How to protect our children from manipulation?

In courtesy of by David Castillo Dominici
Protect our Children from Emotional Manipualtion

With open, straight communication and with insight to what’s going on the surface and in the hidden level.

The 3 important points I can summarize in regards to the complex task are:

A: We must not use manipulative techniques to control our children’s behavior! We need to take responsibility for our words, actions, and requests!
 B: Raise awareness when manipulation happens.
 C: Help them with sorting out and getting rid of the imposed feeling of guilt, shame and anxiety.


In order to be able to perform these tasks, we need to be as clear as possible as to what constitutes manipulation.

The manipulator wants to control the target’s behavior by imposing guilt, shame or anxiety. S/he is doing it by referring some arbitrary rules on how good friends, children, and spouses behave. If the target does not behave that way, s/he faces the prospect of being labeled as a bad friend, bad child and has to be ashamed or worried about abandonment or rejection.

A/ Do we unconsciously manipulate them?

Most of us are sensitive to manipulation because this was the way we were socialized: “Good children listen to their parents.” In some cases the consequence is emotional withdrawal showing in facial expression, atmosphere, or silent treatment: “I don’t love you if you’re bad.” Big – big –big threat for the kids! ( Notice! What is good or bad is arbitrary and the rules change from situation to situation! It differs from family to family.)

Another situation: the children are tired, they are getting ready very slowly in the morning, and you are getting late. One seemingly innocent competition might resolve the problem for today: “Who will be ready first with getting dressed?” The kids begin to rush and compete with each other: you “won”. They’re ready just in time.

Did you really win? – You’ve just created a loser who is disappointed, desperate and maybe ashamed. Not to mention that the kids learned to dress  quickly in order to avoid being ashamed or worried from rejection (loss of love) and not because they realize that getting to school and work in time is the normal structure of time and  respectful behavior toward the others.

Don’t be mistaken! The two ends of the continuum are manipulation versus straight communication. If we are sensitive to manipulation, there is a good chance that in another situation we apply manipulation as well – maybe unconsciously, maybe because this comes first as a result of our upbringing.

From now on: no more “Shame on you!” No more threat.  No more silent treatment. No more emotion withdrawal.

What can we do instead? Taking responsibility for our will: “I want you to listen to me!” Be specific: “I want you to do the homework before you go playing.” Or:  “I’d like you to get ready as quickly as you can, because I don’t want to be late.”  We might give an explanation why it is important to us, we might weigh how much it is important to us, but sometimes it is not necessary. The main point: we want this to happen, not some extraterrestrial rules – what we are not responsible for – governing our household.

We are responsible for what we want, what we say and how we say it. Take this responsibility!

B/ Raising awareness.

The more I am aware of how manipulation works, the more I notice it happens. There is no way I would keep it secret. Whenever I feel someone wants to manipulate me or my children, I make it clear, and explain it to my children. However I try to keep the balance by not turning them against teachers who are controlling them with fear and shame.

I explain to them why I think scaring them with the difficulty of middle school is manipulation: the teacher wants them to learn and be compliant because of their fear of dropping behind, not being good enough. – I want them to learn because they are smart, because knowledge is good, because they like to learn. I want them to cooperate with the teacher because cooperation is the best way of getting along with our environment.

– Actually, we do the same: we want to motivate them to learn and cooperate. The difference is in the feelings the two method implicate. Manipulation causes guilt, shame, anxiety, encouragement triggers confidence.

I explain to them why the Fund Raisers coming home from school using children as sales force is manipulation – as I explained it in my previous Blog Entry.

Naturally, they are allowed to disagree, but still, this is my opinion.

C/ Helping them when someone else is manipulating them.

When I see that they are struggling with worries, guilt or shame, I talk about it with them. First I try to understand what they are going through. The best way of doing it is to acknowledge and accept the feeling that they are experiencing at the moment. Simple denial “No, you don’t have to worry!” – is not enough.

