When a child misbehaves, he is not trying to manipulate the adult. Children are not manipulative by nature. A child who is misbehaving is not doing so with a goal of pushing the adult’s buttons but they are doing so because they lack certain skills to regulate their behavior.
I can’t believe how many times I hear comments from other parents and even adults with experience in the child care world that communicate to me that my children are smart at manipulating me. These comments always have the hidden judgment that I am a permissive parent. I am judged as a parent who is incapable of disciplining their children and showered with copious amounts of unsolicited advice about old school (and proven to fail) methods of discipline like punishments, consequences (same as punishments, just a better word), withholding love and attention from the child who misbehaves, rewards, etc., none of which make any sense to me because they don’t teach my child to regulate their behavior internally. All they teach them is a fear of disapproval which may make them stop that behavior temporarily, which in turn would make me look like a “good parent”, who is in full control of their child’s behavior. There is no effort whatsoever here in teaching my child to get in touch with the feelings inside them that caused them to misbehave in the first place and guiding them to be mindful of them without acting out. This will take longer to yield results and it is a LOT more work. The world needs to see the results immediately so of course, a parent who is committed to the long lasting results gets judged.
I will admit that some times these comments and judgments make me question my commitment to conscious, gentle and mindful parenting. But every time this happens, instead of staying angry and resentful at the people who put me in that spot, I reflect deeply on my own parenting beliefs, come up with a few more positive ideas to help my children with their struggles and help myself with my struggles as their parent. In this process, I sometimes discover new blind spots in my parenting. Addressing these blind spots would then help me bridge the gap between my intentions and my actions. I keep marching onward on this path that I chose with renewed energy and focus. I choose to practice respect, compassion, love and acceptance with every human being that I interact with, children as well as adults. With my children, I refuse to indulge in any behaviors that I wouldn’t indulge in while interacting with other adults in my life. Period.