Breaking manipulative cycles: Three signs you have a manipulative teen

Screen Shot 2015 10 01 at 4.59.21 PM 300x199Teenagers are naturally equipped with the art of manipulating their parents to cover their mess and get what they want. However, it is crucial to the overall health of the family and your teen to be on guard to a manipulative teen.

Signs of a manipulative teen

Many experts agree that a manipulative teen manipulates their parents to gain their love and attention, cover their mistakes, and get what they want. Most all experts believe that the most important reason teens manipulate is to feel powerful during their conflict with parents. Below is advice for parents of teenagers, to help them navigate the days of manipulative teens.

  • Repeatedly asking to do the same thing that the parent has previously forbidden

By using this manipulative tool, a manipulative teen hopes to wear down the parent to give in to their demands. To counter this situation, parents should come up with a reply and repeat the sentence like a broken record to make the point that their answer will not change. For example, the teen wants to go out with their friends but hasn’t done their chores around the house. The parents reply statement should be “You have to finish your chores before going out with friends”. No matter how many times the teen asks, the parent must not make exceptions and repeat their statement. This makes it difficult for teenagers to ignore their responsibility and bypass the parent’s authority.

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  • Beware of a manipulative teen and their lies

Sometimes telling parents half the truth or lying blatantly gets the teen what they want. For instance, teens will tell their parents they are going to a particular friend’s house for a sleepover. They truthfully give all the details of their plans, but ‘innocently’ leave out the most important detail that the parents will not be at home. Parents should be extremely vigilant to deal with such precarious situations. While trusting your teen is important, it is equally important to not blindly trust their manipulative teens. It is always a good idea to verify your child’s plans multiple times to make sure that you as a parent are getting the full, truthful story.

  • Emotionally blackmailing parents

Most parents’ goal is for their children to be happy. However, a manipulative teen is able to pick up on their parents’ weaknesses and use their emotions against them. For example, a teenage girl can blackmail her mother by saying “I have to have these shoes or else I won’t be popular at school”. This is a challenging form of manipulation for parents of teens to handle. It is important that as a parent you realize that while it is important to help your child be happy, it is also your job to help the child learn about the world.

If you are struggling with a manipulative teen call Trails Carolina today at 800-975-7303 to learn more about the program. The experts there are ready to help you find out if wilderness therapy is right for your teen and family.


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Jeremy Whitworth

As Executive Director at Trails Carolina, a leading wilderness therapy program for youth and teens, I oversee operations and collaborate with our leadership team. Since 2022, I've also hosted the Common Ground Podcast for parents: With a background in Wilderness Leadership and Experiential Education, I've managed adventure-based therapeutic programs across the US and Canada. My experiences in competitive athletics and adventure sports have honed my leadership, risk assessment, and decision-making skills, which I apply to running a successful business like Trails Carolina.

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Trails saved my daughter’s life. Amanda is an amazing human and a brilliant therapist. I am so grateful to her, Science Steve, and the other wonderful people who could reach my daughter at a time when I could not.

Margot Lowman August 2022

Great life changing experience for our son. After becoming addicted to gaming during covid he was very depressed. At Trails he experienced the wilderness, Science Steve, learning survival skills and top notch therapy and support etc… I highly recommend! This gave our son and our family a renewed family bond full of love and excitement about his bright future.

Winnifred Wilson July 2022


Outstanding clinical work and superb staff! There’s a great culture at this company and it shows with how they engage with families/clients.

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