I help them to understand what’s going on in their mind and why. If it comes from someone else making them feeling guilty, ashamed or worry, I clarify it with them. The relief usually comes with the understanding: the other wanted me to feel this way because of this/her goal, not because I am truly slow, unlovable, dirty, lazy … kid.

Naturally if they need some intervention, I do it for them.

All in all: The best weapon against manipulation is open, straight communication.

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Children As Selling Point: Worst of the Worst of Manipulation

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Using children as Sales Force for extra large price margin goodies in the cover of Fund Raising: The Art of Manipulation

Some of you might denounce me as a selfish, insensitive grump for what I am saying. Even with that, my opinion stands firm: using children as the sale’s workforce is the worst of the worst of manipulation.

The Sport of Fund Raising

This is the hundredth time that “Cookie dough”, “Wrapping paper”, “Coffee” or other fundraising requests arrive from school.  Repeatedly I have these uneasy feelings; “They want to poke my eyes out…” indignation rising inside me. If I don’t buy: I am the bad (greedy, careless, selfish you name it) person. If I buy: I am the gull.

In the latest fund raising trick, the children are tempted: if they make 200 sales they can get an iPad or iNano. This is definitely teasing for them, but it made me think:

How did the adults – who offered the sales and the praise – think it would happen? How did the principal, the teachers and PTO – all of those who support the action – think it would happen?

After their busy days with school, sport, music lessons and church, in the evening occasionally in the dark, they go for a walkabout in the neighborhood and ring the doorbells of people. Most of them are nice, some of them not so much and some of them are outright criminals…

How many houses do they need to visit in order to sell 200 items? Ask a successful sales person how many more approaches they have to make for making one deal. Multiplied by 200 and we know how many doorbells they need to ring, how many strangers they need to talk to.

Naturally: most of the children won’t do a fraction of it, but will work hard to get themselves nothing. However, they generate good profit for the Company.  (Was it not called slavery?)

When I brought this up to the children, they answered that the parents are expected to help them make the sales mostly from relatives and friends. Really? It makes me outright mad when someone delegates assignment to me without my knowledge and agreement – and without any respect of my other duties and assignments.

Don’t take me wrong!  Fund Raising itself might be very nice and important. I have nothing against charity. However, I offer these conditions to consider:

Condition 1: it has to be straightforward. The requester asks for what they want from whom they want.

Condition 2: it has to be done by free choice. There should be no guilt, shame, or anxiety attached! Everybody has to decide freely when, how, to whom and in what form they want to contribute. They even have to feel free not to contribute as well.

Why do I feel odd when children approach me for funding their activities? I’ve never ever thought I should make others responsible for my children’s sport. If I can afford it, I do it happily; if I cannot, I take them to the playground (for hiking, swimming, running you name it) for free.

I can make a deal with my neighbors that I pay their children’s basketball and they pay my children’s horseback riding. How about that?

What makes me really mad is when someone reaches into my pocket with the hands of my children. Let’s face it: this is completely unacceptable.

The arguments

I/ “There is Fund for this or that.”

– My problem is that I have no oversight whatsoever what percentage of the profit goes to the Fund indeed, and what percentage the Company keeps from the extra-large price margin. I question whether the company is offering their product for charity if the price is so inflated. The company makes their usual profit in every sense of the word. In some cases the money that reaches the Fund is a fraction of the money collected.

II/  ”Fund Rising is designed to be a face-to-face learning experience…”

– Well, I think it’s a very mixed message what we teach. I ask for money for our football team, while I am selling cookie dough for triple the price… all contained in one sentence.  What we teach is: 1/Not being clear about our intention. 2/ Begging for money other than for basic needs. 3/Getting  more money from our pockets than the product actually is worth.  4/ We teach them to manipulate.

III/ “You don’t have to only if you want to.”

– If the papers are coming home all together with the homework assignments and teacher’s syllabuses requiring signing and collaborating; then the fund raiser is presented as the other expectations: needs to be fulfilled.  Or do they want me to ignore the other assignments as well?

Why is this manipulation?

