Teen Manipulative Behavior

Is your teenager crafty at getting what they want from you? Do they lie to get their way? Do they play you and your spouse against each other? Unlike a harsh boot camp for teenagers, our therapeutic boarding school might be what they need.

The fact is your child has had a lot of experience trying to get their way and after all these years they know exactly what works on you and what doesn’t. This means they have become masters of manipulation in your household.

Manipulation is not an acceptable form of behavior for adults and the sooner your child learns this, the sooner they will be successful. To help decide whether they need to attend behavior modification schools such as Wood Creek Academy, please give us a call.


Common Teen Manipulative Tactics

What are the most common manipulation tactics and how can you respond to stop them?

Lying is probably the number one tactic used by manipulative teens. Does your teen’s behavior not match their words? Do their stories not match what you already know to be true? Many teens have become so convincing with their lies that you will start to question your own senses. They are masters of turning things around, confusing the true issues, justifying, rationalizing and explaining things away.

Teenagers are experts at claiming they never said certain things they said or insist they did certain things that mysteriously never got done. They will claim you are paranoid or over-reacting and that your suspicions are unfounded. The bottom line is trust your gut feelings and your own senses. If something doesn’t seem right, it probably isn’t. If it seems like your child is lying, they probably are and this is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Guilt is one of the most popular tools of the master manipulator. Manipulative teens seldom express their needs or desires openly because they get what they want through emotional manipulation. Most parents are conditioned to do whatever is necessary to reduce feelings of guilt. Teens have learned this all to well and use it to their advantage. Remember, manipulation can only occur if you are emotionally involved in the process.

As long as you remove yourself from inappropriate emotional entanglements, it will break the cycle. A good rule of thumb is that once you have given your answer, stick to it and do not allow yourself to be manipulated into changing your answer. Being consistent here is really important. Every time you give in to manipulation and allow something you really don’t want, you are weakening your position.

Playing the victim is an effort by your teen to get your sympathy and attention and in turn get what they want. Sometimes they act sad or sometimes angry but the point is to make you give in to what they want or solve their problem for them. When a teen plays the victim, they take no responsibility for their own actions or problems.

Your adolescent is learning to become an adult and the best way they can learn that is for you to allow them to work out their own problems without you always running to the rescue. Let them know that you have confidence in their ability to work out the situation and leave them to do it. This will diffuse the attempted manipulation.

Attention seeking teens are manipulators. They always want the spotlight on themselves. They have no interest in the feelings or needs of others including their parents and often even their peers. If the spotlight is not on them, they will invent some drama or another method of shifting the attention to themselves.

When you recognize this behavior, the best thing you can do is not reward it. Ignore the negative behavior and change the subject. If this behavior continues, you should call your teen on it. Let them know respectfully that you are aware of the situation and that you are not going to participate in it.

Using others is another classic tactic of a manipulative teen. Does your teen play your spouse against you? Do they ask for certain things from one of you when they know the other would not approve? Do they tell others things they know will eventually get back to you? The best way to deal with this is to work it out with the other person being used.

Behavior Modification

For instance, you and your spouse should always present a unified response to your children. If you have a disagreement about a decision made by your spouse, it needs to be discussed in private until you can reach an agreement that can be presented to your kids. You do not ever want to allow your children to divide you and your spouse on any issue. Once your child has been able to use this tactic to their advantage, they will continue to use it over and over again.

This becomes an especially difficult problem with stepparents. The child will often say things like “you aren’t my dad.” It is unacceptable to allow this situation to continue. You and your spouse need to work together and must make it clear to your child that you will not be divided.

Changing a teen’s manipulative behavior is not easy and it won’t happen right away. Remember, your teen has been getting away with this for years and they are not going to want to change the status quo. At first, you may not even realize you have been manipulated until it has already happened. Keep working at it and don’t give up.  Take the first step to correct your teen’s manipulation by setting boundaries. It is also important to recognize your role in allowing your child to manipulate you.   Stop “fixing” the problem, instead show show emotional support and make sure your child knows you trust his abilities.

Sometimes a teen’s manipulative behavior reaches a level that you as a parent cannot handle without help. Many times manipulative behavior is seen in conjunction with other dangerous behavior. As always, if your teen’s behavior is extreme or if you believe it is likely to result in their physical harm, immediate action should be taken. Seek professional help in breaking this cycle and getting your teen back on the right track. 


The following are just a few sites that offer good information and resources for parents.


Please explore our website or call an admissions counselor at 866.694.8882 for additional information about how Wood Creek Academy can help your family.


Wood Creek Academy

It is an honor to be considered as a potential resource to help your family at this important time. Please contact us today for more information about our program and specifics about the customized solution we can offer your teen.

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