manipulative parenting steals the confidence of children
Baby & Toddler Education Parenting

Understanding Manipulative Parenting: Signs, Tactics & Solutions

Manipulative parenting? Might sound unbelievable at first, because the very first idea that comes to mind for a parent is affection, care, and kindness but it’s true the same parents can also engage in manipulative behaviours towards their children. 

The reality is stark and demands attention to serve the purpose let’s discuss what manipulative parenting is and how it can affect children. It’s not easy to tackle manipulative parents but we can learn ways to deal with them. 


Explore the complexities attached to parental manipulation, learn to address the challenges with finesse, and gain some practical solutions with us. This blog serves as guidance towards healthier, democratic parenting promoting a nurturing environment for your children. It will help you build a strong bond with your children that allows them to flourish – a bond that is built on trust, communication, and mutual respect. 


What is a Manipulative Parent?

Tactically handling a child such as controlling him emotionally to get him to do what you want is called manipulation. Parents manipulating children may include lying about certain things, guilt-tripping, threats, and other forms of controlling tactics that may come under the category of physiological abuse. 

Parents want the best for their children and to achieve that goal they might start using tactics that lead to manipulating their children, obeying them at all cost. Manipulative parents make the child seek their approval for everything, undermine the child’s self-esteem, and makes it challenging for the child to express their own need and opinion. 


Types Of Manipulation

Manipulation does not exist in a single form. They are tactics that can emotionally and psychologically control a child and even adults, giving the manipulator a sense of power and control. A relationship especially between a parent and a child where kindness, care, and affection are the ultimate sources of nurturing, if involves manipulation, is said to be toxic and can be termed as an emotionally abusive relationship. 

Here are some common forms of manipulation tactics that parents use over their children:


It is a form of psychological tactic that manipulative parents use over their children, like challenging his or her memory, sanity, and perception. They say things that make the child’s feelings and opinions invalid and create self-doubts. 

Silent Treatment

Many people when they face emotional flooding usually shut down but manipulators use it intentionally, as a form to control others and make them feel guilty. Parents often stop communicating with the child and withhold affection as a form of punishment. 


To control children, manipulating parents often isolates them or becomes emotionally unavailable as a form of punishment, limiting their interactions with family members and friends.


Parents who intentionally manipulate, often guilt-trip their children for their behaviour. If a child is enjoying his time, manipulative parents might guilt-tip him for doing it without involving his parents. Their goal is to make the child discuss his plans with them next time.

Love Bombing

When a person tries to bombard you with affection, attention, and everything that pleases you is called Love Bombing. People use it intentionally to attain their goals and control the victim. Many emotional manipulative parents use this tactic to incline their children towards them and make them obey their demands. 


Manipulative parenting most often includes comparing children to their friends or even siblings. They compare how the other child is able to do certain things and he is not. This leads to the child feeling in a competition all the time, decreasing his confidence and willpower.   

Conditional Love

I will love you if you… This is conditional. Many emotionally manipulative parents use love as a form of reward when the child obeys them and restrict them from their love if the child disobeys them. This forces the child to obey the parents if he wants them to love him back.


Characteristics of a Manipulative Parent

To address the unhealthy and toxic dynamics in a parent-child relationship, learning about the characteristics of manipulative parenting is important. Parents who are manipulators, often use their manipulation tricks intentionally or even unintentionally on their children. No matter how it is done, manipulation does not leave positive results on children. 

A few obvious signs of a manipulative father or mother are:



Manipulative parenting lacks empathy

They struggle to empathize with their children’s feelings and needs, only to prioritize their own over the child’s emotional well-being. It creates a barrier between the children and the parents as any healthy relationship requires the other to be emotionally available for them.

They have controlling behaviour

Manipulative parent’s desire to control their child’s life does not fade away even when the child becomes an adult. They always want to dominate, control, and direct the lives and choices of their children.

Parents manipulating children are judgmental

Such people find ways to make a child insecure about his or her capabilities. They continuously judge them, belittle them, and find ways to control their child’s behaviour through negativity. 

They have unrealistic expectations

Manipulative parenting includes having a set of unrealistic expectations making the child continuously make more efforts to make them happy.

Manipulative parenting involves emotional blackmailing

This is one of the foremost tactics used by all manipulators even if they are parents. Emotional blackmailing is when your feelings are turned against you making you obey the other’s demands to feel good about yourself. This emotional blackmailing disturbs the child mentally making them give up on themselves.

Playing favourites within the family

Manipulative parents play the game of favouritism within the family to create a sense of insecurity for the child. This makes the child feel in competition with his siblings always and sometimes leads to hatred and becoming emotionally unstable. 


Signs of You Being Manipulated By Your Parents

Manipulation is harsh! It’s harsh on those who face it. Their emotional and mental well-being is affected and they never stay the same again. Long-term manipulation can negatively affect the parent-child relationship, making the child feel bad about himself all the time for not making his parents happy. Dealing with this type of relationship can be very exhausting and often results in poor mental health for the child.  