Let’s summarize what we call manipulation:

The manipulator gets us doing something we don’t want to…

Do we want to buy that particular giftwrap, cookie dough, coffee and the like? Most of the time: no. We have our own brand, custom and place where we get them. The companies who are making the campaign want us to buy from them instead of their competitors.

By inducing guilt, shame anxiety…

How can they do it? They make a tie in: if I buy their products which are way more expensive than I normally do, they give the extra for something valuable. You don’t want to give for charity? Shame on you greedy person!

Then the extra twist comes: you don’t want to give to your neighbors’ children for extracurricular activity? – Even bigger shame on you!

What is the company truly giving? Nothing!!

The manipulator does not care about your interest.

It’s easy to find out. They don’t care if I have to do extra jobs, they don’t care if I draw my friend’s resentment for the terrible deal… They don’t care if my child walks into the arm of a pedophile… The only thing that matters is selling as much as possible and increasing their bottom line: it is all about profit!

Children as selling point

Instinctively, in every culture, children decrease the aggression and provoke nurturing.

Behavior ecologists made an odd comparison how different culture groups are greeting each other when a neighboring group arrives for a visit.  First there is a kind of intimidation: showcase of the weaponry, then disarming the enemy: display of the children.

If the culture is in the tribal level, the warriors flail their spears and scream and shout to scare the guests. If the culture is industrial, the weapon showcase might be a military parade or gun salute.

Repressing the uprising aggressive reaction of the visitors, tribal people bring forward and keep their children before them. Oftentimes we see lined up “pioneers” or school children in airports or in an official greeting ceremony!

It is innate, it is powerful, and it is unconscious.

This is why using children in a manipulative encounter is so powerful.

And this is why it is so immoral. Manipulation in itself is immoral, as there is no consideration of the target’s interest or rights. It is deceptive how it conceals its real intention while emphasizes the target’s false advantage. But in this case there is an extra twist in the manipulation: They are using our innate loving-caring reaction to children to tame our raising objection against pushing their unwanted products on us.

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When to express when to hide our feelings?

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Expressing or not expressing feelings?

Expressing  feelings in “Nonviolent Communication”

Whoever has heard about the nonviolent communication might remember the following points:

1: Observe what’s happening.

2: State the feeling that is generated as well as its underlying causes.

3: Identify the need behind the feeling

4: Request an action.

I am one of many therapists who often suggest this form of communication instead of name calling, judgment, threats and screaming matches. I do it because disagreements often derive from miscommunication, undistinguished desires, and unknown needs. Part of the nonviolent communication is talking about one’s feelings in the context of ‘me’ messages: “I feel abandoned, when…”“I become angry, if…” “I am frustrated, because…” By so doing, it is bringing our mental state to the knowledge of our partner.

This concept is based on that assumption that the conversationalists want to cooperate, they pay attention to each other’s feelings and mutually want to meet each other’s needs. In these circumstances knowing what feels good and what feels bad to the other improves the situation.

Communication with “manipulative people”

On the other hand, when we are faced with manipulative people, one of the teachings is: don’t tell the manipulator how you feel because it empowers them. Why and how?

Let’s look behind the curtain a little bit and see how manipulation works: they want you to do something that you don’t want to. They make you feel guilty, ashamed or anxious and show or tell you what to do in order to avoid these painful – and destructive – feelings. They don’t care about your will, they don’t care if you suffer or not. They care about one thing only: the outcome. This outcome must be in alignment with their needs and wants exclusively.

If s/he doesn’t care about your feelings, it is unnecessary to talk about them. But it is more than that: Consciously or unconsciously, s/he monitors your reaction. Throughout the process, they monitor how the persuasion process is moving forward. Whenever you show the sign of feeling uncomfortable from guilt, shame or anxiety, s/he knows the pressure has begun to establish traction and establish its effect. Furthermore, s/he knows just a bit more push and you’ll eventually cave in to his/her will.

Thus, it is forthright dangerous admitting that you suffer from guilt, shame anxiety – or insecurity, uncertainty as a consequence. This is the sign of you losing ground.

