verb (used with object)
1. to manage or influence skillfully.
2. to adapt or change to suit one’s purpose or advantage.
I manipulate my kids, especially my youngest two.
Why do I do this evil thing? Most likely it’s because, like the definition says, it suits my purpose.
I get it sounds selfish, but truly, when I consciously attempt to manipulate my kids, it’s out of love. The unconscious manipulations? That’s a different post entirely. When I act from a conscious place though, I do it to suit my needs and theirs. An adaptation or change to suit our mutual purpose and advantage. Too theoretical? Let me give you an example.
Here’s a manipulation I pull on my youngest kiddos every day about 12:15 pm. It’s how I get my two year old twins to walk themselves up our steps to their room at nap time. And it happens (knock on wood) without whining; with smiles on their little faces no less. Lest you think I’m bragging, let me remind you that I’m admitting to manipulation as the cause of this cooperation. Me manipulating my kids with a little game we like to call DORA AND DIEGO GO GUMMY-BEAR-VITAMIN-HUNTING… UPSTAIRS!
Catchy huh? Way catchier than the GET UP THOSE @#%! STAIRS RIGHT NOW! game we could be playing. More fun too.
A few months ago when my arms started giving out to the seventy pound plus challenge of carrying my duo up our stairs (usually at the same time…) and well after the GET UP THOSE @#%! STAIRS RIGHT NOW! game failed to motivate, (imagine that) I resorted to outright manipulation instead. And it worked. So much so that today as my kids marched their happy though tired little selves up the stairs, I realized, I have a MORAL OBLIGATION to share my dirty little secret with you.
Here’s a break down of my evil game, step by step, in case you want to play it too:
Step 1: When I notice it’s getting to be that (blessed) time for naps, I secretly grab two gummy vitamins from the kitchen cabinet. Hiding them in my hand, I say with much excitement, “Hey guys. It’s time to find the vitamins!”
Step 2: Next, I just stand back and watch in awe as my kids shift from whatever they were doing and begin pretending they are great VITAMIN HUNTERS.
Step 3: Next, I get silly along with them. We are Dora (my daughter), Diego (my son) and Boots (yeah, that’s me) on a GREAT adventure to FIND THE VITAMINS.
Step 4: You guessed it. The vitamins are ALWAYS found at the top of our steps (go figure?) so that is where we three head. Two year olds are a quick study. It took them all of a day to figure that’s where the gummies tend to magically appear. Now, two months later, they practically trip over each other to get up the steps and find them.
Step 5: Now upstairs, that much clower to nap time, I do a little happy dance inside… and ensure each of my brave explorers has found one of the two prized gummies I secretly hid just before they got there, at the top of our steps.
Step 6: Finally, I corral them into their room with a few good books and the promise of “bita” (their word for nursing.) After books, bita and kisses, I tuck them in their cribs and shut the door. Sleep is ours!!!
With every successfully-inspired-to-walk-up-the-steps-on-their-own passing day, I give thanks for the powers this latest ritual of ours (created out of sheer exhaustion) has over my kids. But as any good super hero would tell you (…I’m picturing Wonder Woman) with this awesome power comes responsibility .
We as parents can cross a line and take manipulation to an evil end. But we can also use our powers of persuasion to cause our kids to “do” for us in a way that benefits all. There is no shame in this sort of manipulation. In the short term, it has our kids behaving and doing the things we are wanting/needing. And in the long run, this creative approach can inspire us to grow closer together rather than further apart.
If you find yourself in a near daily battle around an ordinary, every day part of life with your child, like getting dressed, brushing teeth, picking up… or walking up the stairs, it just might be time for you to start manipulating your kids too. What one thing is consistently a challenge in your home? What do you do with your kids that has you feeling like a super hero? And most importantly… which super hero?
Suzanne Tucker aka Zen Mommy hopes if you liked this article you will subscribe and/or join other mindful mamas here. To keep the lights on, Suzanne runs a holistic health center in St. Louis, Missouri with her husband Shawn. She is passionate about the connection we are and to that end offers Infant Massage, parent coaching and YogaParenting.