So, your child is a master munipulator? Isn’t it crazy that a 3-year-old (or 13-year-old) can be so skilled at this form of communication and at getting what they want?
Actually, it’s not so crazy. Because when you think about it, many children have adults in their lives who are modeling manipulation tactics all day long. Your 3-year-old was not born with this skill. He or she learned it from the adults in their life.
Bribery and threats are often used by parents or caregivers when they don’t have the ability to make their child do something. The use of threats and bribes in our parenting teaches our children the fine art of manipulation. Yes, using a threat or bribe with your child might get you what you want when you want it, but these tactics tend to backfire. After much experience and exposure, children learn to use threats and bribes to their benefit, which ultimately contributes to power struggles and can make parents feel like they have been backed into a corner.
So, what is a parent to do?
We suggest shifting your focus to controlling your own behavior and choices instead of theirs. Instead of telling them what they must do to earn a treat or avoid something uncomfortable, describe what you are willing to allow or provide and under what circumstances. But focusing on what you are willing to do or allow you end up sharing control with your child, which also invites cooperation. This is very different than using a threat or a bribe, which actually gives power and control over to your child.
The approach is simple. Decide what you will do and then follow through. If your child does not comply then they will learn from their choices. Here is what it might sound like:
Feel free to ___________ after you __________________.
Feel free to go outside to play once your lunchbox is unpacked. Or, Feel free to pick out a cookie after you have eaten your healthy foods.
I give/provide/loan/buy/etc. ______________ for boys/girls that _____________.
I read books to kids who have brushed their teeth and put on their PJs. Or, I will listen when your voice sounds like me.
You may ____________________ as long as _____________.
You may play at the playground as long as you use your hands safely with your friends. Or, You may play in the bathtub as long as the water stays in the tub.
This post was originally published at Grow Parenting