The best you can do in this situation to ask for some time out: go into your room, do the laundry, do some gardening work or go for a walk. Clean up your mind! It is imperative that you understand what makes you angry/sad/frustrated. Whose interest is it when you are “supposed to do” something? If your partner goes after his/her selfish goals regardless of your feelings, you don’t have to admit your feelings just resist the pressure and do what you want to do. If you need to communicate about it, you do it with the best possible composure and neutrality.

What does it look like in reality?

If your partner threatens you to do something otherwise…- you can answer with kind neutrality: “I don’t fulfill request told by yelling.” (Emotional message: I am not intimidated by your yelling.)

If your partner applies the silent treatment on you; you might say: “I see you don’t want to talk to me right now. I am going to my room to read. When you feel like talking to me again, you can tell me.” (Emotional message: I am not anxious about you not communicating with me.)

If your partner makes you feel guilty and pressures you to do or not to do something: don’t get involved. Don’t argue and respond in defense with something such as: “No, I’m not that kind of a person.” Bear it! Wear it! – Guilt is a very heavy feeling to withstand, but be sure it’s temporary. It’s “just a feeling” and it will not kill you. (On the contrary: if you always give in and do what others want you to; that is more dangerous for your health!) Acknowledge and empathize: “I am sorry you feel that way.” “I am sorry you think about me this way.” – and do what you would do without that pressure.

Expressing or not: what does it depend on?

If you know that your partner is a nice man/woman, s/he is able to and willing to compromise, if you don’t have to worry that the other would abuse the information you give him/her, you might want to disclose your true feelings.

If you suspect that the other does not fight fairly, if s/he is rather selfish in other aspects of life, if you feel like the other pursue controls rather than cooperates, you better make yourself aware about your emotions but keep the realization to yourself.

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Who Is Yelling Is Losing

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Who Is Yelling is Losing

Who is yelling is losing…


My aunt said this often to me.


The first time I heard it as a child, it sounded like utter nonsense. Adults who raised their voice seemed to be so big and powerful if not outright threatening. At the same time, there is some truth in it: they seem to be so nervous worrying about who will lose. If nothing else, they lose their mind!


Indeed. Truly strong people do not need to beef themselves up in order to make an effect on someone. They ask you to do something in a low voice and you have no doubt you have to comply.


Hysterical people often scream and shout about being right because they compensate their feeling of helplessness.


So, what’s the truth about this shouting business?


A raised voice definitely reveals tension. And where does the tension come from? Dissatisfaction. The feeling of:  “I cannot get what I want.” Here we are: who is shouting is losing: cannot get what s/he wants.


The tension can build up and drain off easily in an everyday argument and does not mean too much. It is useful to keep the expression in check in order not to hurt anybody’s feeling and the good connection with it.


People differ in temperament and in their ability to discipline themselves. Some are easily triggered by certain events while others keep cool even in stressful situations.


Expressing emotions or not expressing emotions?


In a normal situation, communicating our feelings helps to adjust ourselves to our surrounding. My affection will show what I like to do, which people and activity I like to spend my time. My negative emotions show who and what I don’t like. In a healthy environment and in normal development, family members respect each other’s likes and dislikes and behave accordingly.


Naturally, the way we show our emotions make a huge difference. Yelling and shouting is not just disrespectful, it reveals a low level of self-control, a less mature character.


Is the shouter a loser? To a certain degree; yes! His/her ego-development is at a lower level than of the others who are capable to control their emotions.


There is one situation when it is important to conceal our anger which is when we are faced with manipulators who want to get us doing what they want without any concern about our will. The key factor: they don’t respect our likes and dislikes therefor there is no reason to let them know about it.


Even more: we are helping them to reach their goal if we show them when we become uncertain about our next action by showing our frustration through our anger.


Let’s say; He wants me to pick up his mom from the airport. I don’t want to. He begins to apply pressure on me by referring to our friendship, then his busy schedule, then a past event when he helped me out (ten years ago, but since then I hear it back) and then a possible revenge if I don’t do this favor.


