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Manipulative Parents

on March 10, 2012

In previous blogs, I touched on the characteristics of victims that make us susceptible to emotional manipulation.  These characteristics add up to a lack of personal boundaries.  We’ve talked a bit about children and some of the manipulative tactics that they use, which are probably the ways that they can see to get their needs met.  But when they turn into a manipulator or a bully, it is a tragedy. 

Parents install our hot buttons. They know how hard to push them and pretty much what our reactions will be.  We were taught early on to love and honor our parents, (Ephesians 6:2) but some parents didn’t get the second part of the scripture.  It is, “Fathers provoke not your children to wrath.” (Ephesians 6:4).   We were also taught that parents have their child’s best interest in mind.  Unfortunately, some of us wake up and realize that their parent has only her/his gain in mind and the child’s insecurity is the vehicle to their goals.  Unfortunately, that the parent is manipulative is realized much later in life, after the damage is already done.

Manipulative parents are likely to twist words to elicit a response or reaction from the victimized child.  In such ways, the child is a puppet to the manipulative parent’s whims.  Some of the common traits of manipulative parents are as follows:

  • Behaving like victimized individuals whose world only consists of misery (I was in labor for twelve hours to give birth to you and you don’t appreciate what I’ve done for you).
  • Indirectly blaming their children for their condition (If I didn’t have you, I’d have done what I wanted to do).
  • Eliciting guilt via emotional blackmail (If you don’t want to do what I want you to do, then I guess you just don’t love me).
  • Exploiting weaknesses in children to make them feel guilty (You are so sensitive, we were just teasing.  You have never had a sense of humor).
  • Underlying aggressive personality, the traits of which are seen in the aforementioned manner (Coming out on top is of primary importance regardless of the harm inflicted on the child).
  • Interfering with every aspect of a child’s life so as to have some amount of control on her/him (Oh, you don’t want to have them as a friend.  Their parents are not our kind of people.  You don’t want to study medicine; you know how bad you are at math).
  • Forcing children to do things for them that they would not willingly do (Just put this under your coat, no one will ever know).
  • Discouraging children’s endeavors by discarding their desires as impossible or wild (You can never be a model, you’ve always been homely).
  • Shirking personal responsibility in order to avoid accusations (it’s not my job to take care of you.  You need to take care of yourself).
  • Discouraging discussion on facts that may indicate personal responsibility for their situation (We are never going to talk about the past, so just forget about  it).

It is very important to understand that the manipulative parent is trying to prevent the occurrence of situations rather than dealing with them.  They do not want to accept that they may be responsible for their own condition.

Oddly enough, some parents are jealous of their child’s achievements.  We have all been taught that a parent will want the best for their child, but the fact is some parents cannot tolerate it.  Some believe that if they didn’t go that far in life, their child shouldn’t either.  You see that in the scenario of the father who demands that his child follow the father’s footsteps into his profession and is actively involved in keeping that son from climbing the ladder above him or the daughter who accepts a high paying job and the mother undermines her daughter’s every effort.

A manipulative parent fails to recognize or accept that the problem is with him.  Such individuals may steer away from a confrontation when you try to discuss the problem with them.  Even if you gently confront them and tell them that their behavior is adversely affecting you and your life, their response will likely be a personal attack and  will treat your words as a violent accusation. You may end up apologizing for even bringing it up, with no successful resolution to the problem.  And will the parent learn or change from the interaction?   Oh no!  They will continue in their manipulative behavior patterns as if nothing has happened.  In short, the manipulative parent’s behavior cannot and will not be changed.  It is now up to you to develop your personal boundaries and change the way you react to them.  Following is some suggestions on how to strengthen your personal boundaries.

  • Work on your self-esteem.  Children of manipulative parents often have poor self-esteem because of the demeaning behavior that has been meted out to them over the years.  This “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” environment damages self-esteem and makes you more susceptible to the manipulators or bullies in your life.  You have to believe that you are worth more than you were lead to believe and that you are capable of surviving without your manipulative parents.
  • Learn to say “NO”.  Learn to say “no” to your parent when his demands are beyond your capacity to give.  The Manipulator will try their level best to send you on long, convoluted guilt trips.  Just don’t pack your bags and go.  Once your parent learns that you won’t respond to that, they will change their tactics, or cease contact with you. 
  • Show the Change.  Finally, let your parents know that you are aware of exactly what they are trying to do to you and inform them that such tactics are not going to work anymore.  Of course, the manipulator will get overly emotional and start trying to blackmail you or blame you.  Stay calm and realize that you are doing this for your peace of mind.  Remind yourself that no one deserves to be manipulated to any extent where it becomes a chore and not something you would willingly do once in a while.  They are your parents, but would you allow the same behavior from a stranger?

