When you live with a child that has Reactive Attachment Disorder, well let us be thorough, most mental health disorders, you learn to deal with manipulation.

What are manipulation when you are talking about a child? We will talk about 5 types, there are many, but these are the ones we are most familiar with.

  1. Child works parents against each other using he said/she said verbiage.
  2. Tears
  3. Anger/Tantrums
  4. Theft
  5. Inappropriate times.







He said/She said Manipulation:

In our family, David is well-versed in saying Mom said, or Dad said.  If Dad says no, he will run screaming to Mom.  If Mom says no, he knows better than to ask Dad.  The key to success in dealing with this type of situation is to ensure that Mom and Dad have basic rules set-up for confronting this behavior.  My wife and I decided after the first year of David doing this to us that we had enough.  We set basic limits, that we would adhere to.  Plus we set firm examples of things we would always say no to.  Before we set limits, we struggled with resentment.  Mom let David do this, or Dad let David do that.  When in actuality neither of us let him do anything.

Now with a child that doesn’t have mental health issues, you may experience manipulation, however, when the child has these additional blessings, things become more challenging exponentially.

[box type=”info” color=”yellow”]Set basic ground rules regarding what types of questions are automatic “no” answers. Also decide examples of “maybe” questions[/box]

[box type=”info” color=”red”] Communication. Don’t close down communication because you are frustrated with how things are going. Talk with your spouse to ensure you are both on the same page.[/box]

Manipulation through Tears:

This one is unique, at least in our household.  See David doesn’t feel sadness like most people.  He lacks empathy. He was born without it.  If he cries, it is because that is what his analysis of the situation tells him is appropriate as a response.  Sad isn’t it?

Yet, try as he might, he will attempt to use tears and “crying” to get what he wants.  I think that all children do this to some extent, but we didn’t experience it very much with our other 4 children.

[box type=”info”] Don’t let tears sway you. I know some families with the philosophy, “if it isn’t broken or bleeding, it doesn’t need tears.” Tears are not an advantage in our house. We know they aren’t real, so we remove them from the equation.[/box]

Manipulations through the use of Anger/Tantrums

A very popular tactic for David is throwing a tantrum.  The days are rare when we don’t have a tantrum.  Some days they may only last a few minutes, other days they may last for hours.  Each one is a cry for attention.  A cry for help and understanding.  In some cases, it is how he communicates his feelings.  He knows that no matter how rough the tantrum, no matter how loud the screams and other behaviors, we will still love him.

[box type=”info”] Tantrums won’t last forever. As long as the child isn’t in danger of hurting his or her self, let it ride. Same with other people, if there are other children present, separate them from the behavior. It is for safety more than anything. The words that you hear are only words. [/box]

Manipulation through Theft

“If you give me what I want, I will stop stealing all of the time.”

That is what David told us once.  See, he wants a cell phone in the worst way.  If he was responsible about it, I might consider getting him one, however…  In what way does stealing make another person want to give you things?  I have never understood that.  When I was a teen I stole things so that I could provide for my family it was a means to an end, and I didn’t feel good about it.  At any rate, we see this as just another form of attempted manipulation.

[box type=”info”] Know your child. Know hiding places. If we go to a store, we employ regular pat downs during the visit and upon checking out. We always pat him down before we go through the detectors at the entrance/exit.[/box]

Manipulation through Requests at Inappropriate Times

Manipulation can occur at what might be deemed inappropriate times.  When you are in the shower, sleeping, driving, talking on the telephone, or walking though a store.

David is good at this.  If he wants something, and you are on the telephone, he will become louder in his request, repeating the same thing over and over again until either he gets what he wants, or you end the phone call.  When he does this, we end the phone call early.  Most people understand when we say that we need to go.


What I have done is give you key examples of manipulation that we have experienced.  Examples of how our Reactive Attachment Disorder child uses those manipulation are provided.  This list is by no means all encompassing.  The examples that I have given are those that I consider light, or tame. There are occasions when David gets aggressive in his quest for what ever item he wants.

Manipulation can be controlled if you are aware of what your child is doing, recognize the behaviors for what they are, and take steps to alleviate them.

[box type=”info”] Develop a key word so that if your child really needs something while you are half awake, he/she can use the keyword to preface the question.[/box]

Of course, you will also learn to recognize when the behavior is a real need versus a manipulation.  We can’t tell you how to learn that, because every child is unique.

We would like to hear from our readers.  How does your child manipulate the situation or you to get what he/she wants?  What steps do you take to minimize how often this occurs?

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