Helping a Manipulative Teenager Without Reinforcing Behavior

Helping a Manipulative Teenager Without Reinforcing Behavior

The teenage years can often feel like an ongoing struggle between parents and their teens, especially as older adolescents feel a greater need for independence. However, instead of being openly defiant or honest about desires for personal autonomy, some teens decide that behaving manipulatively is the way to get what they want.

If you have been dealing with a defiant teen and need insights on how to parent a manipulative teen without reinforcing their behavior, your parent advocates here at Help Your Teen Now are here to assist.

Manipulative Behavior Comes From Need For Control

Sometimes, parents can end up reacting to manipulative behavior without considering why their teen is being manipulative. But the main drive behind manipulation is a desire for control.

For instance, say your teenage daughter wants to borrow your car to go on a date. However, she isn’t sure if she asks for the car that she will be guaranteed to get it. So, instead, your teen decides to lie and say that she needs the car to go study with a friend at the library to get a treat once they are done.

If you try to ask more about the supposed study session or challenge your teen’s statement, she would continue to manipulate the situation by acting offended that you would ask more. Your daughter could even push the manipulation further by pretending to back down but talk about how her grades will suffer if she has to stay home.

While not all acts of manipulation include direct lies, when someone is being manipulative, there is an aspect of untruth, as events, words, and actions are skewed to serve the manipulator’s purpose.

Ways To Address And Defuse A Manipulative Teen

If you have been struggling with a manipulative teenager and aren’t sure what to do to help your teen without playing into the manipulation, here are some ways you can address and defuse your manipulative teen.

Address the manipulation as it happens

Your teen will opt for manipulation tactics for as long as they think it will work on you. By addressing the manipulation as it happens, you can show your teen that their preferred method of control will not work.

It is best to point out manipulation in how it impacts you—i.e., “It hurts that you are lying to me, rather than trusting me with the truth”—rather than accusing your teen—i.e., “I can tell you are lying, what are you hiding from me?”

Keep conversations and interactions on-topic

A manipulative teen will often try to drag in other subjects to argue on or take other routes to attack and derail the conversation you are having with them.

Rather than play into this tactic, you can simply keep the conversation on topic by saying something like, “That’s not what we are talking about right now. We can talk later about it, but for now, let’s discuss [insert issue].”

Disengage from the interaction if needed

Sometimes, you need to take a step back from interacting with your manipulative teen, particularly if they are being emotionally or verbally abusive or threatening you. For your safety and the health of your relationship with your teen, it is essential that you take the space you need if your teen has become too much.

Stay confident in yourself

Manipulators will often degrade their targets, eroding their self-esteem, and cause the other person to doubt themselves. Your teen may not be completely aware that they are purposefully trying to destroy your confidence, but that is often the result.

To prevent the erosion of your confidence, do your best not to take your teen’s harsh and manipulative words to heart. A therapist can help you with specific strategies that can apply to your situation.

Attend family therapy together

If you have been struggling to have conversations with your teen without blow-ups, temper tantrums, and other manipulative tactics, attending family therapy as a group can help. As a trained third-party, the family therapist can help facilitate more effective conversations and air issues appropriately.

Consider therapeutic boarding school

Even with your best efforts, sometimes teens need further intervention than their parents can provide at home. In these cases, attendance at a therapeutic boarding school can make a significant difference.

At a therapeutic boarding school for troubled teens, your teen can attend regular therapy in a wholesome environment designed to help teens overcome a variety of struggles. In this environment, your teen will learn more appropriate coping methods to gain personal control and independence that doesn’t rely on maladaptive behaviors.

For more information on therapeutic boarding schools and other troubled teen program options, you can always contact us either through our form fill, email, or by phone. We are ready to help you find the best option to help your teen overcome their troubling behavior and progress into a happy and successful young adult.

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