Making changes in the way you relate to your parent may help improve your relationship in the long run.  Hopefully, you will learn to stop resenting her so much and she won’t be able to complain and manipulate you all of the time.  It is agreed that parents deserve respect, but respect is a two-way street.  It is difficult to honor someone whose goal seems to be to provoke you to anger or discouragement.

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33 responses to “Manipulative Parents

  1. Laurie says:

    Thank you so much for clarifying ‘manipulation’. In trying to understand my obligation to honor my mother while she treats me badly and manipulates, this has helped immensely. Unfortunately, when one draws the boundary line on a manipulative parent, the parent ends the relationship and blames the child. Sad.

    • Dear Laurie,
      I am so sorry that you have a manipulative mother. The negative thoughts that they can program you with while you are small have livelong consequences, if you let them. Do some work on identifying those negative automatic thoughts (for example “I am unloveable” or “I am worthless) and develop alternative thoughts for those. Dr. Phil McGraw has written a new book called “Life Code” and he addresses what he calls “Baiters”. Fortunately, he devotes a good part of his book on how you can survive these type of people and what you need to do to define who you are outside of your mother’s version of you.

  2. […] Emotional manipulators are very adept at feeding guilt and they fight dirty, even if they aren’t aware of their actions. In some cases, the emotional manipulators don’t even recognize that this is what they are doing through their behavior. However, that still does not excuse them of the responsibility that they must take for their actions, words and thoughts. The website, Fried Green Tomatoes, has some excellent information about how to spot an emotional manipulator. Some parents, mothers in particular, are very good at motivating their children, both young and old, through emotional manipulation. After all, parents know the right buttons to push to get the reaction they want from their children. Fletcher Counseling has some great info on Manipulative Parents. […]

    • Trudy Tope says:

      Good morning, I moved out of an abusive marriage end of April 2014 – my husband is a king of emotional manipulation. He tried to convince me several times to return to our house, but I have had enough after almost eleven years of both physical and verbal abuse against myself and my children.

      He is now starting to emotionally manipulate my two daughters aged 9 and 4, and I am feeling so helpless to assist them and prevent him from reaching his goals in breaking them down emotionally as well.

      Any advice / website that can assist me will be much appreciated – I’ve tried to look for Fried Green Tomatoes website as per your email but I cannot find it.

      Please assist me I am desperate for anyone with good advice on helping my children.

      Thank you

      • If at all possible, find therapists for you and your daughters. A lot of healing needs to be done, but your little ones need to know that mom and their therapists are on their sides. I am so sorry that you guys are having to go through this hell.

  3. […] Emotional manipulators are very adept at feeding guilt and they fight dirty, even if they aren’t aware of their actions. In some cases, the emotional manipulators don’t even recognize that this is what they are doing through their behavior. However, that still does not excuse them of the responsibility that they must take for their actions, words and thoughts.  The website, Fried Green Tomatoes, has some excellent information about how to spot an emotional manipulator.  Some parents, mothers in particular, are very good at motivating their children, both young and old, through emotional manipulation.  After all, parents know the right buttons to push to get the reaction they want from their children.  Fletcher Counseling has some great info on Manipulative Parents. […]

  4. Sam says:

    This article is very helpful. I’ve been trying to find a way to classify the emotional manipulation I’ve been experiencing from my father. However he is the type whom I’ve already confronted but he just denied what he is doing. Saying NO to the manipulation is a struggle for me. He never said he is sorry. Even pointed back the blame on me. Since in Asian culture, a child’s opinion will be of low priority than that of the parent.

    • Generally, denial is one of the key components to the emotional manipulators arsenal. It serves the function to make the child question their own sanity, which is cruel. Recognize that your father’s opinion says absolutely nothing about you and everything about the way his mind works. There is a pay-off for him to keep you under his thumb, so if you can remove yourself from his influence, you will be so much better off.

  5. Kate says:

    I couldn’t believe this article- so much of is my mother. I love her, she has done a lot for my daughter and I this past year, however, now all she wants to do is hang it over my head and throw it back in my face. She’s become extremely rude in public, she’s demanding and arrogant. I decided over two months ago I had had enough.
    She has boundaries for herself and everyone follows her rules, just don’t break them or heaven forbid, I have my own rules. It’s reach the level where she is determined to win this battle at any cost.

    • It is great when a parent is willing and able to help their adult child, but it is unacceptable that the parent when rubs their child’s face in it. It sounds like your mom may be a “right fighter” and is willing to sacrifice your relationship with her to be right. If possible, it is time to remove yourself from her influence.

