Amanda’s mom couldn’t believe the incredibly hurtful words pouring out of her 13-year old daughter’s mouth.
“Mom, you’re so lame! You know almost NOTHING about contemporary American architecture!”
Mom could not resist the temptation to defend her delicate ego against such a hurtful accusation: “Amanda!” she gasped, “How could you say such a thing?! You know I have the Frank Lloyd Wright books on my nightstand! You know I study them carefully every night!”
Sound far-fetched? That’s because it is. The truth is that kids won’t accuse us of things we wouldn’t care to defend. When they want to argue, they tend to accuse adults of things that would be hurtful - if they were true:
“You don’t love me! You don’t care!”
“You’re not fair! You love _____ more than me!”
“You’re not nice (or cool) like [other adult]!” “You want to ruin my life!”
And so on. Wise parents recognize these manipulative words for what they are – tantalizing bait. They also realize the last thing they want to do is bite – and get hooked.
Many parents have had success with these tips for neutralizing kids’ attempts to start manipulative arguments:
- Recognize the hook. Instead of being genuine, manipulative bait often sounds like an accusation and can begin with ‘You always…’ ‘You NEVER …’ ‘Other kids…’ ‘Other parents don’t…’ ‘How come you always…’ ‘How come I always have to…’ You get the idea.
- Once you recognize what is happening, go ‘brain dead’ (don’t listen). Lest you be tempted to defend , refute or justify.
- Repeat a one-liner that implies ‘Nice try. I love you too much to fall for this.’ More and more parents are telling us they like to use a simple noise like “Mmm.”
- After a few repetitions (and often going for the most enticing bait statements such as ‘I hate you’), most kids will realize it’s not working and move on to something else. Thankfully, we can have a calm and productive discussion later. Next time a kid tries to hook you with an accusation, experiment with these ideas to resist the bait and remain a strong authority figure.
Remember, Love and Logic adults save discussions for when they are calm, productive and bait-free.
Thanks for reading and sharing!