if it’s not real.

This is, I’ll take any type of attention…even if it’s bad…to try and close the gapping wound on my heart.

This, my friends, is a child functioning from their brain stem…the place of survival…the place they’ve retreated to time and time again through the chronic trauma they’ve experienced.

This is not a bad kid behaving badly. That would be way-too-easy of a conclusion to make. This is way deeper. I’ve become convinced after 5 solid years of researching (what we like to call) trauma-induced behaviors, that behaviors in children who have come from hard places are almost entirely derived from trauma. Let’s put a number on it. 98%. I’ll leave 2% for developmental behavior.

When the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is damaged, logic and reasoning go out the door. When the amygdala (the mass of gray matter inside the cerebral hemisphere, responsible for important emotions, notably trust…safety…stability, you name it) has popped time and time again because of abuse…neglect…lack of felt safety…needs not being met…this child has not only retreated to the brain stem (survival mode) they’ve set up camp there.

And once they’ve done that, every single thought, emotion, reaction, behavior, and instinct come from that place of survival.

Your child…my child…and nearly every child from a hard place is behaving in a manipulative way because that’s where they are in their brain. And this can be the case for children who have been in your care for years, decades, or more. Ask me how I know!

A post like this still doesn’t take away the frustration, the mind game, the lies, the exhaustion you feel. But maybe this will help…. I know. I know what you are dealing with. I know how exhausted your brain must feel when you are constantly being lied to, or manipulated. Or receiving phone calls from a teacher, a coach, or a Sunday School teacher who feels manipulated.

So let me just say, I know. I know this is hard. Know that you’re not alone on this journey. And know that there’s hope.

If the words above do nothing else, let them at least give you a fresh perspective on your child. Let them sooth your wonderings of “Am I going crazy?” or “Am I just a bad mom or dad who spends all of my time frustrated with my child?” No, you’re not. You’re human with human emotions. And sometimes (let’s just be honest) we’re a hot freaking mess!

Hang in there friend. I’m cheering for you. Keep loving those precious ones deeply. I know it’s hard sometimes, but every now and then, when the manipulation is running at an all-time high, remind yourself of the place they’ve come from.

Question: Are you dealing with a manipulative child? What has your been your biggest frustration? Share your story with us… You can leave a comment by clicking here.

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