  6. Sofie says:

    It’s true what they say that things are never what they seem. Living with passive aggressive parents is the worst possible life you can live. Your parents will make your entire life worse than hell. You will no longer want to live and will be in pain and sorrow constantly– this is quite understated.

    • Certainly feeling suicidal and no longer wanting to live is one option, but if you die, then they win. Granted, living with parents who have a shifting set of rules is absolutely crazy making, at some point, you have to make a life far away from them. It’s doubtful that your parents will change, so it is up to you to change your circumstances and attitude about your self-worth. Recognize that what your parents say about you has little truth to it.

  7. Lisa says:

    What’s worse is that parents control their daughters more often compared to sons. Daughters who step out of line and/or express themselves openly, their wants, needs, feelings, etc. get treated harshly while sons don’t. Daughters are expected to be silent, inexpressive and submissive while sons are allowed to be open, vocal, expressive, and dominant, even over others.

    • I hear you. My mom raised me to be the caretaker of her, my father and my brother. Anything I did outside of the family blessing was looked upon with scorn. My brother, however, was raised to believe that he was perfect in every way. Now his narcissism matches that of my mom’s personality and together, they prove to be a deadly combination. It took me many years to recognize that I couldn’t change that and once I understood the dynamics, I couldn’t get away fast enough.

    • abrakadabra says:

      For me it is exactly the opposite – my sister is much more open, vocal and expressive and her opinion is important in the family, while I (the older brother) am considered as something like a slave. My father was very manipulative towards me and he beat me very often when I was little (he didn’t hit my sister even once!). I am now 26 and when I talk to him about his aggressive behaviour in the past, he says “I did this because you were very disobedient and naughty boy and I wanted to correct your behaviour”. So basically he is saying I myself am guilty that he beat me when I was 3-4-5-6-7 year old. Talk about manipulation.. As I think about the past, I discover that big part of my life until now is somehow centered on pleasing my father and not pleasing my own needs.

      • Lisa says:

        But in most families, girls are taught to be obedient, silent, unemotional and submissive while boys can be open, vocal, expressive, and emotional. But anyway, manipulative parents can produce children who bully and abuse others, especially in relationships.

  8. Susan says:

    A little history here: mother always telling father if he didn’t change she would leave, my sister told our mother when I moved to CA with my husband and children: our mother would never see her again ( with in two months my sister cut off all relations with our mother for 8 years) (our mother would ask me what I did to make sister do this, I would be consistently told that I said or did something to turn my sister against our mother)(My sister and I are not even that close), husband telling me if I didn’t change or do what he wanted he would leave, daughter 3 times told me if I did not change I would never see her again ( she has now cut off relations with me). I have had it with people they are going to leave. I said good bye to them, I have told my mother that I can at this time only communicate through mail, that I do not want to cut off relation with her but verbally I can not talk.

    My mother was always telling my father she was going leave if things didn’t change. This was a consistent when growing up, I finally told her to leave or stop saying it. My ex husband did the same to me if I didn’t do what he wanted he would leave, after 25 years I told him he was not welcome back. Now my daughter does the same thing and has caught off relations with me.
    I was single and lived with my parents when I had my daughter. I would be told “I am as much her mother as you are” “If you loved your daughter would not date that man” “You must be possessed to have done what you did”

    At 2 1/2 my daughter was burned. My mother would tell the nurses that I was mean and a bad mother. When I was told that my daughter was not to be touched after surgery I found my father holding her I told him ” We were told not to touch her put her back in the bed” My mother told me to shut up”We are as much her parents as you are.”

    If my daughter was mad at me she would run to my mother and complain, my mother would tell her how wrong I was and that I was in the wrong. My mother would then call me and tell me what to do because she was as much her mother as I was.

    My mother would pit my daughter against me and me against her. My mother did the same with my sister and me.

    I do not know how to stop this. My daughter now does not talk to me, and I have at the age of 54 have told my mother that I can only communicate through letters now. When I told my mother what happened she was indifferent about it.

    I am so tired of people controlling and being cruel. I never threaten one of them that I would leave. I always tried to make them happy so I would not loose them. I lost them any way. I’m done.

    • I am so sorry that your daughter has looked to your mother as her authority, but at this point, you cannot change that other than being very supportive and loving of your daughter if and when she does talk to you. As for yourself, the only obligation that you have is to work on your self-esteem and get the negative thoughts identified and altered. You are ready to be a happy and productive person, which cannot be accomplished while under your mother’s influence. I suggest you read, “Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing the Daughters of Narcissistic Mothers”. You are certainly not alone and you are to be commended for surviving as well as you have.

