As part of a Risking Connection® training I have been teaching a new way of looking at behaviors we consider “manipulative” (see previous post 7/3/06). I urge all of us to see any use of the word manipulative as a flashing light, telling us that we need to explore further what is going on between us and a child. Here are some questions to ask yourself and your team any time we say that word:
Follow the “Manipulative” trail…..
A child is being “manipulative”…
- Describe the behavior. What makes it “manipulative”?
- What problem is the child trying to solve? What is s/he trying to accomplish? (such as: get more attention, return to previous placement, get more phone minutes, get her way)
- What is the need beneath that need? (such as: feeling alone, wanting to reunite with previous connections, needing to touch base with family or friends, needing control) Is the child trying to avoid any intolerable emotion? (such as rejection, loneliness, hopelessness)
- What does this show about what self capacities s/he may be lacking? (i.e. ability to manage feelings, ability to maintain an inner connection to others)
- How can we help the child meet “the need beneath the need” right now, in a more direct way? (i.e. pay attention, help them connect with others, give them some choices)
- How can we help the child develop their self capacities further? (i.e. practice grounding and calming techniques, review their good-bye book from the previous placement)
- How can we speak with the child in a respectful, informative, connected and hopeful way about the effects of direct and indirect communication on our relationship?
When we call a child manipulative we distance ourselves from him. Asking and answering these questions can lead instead to growth for the child, and a deepening of our relationship.