September 22, 2020
Learn to Recognize Emotional Manipulation by Family Members so you can be a healthy role model for your child
By Brit Morris & Davis Smith
Emotional manipulation is how others try to change your behavior, thoughts, and feelings through misleading practices. Family members may try to use emotional manipulation to control you. No one likes to be controlled!
These practices can be harmful to everyone involved including your children. However by learning to recognize if a parent, grand parent, aunt, etc in your family is using emotional manipulation to control others you can mindfully learn how to change your behavior, in NBG! game changing ways, so you can be a role model for your child.
Do not tell the child this person is manipulative, instead you model healthy behaviors by having real expectations with this person ( it is not if they will trigger you it is when), not personalizing what this person is doing, not over sharing personal information with this person, having healthy boundaries and knowing when to implement the NBG! 4 to score!
- You can also have a list of generic topics you can discuss with this person like sports, the weather, their favorite spot to travel to, their favorite activity.
- Stick to neutral topics with this person when in family gatherings.
Your child will learn by your example and follow your example.
For your own benefit, learn these signs that a family member is trying to manipulate you:
1. Denial of the truth. One of the most common ways a family member can use emotional manipulation is to deny the truth.
This is a key sign.
- The person who is manipulating you will often make a promise or a statement however deny it later. They will pretend that the truth doesn’t exist, and conveniently blame your bad memory for it.
- In some cases, the manipulator will try to fight the evidence by saying it’s fabricated. Start to recognize this pattern. If you are having to defend and justify yourself this is a red flag.
- An emotional manipulator can make you feel as if it’s your fault you’re not remembering the previous conversation the same way. They can make you feel guilty and ashamed, so you don’t pursue the subject anymore. Say, “That’s interesting and peacefully walk away.”
2. Using guilt. Emotional manipulators frequently use guilt to control their family.
- Family members can use passive-aggressive tactics to manipulate you. They can also find your weak spots, so it’s easier to make you feel guilty.
- Manipulators will pretend to be victims, so you’ll feel sorry for them. If you refuse to go along with the charade, they will accuse you of being insensitive and mean. They can make you feel guilty in order to get sympathy. This is another important sign to recognize. Say to yourself, ” just because someone says something does not make it true” and peacefully walk away or change the subject.
3. Using others. Emotional manipulators will use your friends and other family members to hurt you.
- They can use others as messengers or mediators to control you. Emotional manipulators will use these people to send you hurtful messages or to blame you for their issues. By involving another person, they’re able to blame someone else for the message being misinterpreted.
- If one parent involves the child to be the messenger in issues that are not their responsibility, like delivering child support, simply tell your child thank you. Then, when the child is not present call to discuss this with the other parent by staying moving forward please mail me the child support and do not involve our child. State it matter of fact. Also, follow up the call by documenting the call in an email that you ask the parent to follow the judges orders and not involve “your” child as a messenger for things like child support payment, etc.
4. Anger and threats. Family members can use their anger and threats to manipulate you.
- An emotional manipulator uses anger to frighten and coerce people. Threats and angry outbursts are used to make the other person feel uncomfortable and upset.
- Emotional manipulators often use anger to interrupt or stop a conversation they don’t like. For example, a family member who refuses to discuss his affairs may use an angry outburst and threats to end the conversation or storm out of the room.
- The anger can escalate to physical violence, so it’s important to pay close attention to the situation and seek help if necessary. If this occurs please reach out to the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233,
5. Belittling tactics. Family members may try to belittle you, so they can manipulate you easier.
Emotional manipulators will criticize you and point out your flaws. The main goal of this tactic is to make you feel inferior, so you’re easier to control. Remind to implement the NBG! 4 to Score!
6. Focusing on vulnerable targets. Manipulators seek out sensitive people because it’s easier to influence them. They deliberately look for people who are vulnerable and insecure. They can spot your insecurities and use them.
- In the beginning, emotional manipulators may even seem kind and concerned as they gather information about you. However, this quickly changes to control.
- Sensitive people are more likely to become victims of family members who want to control them. They’re less likely to stand up for themselves or speak out against the manipulators. It’s important to spot these signs in a relationship. You can recognize emotional manipulation and refuse to let the family member take control of you or your actions. These relationships are unhealthy and toxic. Seek professional help if you need to, however it’s important to make positive changes and maintain healthy boundaries. The book Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud is a great resource for this.
Recognize that your child will need space to process their feelings if they have had to spend time with an emotionally toxic parent. Give them that space and model healthy ways you handle emotionally difficult situations like running, walking, journaling, reading your bible, listening to calming music. By modeling these behaviors your children will learn by example.
We cannot protect our children from the big and little “hiccups” of life however the manner in which the experience is handled lays the foundation for how children will handle the inevitable “hiccups” in the future.
Remember: we cannot provide diagnoses, medical consultations or specific treatment recommendations. This service is designed for educational and informational purposes only. The information is general in nature. For specific healthcare questions or concerns, consult your healthcare provider. The content is not intended in any way to substitute for professional counseling or medical advice.