  9. Dana says:

    Its so nice to see others going thru this. Now that I am an adult (34 years old) and confront my mother about her manipulative methods, she acts like she doesn’t know what I am talking about or she will walk away and sweep the floors with a totally normal face – like I’m not speaking. It fills me with rage now instead of guilt (not sure which is worse because then I feel guilty for being so angry). I have turned into an entirely different person. I fear the only way I can be at peace is to avoid interacting with her (which of course, I’ll probably feel guilty about). Anyone have suggestions as how to break the cycle of guilt & anger?

    • I tell my clients this: “Don’t stay where you are merely tolerated, go to where you are celebrated.” Chances are, you will never get your mother to agree that she is manipulative and if you did, what did you accomplish? Yes, you can divorce your mother. She has completed her “job” with you and now you are obligated to be a happy and productive adult. If her manipulation continuously gets in the way of your goal of being a grown-up, you may have to move on. Your chances of changing your mom’s behavior is slim to none; but changing yourself and working on your self-esteem is something you can do – it just needs be out of mom’s influence that you can grow.

  10. Leigh James says:

    I grew up in a loving peaceful home with Godly parents who loved me and taught me the Word of God. We had our ups and downs but one thing remained true…my mum and my late dad were my most valuable gifts from God…they corrected my mistakes…they loved me unconditionally…they endeavored to be good examples…poor they were…but rich in truth and honor….even though life tried to break me down…they were there to put me back together again…I was truly blessed and at peace

    And then I got married and I experienced the opposite of my parents….I when into a home filled with lies, deceit, manipulation and pain…I was mentally and physically abused by my mother-in-law…I was ready to die to be free of that pain and fear…even tried to…but thanks be to God that after a year of living in that hell..I finally was set free and my husband and I got our own place….but my escape came with a huge price…I was beaten so bad by my mother-in-law that I lost my baby…

    I survived that and after 14yrs of marriage…she is still in my life…I finally had the strength to forgive her after 3yrs, when I gave birth to my eldest son. I taught she would learn from her mistakes and change but 14yrs later and she remains the same… Hurting and manipulating her sons and causing division amongst her children…every visit bring fighting and misery…brother against brother…father against sons….her lies causes this….her family knows that she lies but they protect her and never correct her…and everyone else pays for her lies cause their silence makes in truth…

    I tell my husband to honor her cause she’s his mum but I just can’t allow my children or myself to be hurt by her again…she beat my eldest son once for speaking the truth and again I forgave her again…but she never learns…she never changes…I don’t know how to honor her when all she does is hurt us…how do I deal with this?

    • Okay. She beat your son, that needs to be reported to your local police. That is criminal and I am so sorry that she harmed you in the past and made you lose a child. Here is the truth: the chances of her changing is very unlikely. Don’t wait for that. Your job is to protect yourself and your children and I do hope that your spouse understands and agrees. Sometimes, people do not like us for reasons we don’t understand, but we do not need to hang around that abusive person. Do not stay where you are merely tolerated, but go to where you are celebrated.

  11. Stefania says:

    I can relate to this article. My mother thinks that because she bore me I have a lifelong responsibility to pay her back. Unfortunately I have a father who was never around so out of the two parents I was born with neither one of them is deserving of my affection. I recently got in a relationship with a man who is a lot older than me. I am as happy as I can be but my mom is starting to affect my relationship. We are engaged and will be getting married in a few months, but she’s becoming incredibly controlling using my dog as an excuse for not wanting me to sleep over my fiancés house. I am not working at the moment and he is helping out with all the expenses but she is so unappreciative it shames me. He went out of his way adding a line for her cellphone to his account so she wouldn’t have to pay from her own pocket. On top of everything he does for us she asks me for money all the time. When she’s in a bad mood she bashes me and criticizes me for asking him to give me more money. Initially I had a really hard time even asking for groceries from him because I’ve never been used to getting help from anyone. I am still comfortable with it and just ask for what is absolutely necessary. My mom has been very open about wanting me to be a gold digger so she can get what she wants. She wants me get my fiancé to pay all her debts and give money to her family. I am reaching my breaking point because I don’t know what to do anymore. I am in love with my fiancé and I think it is unfair for him to have to support her with her financial issues. My mom makes me feel as if I was a bad daughter because I don’t give in to her guilt trips. I also have a 30 year old brother who not once has helped her out, in facet she had to pay for his education and lawyer when he got into trouble. He also has an 11 year old child who he is completely estranged from. She tells me that when she dies she will haunt me for being such a bad daughter and she curses me telling me my children will make me she’d tears as a payback. I don’t know if she is right and I do have this lifelong obligation with her of if shes just trying to control me for the rest of her life.

