Manipulation is unfair...but is it always wrong?

The answer to this question may seem like a no-brainer to you--of course manipulation is wrong you are thinking. But first, let's examine one of the most commonly accepted definitions of manipulation.

ma·nip·u·late manage or influence skillfully, esp. in an unfair manner: to manipulate people's feelings.
(Kudos to

In order to control, influence or discipline a child, parents use manipulation. Here's an example with my own child. At 9 am, James' first naptime of the day, James did not want to go to sleep. So I held him in my arms, whispered to him that he had sleepy eyes and softly ran my finger down his forehead and nose repeatedly until he couldn't keep his eyes open any longer. In essence, I have brainwashed my child by developing and teaching him cues that influence him to go to sleep. (A lactation consultant I met 4 months ago taught me how to do this.)

While this manipulation is a very useful thing, is it morally right? Admittedly, by definition, it is unfair. Is it necessary? Is it good? Is is bad? What are your thoughts?


debra said...

I don't particularly think manipulation is "bad" just as I dont think money is "bad". They both have the potential to be used badly. I manipulate my son all the time. I would hope by doing so I am teaching him how the world works and guiding him to make good choices in his life. Like when hes being difficult and won't use the potty, I manipulate him by telling him Im going to beat him to the potty and then he won't get a chance to go, Am I getting my way?... yes, but am I teaching my son a skill he needs to know in order to become an independant person... yes! muahahaha

the pretentious academic said...

Agree with Debra. Manipulation is mostly wrong but when raising (small) children it is ok. In most cases. When used for good. However, it's not ok to still hold that power of manipulation over them when they are say, 18, and able to make decisions themselves! Ha!

ajsritter said...

Plus, you didn't brainwash him to think he was tired, you just made him aware of his pre-existing fatigue...