At what age does the act of manipulation start? I would argue after watching my two half-brothers grow, it starts around birth. I believe it’s innocent at first, but somewhere along the way through observation and absorption; it becomes an art form for some kids. My half-brothers are no exception. I will use the oldest as the example because his efforts are not only amusing in their ingenuity, but he continues to persevere, even when his motives are transparent.
The oldest is stubborn, willful, and dangerously clever. From the time he was two (he was speaking full sentences at 1 years old) he has been coming up (in my opinion) with the most amusing ways to manipulate situations. I could have a running list pages long, however, I will stick with my two favorites.
My father and half-brother live in New York City and getting into schools (even public) is quite a process. During the pre-school interview process the children were asked to complete tasks, chores, and activities to test their social and mental acumen. My older half-brother passed all tests not because of his ability to complete said tasks, but because they were so impressed with his ability to get out of doing the task. He actually delegated all his work to other children. He told each child and teacher present why he thought they would be better at completing the task than he would be, by pointing out what he thought were their strengths. For example, he told the moderator “I think you have had more schooling than me and would be better at picking out numbered blocks, but I am happy to watch you do it.”
His latest, which I have no clue where it came from, is insulting you when he is upset or trying to be funny and then telling you that whatever he said was just a “saying.” He must have picked up the gist of what a “saying” is, somewhere along the way. His use is wrong and his motives are beyond transparent, but it’s hard not to find the humor in a 5-year old thinking that labeling something a “saying” clears him all of hurt and wrong doing. For instance, he told his little brother he was a “Diaper-headed chicken,” and when my father reprimanded him for using that language and insulting his little brother, his response? “It’s just a saying, don’t you know what a saying is?” There have been many more instances where a “saying” excuse was used to avoid punishment.
I live states away from my little brothers and so my access to them is limited and time spent is few and far between, but the manipulation behaviors that I have seen are hilarious and I know most of it is part of the growth process. It just never ceases to amaze me how young it starts and how resourceful a child can be.
We would love to hear from you. What has your child done to avoid punishment? What behavior or learned knowledge surprised you? Made you laugh?