    • Yikes! I don’t imagine that your fiance really expected to take on the care and feeding of your mother. If your mother dies and then haunts you, we probably could find your a good medium to usher her into the next life. Have you ever had the idea that you are “damned if you do and damned if you don’t”. That is the crazy making space that you are in. Your mother actually had one job with you and that was to get you to adulthood alive. She did that. Now, your job is to recover from your raising and become a fully functional and happy adult. You are not obligated to provide care and money for your mom. I would suggest that you read “Will I Ever Be Good Enough: Healing the daughters of Narcissistic mothers” to let you know that you are not alone in your insecurity and confusion. Good luck.

  12. artlover36 says:

    my husband and I had a really hard time this summer with my parents and the effect they had on us. We were staying with my parents in their guesthouse and then felt like we had no choice other than to move into a disastrous rental house with a sewer gas leak that left me sick and impaired-headaches, nasuea, dizzy, slow speech and fuzzy thinking for days after. The whole situation happened after some delays with a building project where the terms really changed over a few years and planning got way backed up-basically we agreed to sell a house we owned based on its scale and other issues with the idea to build a new one-long story short Dad’s manipulative friend who always belittled me and made me feel worthless because I don’t have some high-powered job in finance or something hijacked our project for a while and wanted to make it into a spec house, now we have a different much better builder, another friend. I have been writing a book and not making as much income these last few years and ended up in a scary situation where I felt so powerless and lost and worthless to everyone around me. My parents had both been distant for the last few years yet at the same time more controlling but in really subtle ways-like saying they think it’s fine I am writing but then putting me in a situation where I have to go live in sewer gas-mainly because they didn’t approve of some stuff I brought with me to their house and because I didn’t wake up each day at what they consider a reasonable time and I ended up hardly sleeping at all. I told them I didn’t want to go to this other house but they made sure we moved in that next day and would not let us stay with them. I felt so confused, hurt, betrayed-and angry, like they had been loving and generous parents for many years and would not have done this until recently. I should mention we did not know it was sewer gas until the very end of our stay but there had been a nasty odor coming out of one bathroom and into the bedroom where we were sleeping. The only other bedroom also smelled, had a mattress with a huge brown and yellow stain across most of it.
    This summer I really noticed that my parents hadchanged and weren’t happy with me or anything I tried to do. My mother seemed more distant and like she often didn’t hear what I say or respond in ways that showed she was listening.But it seemed even more weird when I showed my mother a portion of my novel this summer-just the first page -and she told me she was really impressed. She has a background in literature as well, having completed a PHD. I could see she seemed genuinely impressed and it made me feel better briefly especially after attending a conference where all critiques pretty much trashed it, especially the first page. But it was almost as if right after that, living in her guesthouse got even more difficult, like these little thigns she would do that were hard to pinpoint but that drove me crazy making it hard to sleep or concentrate. I couldn’t help seeing a terrible irony that while lately I had some success with the written word as a form of intelligent expression, I could never communicate effectively with my own parents and was driven to these angry outbursts where I was so upset and lost ability to initiate a calm discussion. My mother said I had issues with anger managment and once or twice even threatened to have me committed. I felt so terrible after, tried to understand why they had provoked me and how to stay calm. I felt like I was losing control of my health and my body and it made me upset as I do not want to be fat again, I feel bad about myself and the impressions I make when I am fat like I was back in college.
    In any case, this summer seemed like the culmination of a very rough stretch of time. I have been feeling very bad about myself and frustrated these last 2 years or so because I am always worried about what my parents think and trying to finish my novel as fast as possible but struggling with worry and effects on my health-even my diet is less healthy and I have gained weight. Then I exercise more to counteract the weight gain-also it makes me feel good each day-and they worry that I work out too much. My husband is often anxious too and even though he works hard at his career feels like it’s never going to be enough even though I assure him I think he’s doing well and believe in him.
    I am writing the novel and not doing much else partly because I had a very hard time working at my Dad’s office where one of his associates always talked to himself so I couldn’t concentrate and one day-back when I was still bright, happy, thin-called me a fat bitch so only I could hear it-if that just about sums it all up. It was especially sinister when my Dad never thought I was thin or pretty growing up, my sister the ballerina was always thinner. (In college I got very fat, then I lost a lot of weight to become a healthy weight 5-10 years ago.) When I told my mother about the fat bitch comment, she didn’t believe me and brushed it off, and I quit the office about 6 months later. When I finally told my Dad, he said I should have told him sooner, so I appreciated that but he didn’t seem to think the guy was out of line to be calling me fat. Anyway just thought I would post because I am very mixed up living in this small resort town with no friends since I started being so sad and worried all the time and-another red flag possibly-now my Mom’s caretaker a good guy but overbearing is calling me everyday trying to give me a pep talk about how to become a better person which is getting weird as he ventures into talk about sex and my sex life when my husband is not even around.
    I know it’s best to just move forward from here, forget about the summer and the past. I realize I have some areas needing improvement-many areas actually-but I am hoping my parents will recognize my efforts to do better rather than continue to be oppressive with their worry and disappointment. I am just wondering if they don’t, could it mean they are manipulative and controlling unlike before? For me it was distressing and confusing to notice such a difference and the effects on me and my husband when we all live in the same town.

