child manipulation by a parent Archives - Childhood Trauma Recovery

Tag Archives: Child Manipulation By A Parent

The Manipulative Parent

There are many ways in which the manipulative parent may manipulate their offspring, including:

  • emotional blackmail
  • threats (explicit or implicit) / verbal aggression
  • deceit
  • use of the silent treatment’
  • control through money/material goods
  • positive reinforcement of a behavior which is damaging to the child
  • coercion
  • behaving in a passive-aggressive manner
  • projection
  • denial of obviously destructive behavior / gaslighting
  • causing the child to believe that s/he will only be loved by complying with the parent’s wishes at all times; in other words, there is an ABSENCE of unconditional love (indeed, some parents are emotionally ill-equipped to love their children).
  • causing the child to feel excessive guilt and ashamed for failing to live up to the parent’s expectations/demands
  • with-holding love as a form of punishment to cause emotional distress
  • direct or implied threats of physical punishment
  • making the child feel s/he is ‘intrinsically bad’ for not always bending to the parent’s will
  • manipulative parents and money : some parents may manipulate their child using money for a who;e host of reasons, including – spoiling the child and then accusing him/her of ingratitude ;  as a tacit way of ‘keeping the child quiet’ about abuse ; to ‘compensate’ the child for emotional neglect and ameliorate feelings of guilt ; to make the child feel indebted ; to increase the child’s dependence ; to induce feelings of guilt in the child either explicitly or implicitly ; as a tool to regulate the child’s behavior ; as an expression of the parent’s ‘superiority’ and contempt for the child ; as a superficial way of acting ‘the good parent.’
  • making the child believe s/he is ‘uncaring’ for not fully meeting the parent’s needs


Such parents may also be very controlling ; if our parents were overly controlling the characteristics they may have displayed include the following :


  • Did not show respect for, or value, our reasonable ideas and opinions
  • Imposed over-exacting demands on us and refused to listen to even the most reasonable and considered objections
  • Were preoccupied with criticizing us, whilst minimizing or ignoring our good points
  • Were excessively concerned about our table manners (e.g. failing to hold a knife and fork ‘ correctly’)
  • Were excessively rigid about what we eat
  • Discouraged us from developing independence of thought,especially if it led to a mismatch between our opinions, views and values and those of the parent
  • Imposed excessive demands on us regarding household rules/duties/regulations which we were not permitted negotiate even if any reasonable person would regard them as inappropriate
  • The parent/s would never admit to being in the wrong, even in very clear-cut circumstances
  • Were excessively and unreasonably controlling regarding our appearance; not respecting our wishes to express our individuality (e.g choosing all our clothes without any interest in our opinion about them)
  • Did not respect our choice of career and made demands on us to reconsider and instead pursue a career the parent/s regarded as more ‘suitable’ even when this would make us very unhappy
  • Expected us to reach standards which were impossible to attain and berated us when we inevitably, in their eyes,’failed’.
  • Did not allow us to voice reasonable objections (e.g. about the family dynamics and how they caused us unhappiness)
  • Were unnecessarily rigid regarding who we ‘ought’ to associate with in a way that reflected prejudice and discrimination against individuals we wished to associate with
  • Tried to make us suppress perfectly normal emotions such as anger, fear and unhappiness
  • Violated our privacy (e.g. searched our bedroom for our personal diary without a good cause)
  • Tried to control us with emotional blackmail, psychological manipulation, intimidation and threats

Whilst some parental attempts to manipulate and control are fairly blatant, as can be seen from the above examples, some are far mote subtle. This means that when we were young we may not have been aware that we were being manipulated; we may only come to realize it, in retrospect, with the extra knowledge we have gained as adults.



If we have been significantly manipulated, it can give rise to various negative feelings such as :


resentment/anger (which may sometimes serve, on an unconscious level, to sooth emotional pain).


– a deep and painful sense of having been betrayed



The reasons a parent manipulates his/her offspring are often subtle and complex. However, explanations may include

– the parent is narcissistic

– the parent has a grandiose self-view (often linked to above)

– the parent has low self-esteem/feelings of inadequacy and so abuses the power they do have as a form of overcompensation for own shortcomings

– failure of the parent to view the child as a separate, distinct and unique individual, but, rather, to view him/her as an ‘extension of themselves’ so that the child feels responsible for the parent and becomes ‘enmeshed’ in the relationship.



The effects of having been significantly manipulated by a parent in early life can have serious negative consequences in terms of our emotional development ; these consequences may be very long -lasting.

As adults, if we are still in contact with the parent, it is likely that the relationship remains problematic. We may have pointed out their propensity to manipulate, but to no avail – indeed, perhaps only making things worse.


So, what is the best way to cope with the manipulative relationship?

Essentially, we are less likely to be manipulated if we :

– develop good self-esteem

develop a strong self-concept/sense of identity

developing strong assertiveness skills

– being confident enough to refuse to do what we don’t want to do

– being confident enough to ask for what we do want

– have the confidence to act according to our own values and convictions

RESOURCE : Recover from a Manipulative Relationship | Self Hypnosis Downloads

David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE)

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