Saturday, November 24, 2012

Manipulating children according to NM

When we were talking about raising children with NM, she told me that I was always the 'perfectly well-behaved child' and that everyone envied her. I don't remember crying when I was young. I do remember NM spending every waking hour with me, completely enmeshed with me and I had more fun I could have imagined, and I remember my first like 3 years of life as perfect. Maybe even a bit after that. I also remember that my opinion was always asked and valued, so that was also why it was so shocking when I became a tween and suddenly my taste in clothes was put down and screamed at, my taste in food was considered disgusting, my friends were 'inappropriate', and everything I wanted to decide on my own was replaced by her completely different decision.

I have only realized now why. I only had the illusion of deciding things. NM 'came out' lately that she was manipulating me from my birth into believing that the choices I made were mine. She proudly announced that she always manipulated me to do what she wanted me to. And then went on explaining in detail how to make a small child believe that the choices they make are theirs and still get what you want. How to provide them with 'options' to choose from and make sure that they will want to find out eagerly which one you would want them to pick, how to ask them to choose and then if the answer you get from your child is not what you want, simply derail their attention with some toy or something interesting (and due to their very short attention span they will forget you have even asked anything), and then ask the same question again, but that time, even more manipulatively.

NM described how to push their 'wants' the way you want them to, with little tricks, decoys, or how to disregard their desires without them noticing and then replace them with your own.

She was so proud of herself, and she was so condescending (she wanted to demonstrate how little I know about raising children and how awesomely clever she is).

When I was a teen, this elaborate technique was replaced by asking my opinion, acting like it was accepted, then coming at me later completely enraged, authoritative, and dragging along with EF as a physical and emotional shield and threatening to severely abuse him if I don't comply, and then telling me that I will decide to want the exact opposite. And I did so. The conversation looked like this basically:
NM: - Scatha, do you want to visit auntie today?
Scatha: - No.
NM: - Okay (walks away and waits until 5 minutes before departure time, then marches into my room)
NM: - Get your clothes, we are going.
Scatha: (grunts, makes faces and silently starts putting clothes of NM's choice on) 

(you can extend the conversation with buts, arguing about clothes and losing, listening to how 'grumpy' or 'difficult' or 'unloving' I am, or how I don't respect family, or as a last resort NM shoving EF's sad, desperate and panicking face into mine, to demonstrate how she had already started torturing him emotionally and will escalate doing so if I don't comply)

It never even occurred to me until my mid twenties that I could ask why the hell she was asking my opinion if she was not interested in it or would not accept it anyway.

And it never even occurred to me that I could say no to these, until a few years ago. When I first did so, she sent EF to me, and I've never seen such fear on his face before. I still said no. Then she marched up to my door and ordered me to go. I said no and shut the door into her face. Then she tortured emotionally the living sh*t out of EF after it, just to make sure. This is their problem.

But this, that she admitted that she was conditioning me from my birth to do what she wanted me to, was downright creepy and shocking and devastating. At least now I know that no, even when I was around 3 years old, my life wasn't happy or perfect. It was manipulated. And I never had the chance to learn that being enmeshed with NM and doing exactly what she wanted was not equal to being loved for who I was. Not at all.


  1. I had a wonderful, warm and loving mum until about age 13 when she went over to the dark side. Then she back with the hideous put downs about my appearance and started weighing me down with chores and the responsibility of parenting my younger brother. My home life was hell after that and I wasn't allowed to have friends or a social life.

    This is when she told me I was an "accident" who doubly disappointed by being a girl.

    Probably would have been far less painful if she'd been a bitch from the get-go.

    1. I had the same experience. Until I was 12, I thought I had the perfect mum ever. Everyone envied me because she was nice with everybody, and I never understood why other kids wanted to be with each other instead of their parents...
      Until I wanted to have a friend and wear the clothes I chose. Then all hell broke loose.

      I also think that it might have been less painful if she had never been nice to me.

      :hugs: for you mulderfan!

  2. I have to admit, I used the method of giving my son choices, but I never denigrated his choice if it wasn't what I wanted. More like things like: you have to eat a vegetable, which would you like? Or: You can play that video game for 2 hours if you finish your homework first or 1 hour if you play the game before homework. I mean, to a degree you have to parent and sort of manipulate their choices because the other options are chaos or prison. Maybe I'm being extreme in that.

    However, what you describe in your post is gross and smothering. Your mother shouldn't be proud of herself. She was squashing the individuality of another human being, not playing with clay.

    1. VR, what you described is perfectly appropriate parenting and often recommended by experts. The difference between what you did and what Scatha's NM did, is that you allowed him to freely choose between the two, while in reality, Scatha only had one choice. Her NM was trying to manipulate her into doing what she wanted by giving her the appearance of choice. Your son has choices and you are helping to guide him by giving boundaries, but allowing him to express his individuality within those boundaries. And it helps all kids feel a bit more in control of their life, while still allowing parents to maintain some guidelines.

    2. Don't worry VR, what you do is teaching responsibility for your son and giving him the real possibility to choose, to weigh options and then decide between them and then experience the consequences. To try what happens if he chooses this, or chooses that.
      I think this is wonderful, and I would do the same if I had a child.

      What I had when I was young was orders, wrapped nicely in kindness and the illusion of choice. If I chose the 'right' answer, I chose against my will and had to hide my sadness, but at least there was peace. If I chose the 'wrong' answer, everything still happened againts my will, but in addition I was constantly being hissed at, and was verbally tortured in secret. So I have learned how to 'sense' what people desire or think, you can call it almost a telepathic ability. It was my only way of keeping my sanity, to be able to know what the 'right' answer was, without having to ask.

      And these were not the study or not / go to prison or not kind of choices, but whether I wear the green or the blue pullover, or whether I visit my aunt (who didn't care about me or my parents at all) or stay at home to read a book.

      VR, you are a very good parent based on what you write. I am proud of you :)

  3. Ah, Scatha, She's still using the same tactics (see Jessie's excellent clarification above) TODAY: "This is THEIR problem." Yep. You're still not allowed to Individuate and your NM doesn't care who she uses or manipulates to haul you "back" into being your good, little enmeshed, deluded self.

    1. Yes. She does not want me to individuate, and now it has become clear that she does not intend to let DB individuate either. (not that he cares, haha)


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