  13. Maria says:

    Long story short for me – my step father is passively aggressively trying to get my husband and I to take the family dog because he wants to get a cat instead. I am recovering from a chronic illness with a one year old while my husband has to work full time and bringing the dog into the mix (as much as i love the dog) would be really hard on me right now. We were staying with my parents when I first discovered that i was ill and my husband was only working small, independent jobs because he could not find work. My step father demonized him for being lazy (when he was juggling taking care of me all the time because I was bedridden and doing independent jobs!). And now, my husband and I are finally settled into our own home with our 1 year old and he wants us to take the dog. I find myself telling him everything he wants to hear: “I guess we could do it, I suppose we could handle it..” because, ever since I was a child, I have been terrified by his explosive temper. I find that he somehow scares me into saying the opposite of what I really want to say in a conversation. The worst thing is, he has managed to successfully brainwash my Mom now, as much as i used to try and warn her about him. She thinks I am being unforgiving and mean. 😦 Now I just really want to relay to her how uncomfortable he makes me feel and that I don’t want to be around him any more, but i just want to keep it between herself and me. But I’m afraid she will make him apologize to me (because he does whatever she says when he feels like he might make her really mad and lose her). And then he will apologize but i know he won’t really mean it and he will just be manipulating. I am just so tired of all of the hurt and pain this has caused me since my childhood. Is it fair for me to just want to completely cut him out of my life? i am scared for my daughter because I don’t want her to be manipulated later or think that his behavior is normal just because we “put up with it” in the future when she is older. I would really appreciate your input on this! Thanks so much and God bless you!

  14. Peggy says:

    I wept as I read this. My mom has (does) every one of these to me with the exception of forcing me to do things that I would not willingly do. And the sad thing is I did many to my daughter until I went to counseling where they kept telling me I’m a controlling parent (ouch!). I listened though. It was painful just to hear that my own mother was a manipulative parent. I had believed every good mother was like mine. Now my adult daughter has a toddler and she is extremely manipulative (my daughter, not the toddler). Now that I see how this type of parenting sets up children to be abused and victimized I am concerned for my grandchild. I see her mother (a single mom, no sign of dad) beating down this little childs spirit and it breaks my heart. My daughter is also angry and depressed. She has tried counseling but counselors that state insurance will pay for are a joke. Private counseling is way too expensive. I try to be involved in their lives but I can’t be there all the time and that would be somewhat controlling of myself. There is no physical abuse just manipulation ie “eat this potato then you can eat the corn. I said eat this potato THEN you can eat the corn!” till the child cries and cries and breaks down and eats the ONE bite of potato mostly so the badgering of her mother will stop.

  15. Why would a mother manipulate her oldest child? Wouldn’t it be easiest if she were to try to do so with the younger siblings? If she sees and feels that her children are happy with her ex husband and his wife , why does she feel the need to try and break them apart and use the children as her weapon? Implanting nothing but negativity in their minds and wanting them to see that she’s the only one who can care for them and love them. Brainwashing their minds or trying to do so…I as a father feel like she has already convinced the oldest that she is the superior one and that she can do no wrong. So many events have transpired in the past and it seems that she could care less. Our oldest( 12 at the time) being threatened by her 40 something old boyfriend and I hearing the whole conversation over the phone and we were on speaker phone and he had no idea I was listening to the whole thing. At that time it took every single fiber of my being to hold back from doing something that I knew if I did , would regret for the rest of my life…..losing them over a coward who likes to pick on smaller people than he….The mother telling her daughter , “it seems that you love your step mother more than you love me…”Who on earth tells their child this?.Why do parents manipulate their own flesh and blood…?