Notice: it’s about his mom, his schedule, his convenience – not my schedule, my time or my other duties…


I might try to ward off the responsibility with excuses, but for every excuse he has an argument. As the negotiation goes forward and I run out of excuses, I begin to lose ground. I get frustrated because I think I have no more points so I will say yes against my will. Shouting my next argument shows this inner conflict between yes and no. It gives a clue to him that he needs a few more attempts to win.


Again: My losing ground was revealed by yelling.


Thank you Auntie for your wisdom: since I know this I am armed against yelling. Right after the first wince I realize: He’s about to lose!




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If not with yelling; how can I get what I want?


 How can I talk to my partner about my problem?

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How do you know if someone is manipulating you?

Listen to your feelings!

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Manipulation? Listen to your feelings!

1/ What are you doing? – Whose interest does it serve: yours or others?

Are you doing what you prefer not to do? Are you on a mission by doing some favor for your family members, friends or acquaintances?

Yes? – You might be manipulated.


2/ What are you feeling while you’re doing it?

A.) “Happy. I enjoy doing it.”

Nope, you’re not manipulated.

B.) “I would rather do my own business.” “Why did I undertake that?” “What good is coming from this for me?” “I am being taken advantage of.” “Other people do this for good money.”

Yes? – You might be manipulated.


3.) Why did you decide to do it even though you did not want to?

A.) “Because it’s good (healthy, beneficial, pays off) FOR ME in the long run.”

Nope, you’re not manipulated.

B.) “Because otherwise s/he would think I am not good enough in some measure: not a good friend, not a good neighbor, not a good coworker, morally inferior, weak, sick, controlling or selfish. By avoiding these negative evaluations, I succumb and do what others expect me to do.

In other words, you try to avoid experiencing guilt, shame or anxiety.

Yes! – You might be manipulated!

Formula of manipulation:

1: You make effort for OTHER’S INTEREST, while
3: You do it against your will and interest because you want to avoid being labeled negative – feeling guilty, ashamed or worried by its implication.


If I boil it down completely, the formula is:

1: Whose interest?
2: Your feelings now?
3: Your feelings when you said yes.


If you do something that is in your interest and you sincerely want to do it as well as feeling OK about it: you do this from your will. Therefore, no manipulation is involved.

If you do something that you don’t want to, it is not in your best interest, especially when you feel exploited, or taken advantage of. You can be suspicious of manipulation.


Your feelings give you the first information. It might be hazy at the beginning but it says: It’s not OK. You might feel frustration, you might feel embarrassment, you might be angry. All of it comes with confusion, mostly because of the manipulator’s mixed messages: “I do it for you!” –   ”You misunderstand my motifs.”

Your manipulator wants to discredit your negative feelings in order to keep you in his/her track: “You are too sensitive!”” You are so selfish.” “You get angry so easily!” The goal of these interactions is making you believe that your feelings are not valid, not true, and lacking any base.

Don’t buy into it! Your feelings are your best friends! They are grounded to your physiology, you feel the adrenalin rush in your veins when you are scared: this makes you capable of fight or flight. You feel the serotonin-dopamine in your brain when you are happy.  This encourages you to maintain that state. Although subjective, your emotions are very real. Believe them! If you feel it is “Not OK!”, accept them and realize  it’s not OK for you! Figure out exactly what you feel and try to understand why you feel that way.


It sounds silly why you said yes if you really did not want to. Consequently, you end up suffering from it. Not so much! Don’t blame yourself! This is the well chosen motivation from the part of the manipulator: you wanted to avoid an even bigger threat: the terrifying emotions of guilt, shame and anxiety.

Examine the reason why you chose doing it in the first place.  If the person who asked it implied a judgment that people who are not behaving in a certain way are “xyz” (harsh judgment, even name calling), you probably tried to avoid being seen as a “xyz” whatever that might be.

This is the quintessence of manipulation: imposing guilt, shame or anxiety and show the way how to avoid it. The target of manipulation will act as s/he expected even if it’s inconvenient in order to avoid the “big threat”: feeling guilty, ashamed or worried.

Listen to your feelings and accompany them with rational understanding: this is the first step in disabling manipulation!

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