It is essential to be aware of the potential signs of facing manipulative parents within you, to seek timely support for your emotional and mental well-being. 

  1. You have low self-esteem: A series of criticisms and continuous belittling from parents manipulating children can result in low self-esteem. You might not know your worth always thinking you are not good enough. 
  2. You are indecisive: It is hard for you to make decisions on your own and you always need someone’s approval before proceeding with your idea. 
  3. Fear of consequences: You always have a fear of negative consequences, like fear of losing your parent’s affection if you fail the examination.
  4. Setting boundaries is difficult: Your privacy is always invaded and your life is controlled by your parents. You find it difficult to set the limit thinking of the negative consequences. 
  5. You are always confused and doubtful: If your parents have gaslighted you several times, you will always be doubtful and confused about your reactions, actions, and decisions. You might question your perceptions and reality. 



Types of Things Manipulative Parents Say

Parents always wish the best for their children – something you might always hear from every parent but this is not the case every time. 

Yes, they do wish the best for us, but their way. Manipulative parents might do it intentionally or unintentionally, but they wish to make their child obey their every command. You are good for them, only if you listen to them!  

Manipulative parents always utter words that help them control their children. If your parents are manipulative or you are a manipulating mother or a father, these words will be very common echoing in your home:

  • They will say things that disturb you psychologically – After all that I have done for you, this is what you are paying back with?
  • They will show their affection only if you obey them – I will love you only if you do as I say.
  • They will always play the victim – I never said that, it’s all your imagination. 
  • They will favour your siblings over you – Your brother cares about us, unlike you who only think about himself (regardless of how much you love them and care for them)
  • They will pass critical remarks over your personality – You are so insensitive. You are always messing things up for all of us. 


How Can Manipulative Parents Change Their Ways?

Democratic Parenting tips 


The way of handling manipulative parents is challenging, it is a complicated task for the manipulative parent to change their way and bring out a better version of them for their children. 

But if anyone tries to become a better version of themselves, they can try out these ways to provide a nurturing environment for everyone around them, especially their children. 

Do not cross boundaries: Everyone has boundaries and everyone has a right to privacy. Do not intervene without any reason. Let your child create his or her boundaries, help them redefine them for good but don’t cross them. 

Show unconditional love: I will love you if you will….. This shatters your child. He will learn to love only for the sake of something in return. Show them unconditional love so one day they spread out unconditional love in the world. 

Show Empathy: Children expect their parents to be empathetic towards them. When you understand them and are emotionally available for them, you will see a positive change in your home. 

Open Communication: Let there be open communication in your house. Everyone can speak, show their opinion, and feel respected. Create an environment where children are comfortable sharing their stories with you.

Seek Professional Help: Take therapy and consultation from professionals who make your path of recovery easy. You will receive the support that you want to bring the change in you. 


How To Deal With Manipulative Parents

If your parents are manipulative and are not ready to give up on their behaviour, this can exhaust you and disturb your relationship with them in the long run. If you employ certain tips and tricks while handling them, your challenges can ease out and you will feel relaxed. Let’s dive in:

Recognize their Behavior – To deal with manipulative parents, the first thing is to recognize their behaviour and behaviour patterns. To deal with manipulation, the first step is to know what is happening. 

Create Boundaries – You need to set your boundaries and communicate your limits with your parents. The sooner you do it, the sooner your life will ease out.

Maintain emotional distance – We can say once a manipulator always a manipulator. To save yourself from being emotionally drained, it is best to maintain distance. Take breaks and leave when you know the conversation is draining your positive energy. 

Focus on Self-care – Living with manipulative people who are so close to you creates distance within yourself. You ignore yourself to serve them. Focus on self-care, prioritize it, and do activities that keep you busy, and happy and bring peace keeping your positive energy high. 

Practice Detachment – Detach yourself from their manipulative talks and behaviour. You can control only yourself not them or their behavior. 



We learned a lot about manipulation and manipulative parenting. Now that you know what these terms are and how to change this behaviour or deal with it if it’s around you, be ready to see a change. A change in you and those around you. If your parents want to change their behaviour to improve the environment of home, be there for support. Otherwise, embrace the point of dealing with them making your life easy, and protecting your mental and physiological health.  

1 Comment

  • Vee February 4, 2024

    Parents need better skills
    Parents don’t need to be labelled as manipulators
    Children need better skills
    Children don’t need to label parents as manipulators

    There is no growth of healthy communication in this opinion piece

    Marshall Rosenberg NVC
    The Gottman’s

    We need to be teaching healthy dynamics
    We do not need to discard each other

    Children who are manipulative also contribute to unhealthy dynamics

    Life is multifaceted

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