  16. I’m so upset and so confused on what to believe anymore. I grew up living with my mom and my step dad who I was always close to. When I was little I used to worship my parents and found out early on that my biological father was a very very bad man and my mom used to rant and rave about him so I grew up believing this and hating my father. In court, he had won visitation rights and we visited him. He pays child support. At age 9, I was fully able to comprehend the story behind what he did to my mother, (he cheated on her) and how he was a very bad person as my mother explained. I didn’t enjoy visits to his house, and when I started to speak out against him, I reached closer to my mom, taking her side on a matter of family and I didn’t visit or talk to my father or his side of the family for 7 years. In my own opinion, not my mother’s, he is no saint. He is just as every bit of manipulating and terrifying as my mother and step dad are. I also know that he has severe anger issues and is selfish, as he takes himself before his children or anyone else. He lives by his practice of hedonism. Despite all that, he can be a good father, or at least he tries, because I think he feels extremely guilty and feels he needs to make things up, makes himself a better person in my eyes. I try to stay neutral. But even if I share my personal views that maybe my father isn’t all that bad, I know my mother will assume that he”s manipulating me, to not believe him, to always doubt him in the back of my mind, and to never trust him.
    But as I get older and my innocence to life gradually falls away, I realize that my own parents, my mother and step dad, are just as manipulative as they claim my biological father is. It’s from them that my older brother, “the problem child” learned to manipulate, and how I myself learned how to manipulate my friends and other people. My older brother, my only blood brother, have a shaky relationship. He kept visiting my father through all the 7 years of my absence and has tried on multiple occasions to guilt me into see my father again. He is failing in school, he cuts and he does pot, and he’s barely part of the family anymore. I have 3 older step siblings that have all moved out are on their own, but my blood brother still “lives” with us, if you could call it that. I also have two little half siblings that I need to help take care of. By default, I’m the child that is looked upon as the oldest and most responsible child. I hold the weight of expectations on my back. I have to help do housework and take care of Maddie and Jack, (my little siblings) meanwhile trying to maintain a social life and a successful academic life. (I’m 16 now, turning 17 in February) To be fairly honest, I do not do most of the housework my mother wishes I do, because I want to live my own life. I want to be happy. Right now, I’m currently going through a very depressing time in my life where I realize that as a junior in highschool, my adolescence is quickly ending soon, and I will feel the crushing weight of responsibilities and bills, while losing most of my closest friends that I hold dear. I have a very big problem with abandonment, and feeling alone. I hate feeling like I have no one to talk to. I never talk to my mother about my issues because she trivializes them and twists what I say into a lecture, and even turning what I say around on me, making it seem that what I’m upset about is always my fault, even when it isn’t. I know well enough now that I can’t lie to myself. I know when I did something wrong, and when something is my fault. I do take blame where I know its due. Please know that. But in the cases where its not, and I try to seek help from my mother, she always makes it seem like its my fault and just ends up making me feel worse rather than better. So I stopped going to her for advice.
    Just recently, it was my step father’s birthday and I was coming home late from school. I take public transportation home, two trains and a bus. I take the two trains and I get out of the station to take my final bus home, when my mom and dad text me asking where I am. I tell them I’m by the bus and they proceed to tell me that they’re at a restaurant, celebrating his birthday. They didn’t plan this ahead of time, so i had no way of knowing they were going to do this. I had a bad day at school, and everything was ticking me off. Everything and everyone. At this point I was tired and wanted to cry and just wanted to go home and cool down. My phone was at 7% battery charge. I have homework to do. They ask me to go on a different bus I had never been on before to go to the restaurant, and my phone is dying, so I say, “I just want to go home. My phone is dying. I don’t know where to get off and I don’t want to get lost. They say, “Ok” and I go home. When I get home, my brother is there and I start ranting about my day. I bring my phone back to life from dying earlier before and I receive a text from my step dad saying, “Thanks for celebrating with me.” This was the last straw. He was acting so childish and making everything about him, just like how they preach and claim that my biological father does all the time and what I have witnessed from him myself. I would expect a comment like that from my father, but not my step dad. I begrudgingly do the dishes for my mom while I wait for them to come home. It takes me a while for me to do it, because my brother is on the couch watching a movie, and I stop from time to time to watch it as well. I’m still doing the dishes hours later, when my parents come home and my mom comes in, all flustered and neither my mom nor my dad say hi to me when they walk in the door. Instead I hear my mom murmur to my dad, “Of course, she’s doing it NOW.” As if doing the dishes is my job. When Maddie, Jack, and my step dad go upstairs, my brother starts yelling at my mom about her treatment towards me. This was something that I didn’t want him to do, and was just making my mother more upset at me, being that she was upset at me to begin with for going home instead of going to the restaurant. Even more annoyed now, she tells my brother to shut up and go back downstairs to his room, that he didn’t know me or know what he was talking about. She yells loudly to me, as I quietly eat the leftover pizza they brought back for me, “THANK YOU CARELINE, YOU BOTH (my brother and I) ARE WONDERFUL CHILDREN.” very sarcastically, making me feel sorry I ever told my brother how I felt. He asked how school was, how my day was, (he’s been treating me nicer than he ever has been in my life before. he’s trying to rebuild our relationship.) and so I told him. After my brother left, my mom started scolding me about how I let things get to me too easily, and that she can see “just how more important other things are to me that I let certain things upset me rather than just tough it out and make family more important to me.” To her, if I had gone to the restaurant anyway, that would prove to her that I put family before everything. In reality, I don’t. I am very compassionate and I help others regularly, I put my friends first sometimes. I put my little siblings first sometimes. I put academics first sometimes. But in my depressed and confused state, my first and foremost duty is to myself. After that, everything follows. There has to be a balance. Anyway, I digress. My mother proceeds to make me feel like everything is my fault. Its my fault I had a bad day, its my fault my phone was dying, its my fault I’ve never gone on the bus that would take me to the restaurant and that I didn’t know where to get off. It’s my fault I told my brother my problems because I don’t have anyone to talk to at this point in my life, and it’s my fault he yelled at her the way he did, which was something I didn’t want him to do. I didn’t ask for him to do that. I can’t control his actions. When she finally realized that maybe she was too harsh on me, she starts to attempt to be comforting and force me to hug her, even though I don’t want to her, I want to go into my room and cry. She hugs me, but I push her away, put my hands up, and slowly walk upstairs to my room, because I was starting to cry from how upset I was and I didn’t want her to see me cry. I can never cry in front of my parents because to them its a sign of weakness. That I should never allow anything to get to me so much that I cry.
    Lately she’s been always on my case about cleaning my room, about my not-perfect academic scores, about my future and how I have to be the best, be successful, and I’m getting sick and tired of it. They’re blaming me for every issue in my life, and while I myself can cause an issue in my life, sometimes things just happen and its not my fault. They’re always scolding me, and always lecturing me about the tiniest things and its really getting me upset. They feel as if they have to control every aspect of my life and it’s just making me pull further and further away from them. They also assume the worst of me, that I’ll “turn into my brother” who they always use as a negative comparison. They are always trying to discredit my father and my brother in any way possible no matter what, trying to make me hate them. Make me distrust them. They don’t allow me to form my own opinion on things. My opinion doesn’t matter. Their “word is law in this house.” and I can never question or go against their authority. I feel suppressed in my home, that I can’t be myself and I am denied freedom and happiness. I feel like my parents are constantly manipulating me into believing what they want me to believe, as if their beliefs aren’t flawed. I used to believe that my parents were perfect, that I could trust whatever they said. But growing up, I realize they’re far, far, from perfect, and are just as bad as they claim my father to me. I’m so confused and unsure who to listen to, who to trust, and my trust issues are all over the place. I need help. I need someone to talk to, but at this moment in my life, I feel alone. I feel as if I have no one to speak to. I feel like I don’t have a voice. I just have to “behave and do as I’m told.” Not, “be happy and be free to do what makes you happy.”

