It’s not rare to hear people describing children as manipulative. It’s especially worse when they are girls. This dynamic was brought to the forefront most recently by the comedian Chris Distefano while in conversation with fellow comedian Whitney Cummings. On the show Chris says, “I mean already Jasmine (wife) will tell me how much my daughters manipulate me already and she’s like and you don’t understand at all. She’s like you’re such an idiot, how you don’t understand that they’re constantly manipulating you. Constantly manipulating you.” He tells a story illustrating that and while he’s a comedian on a comedy show, what he’s saying is serious, it’s important and it reflects how our society functions. Let’s talk about what’s wrong with describing children as manipulative.
Check out the video here (https://tinyurl.com/mtst7fy7)
It should come as no surprise to anyone that this is mainly if not exclusively said of girls and eventually women. Chris himself says his stepson doesn’t do that. He tells a story in which he’s convinced his daughter manipulated him into letting her play with his iPad after his wife said no. Then follows that with evidence that his stepson would never do that. He says of his stepson, “Where my stepson doesn’t do that at all. My stepson would come in and go, ‘Can I watch your iPad? Mom said no.’ And then I’m like if Mom said no, then I can’t override.”
Girls and women are framed as manipulative, conniving, controlling always one step ahead, and ready to trick you into doing something that wouldn’t be beneficial to you. This is the whole Eve taking the fruit and convincing Adam to eat it, it’s Jezebel leading men astray, and it’s women always tricking men. It tells men and women, girls and boys that girls and women cannot be trusted, and cannot be taken at their word. Meanwhile, men are framed as too dumb to lie, they are an open book. That’s dangerous. It breeds hatred of women and contributes to the violence women are subjected to especially by jealous partners.
They are children
Girls are children. Manipulation implies malicious intent. It implies a calculating characteristic where a person is able to see five steps ahead before they begin to trick you. Manipulation is by definition done for devious reasons in order to unfairly control others for selfish reasons. Children in the first place haven’t finished growing and developing. Their brains are nowhere near enough to be that calculating and conniving. Children often can’t even adequately predict the consequence of their actions which is why they have to be told no; “No you can’t jump from that table” and “No, you can’t put the cat’s tail in your mouth” and “No, you can’t lick the mat.” Children between the ages of 7 and 11 still have a difficult time understanding the repercussions of their actions. This is not the kind of person who can manipulate you, a full-grown adult man. Get serious.
Manipulation requires one to think several steps ahead, children can barely think one step ahead about the consequences of their actions much less predict how you will respond and then adjust their behaviour accordingly to control you. Find another explanation for what’s happening because it’s not the child.
Manipulation is about control
Manipulation is about controlling other people, and getting them to do what you want. If there’s one thing children lack it’s control of any aspect of their lives. Children are the most oppressed, most vulnerable group of people in the world. Everything about their lives is controlled by other people. Adults control what they eat, when they eat, where they live, what they wear, what they do with their time, what religion they follow If an adult had a partner who controlled any of these things about their life, we’d call that an abusive relationship. Adults have organizations where they can take their grievances and avenues for redress or even end a relationship altogether. Children don’t have any of that. They’re on their own. They have no control over anything. For someone to manipulate you, they have to have a measure of control over you.
Children have almost non-existent choices and depending on the parenting adults in their lives they may have no choices at all. This is not the kind of person who can manipulate you. And if by some miracle they did find a way to manipulate you so that they can exercise a measure of control over their lives, well then they’ve earned it. They’ve earned it all.
Stop calling children manipulative. Their brains are not developed enough for that, it implies malicious intent where there is none and it’s rooted in misogyny. Such sentiments are not an expression of love and if there’s something children need from all the adults in their life it’s love. They need to be perceived as the little humans they are who are so vulnerable and so dependent on the goodwill of others. That alone should have us squarely on their side, always looking out for them not among the haters hurling slurs at them.
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