  17. Annie says:

    The article helped me a lot, but I’m still not sure if my mom is manipulating me or not…I’m 25 and I want to spend christmas at my boyfriends house with his family..cause it will be their 1st family christmas dinner, but her response was amazing for me…she said that if I didnt spend christmas at home she would cancel the whole dinner for my entire family and travel to Texas…so basically I would be responsible for my family not having a christmas dinner…aside of also breaking my grandma’s tradition

  18. Ellie says:

    I only realized very recently that my parents are emotionally manipulative, my therapist had to point it out to me. My sister has had countless nervous breakdowns, my brother is SEVERELY depressed, but they refuse to do anything about it because people knowing would be worse than actually helping him. I am depressed as well and my self-esteem is so low I developed crippling social anxiety. We have tried for some time now to tell them they’re hurting us, only to get told that we are the ones hurting them, that they’re blameless, they have worked all their lives to feed us ungrateful children. “You are right, it’s my fault. It’s all my fault. All your problems since you were born have been my fault. I never did anthing good for you, did I? You know, I don’t feel like I deserve it, my coscience is crystal clear, but if that makes you feel better with yourself, suits you. All my life I’ve been kicked, by my parents, by teachers, by friends, I thought it would get better, but now I even get the humiliation of being treated like this by my own children. In God’s will one day I’ll be dead, and this hell will be over.”

    The worst part to me is that they’re not even aware they’re doing it, they believe in everything they say. They are not purposely being mean, they lost so much touch with reality and they need help as well, but it’s the kind of help us children are not equipped to give them.

    But things are slowly getting better. My therapist is helping me standing up for myself and setting my boundaries. And my siblings and I got so much more united as a result, even if they are trying to set us against each other. I’m hopeful one day I’ll get away from this and be able to love them from afar.

  19. Where and how do I find help for this? I need it urgently. I am 54 years old and have just realised that my entire life has been about this.And I am on hard medical treatment and have no idea how to deal with it. Thank you.

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