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Manipulative Parents: Meaning, Causes + 10 Signs


Are you the child of a parent who always seems to know what’s best for you? Do they manipulate, control, or guilt-trip you into doing what they want, even if it’s not what you want for yourself? If so, you’re not alone.

Manipulative parents can have a profound impact on their children, affecting their self-esteem, decision-making abilities, and overall well-being.

They may use a variety of tactics to maintain control, from emotional manipulation to gaslighting and more. 

These parents can be difficult to deal with, leaving their children feeling trapped, powerless, and struggling to break free.

In this article, you will be exposed to the impact of manipulative parenting, and the different types of manipulative behavior parents may exhibit, and then provided with strategies to cope and break free from the cycle of manipulation. 

If you’re ready to take back control of your life and learn how to set healthy boundaries, keep reading.

Definition Of Manipulative Parents

Manipulative parents are individuals who use various tactics, such as guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, gaslighting, and controlling behavior, to maintain power and control over their children.

They may disregard their child’s feelings, needs, and desires, and instead use manipulative tactics to achieve their own goals and desires, often leaving their children feeling trapped and powerless.

How Common Is This Problem


While it’s difficult to determine the exact prevalence of manipulative parenting, research suggests that it is a common problem. 

A study published in the Journal of Family Psychology found that over 90% of adult participants reported experiencing some form of psychological control from their parents during their childhood, with the most common forms of control being guilt induction, love withdrawal, and invalidation of emotions.

Also read: 15+ Harm-Free Anger Management Activities For Kids

Another study published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment, and Trauma found that approximately 21% of participants reported experiencing emotional abuse from their parents during their childhood, with emotional abuse including manipulative behaviors such as shaming, blaming, and gaslighting. With these statistics, it is clear that you are not alone in this problem.

Signs Of Manipulative Parents


Manipulative parents may use a variety of tactics to control and manipulate their children, making it difficult for their children to recognize their behavior as toxic or abusive. Below are 10 common signs of manipulative parents:

They use guilt to control you:

Manipulative parents may use guilt to get what they want from you. They may tell you that you are responsible for their happiness or that you owe them something for all they have done for you.

They refuse to respect your boundaries:

Manipulative parents may refuse to respect your boundaries, both physical and emotional. They may show up unannounced, go through your belongings, or demand access to your personal information.

They play the victim:

Manipulative parents may play the victim, painting themselves as the ones who have been wronged. They may use this tactic to avoid taking responsibility for their own actions and to gain sympathy from others.

They use emotional blackmail:

Manipulative parents may use emotional blackmail to get what they want. They may threaten to hurt themselves or others or withhold their love or support unless you comply with their wishes.

They use gaslighting:

Manipulative parents may use gaslighting, a form of emotional abuse that involves denying or invalidating your experiences, thoughts, or feelings. 

They may tell you that you’re overreacting or that something didn’t happen the way you remember it.

They make you responsible for their emotions:

Manipulative parents may put the burden of their emotions on you, making you responsible for their happiness or well-being. 

They may blame you for their negative feelings or criticize you for not doing enough to make them happy.

They undermine your confidence:

Manipulative parents may undermine your confidence and self-esteem, making you doubt yourself and your abilities. 

They may criticize you for your choices or accomplishments or make you feel like you’re never good enough.

They use triangulation:

Manipulative parents may use triangulation, a tactic that involves pitting one person against another. They may tell you things about other family members to create conflict or turn family members against each other.

They use passive-aggressive behavior:

Manipulative parents may use passive-aggressive behavior to control you. They may give you silent treatment, withhold affection, or make sarcastic or snide comments to express their disapproval.

They deny their behavior:

Manipulative parents may deny their behavior or refuse to take responsibility for their actions. They may blame others or make excuses for their behavior, making it difficult for you to address the issue or set boundaries.

How Does A Manipulative Parent Affect A Child?


Manipulative parents can have a profound and lasting impact on their children, affecting their emotional, social, and cognitive development. And here are ten ways that a manipulative parent can affect you as a child:

Low self-esteem:

Manipulative parents may use tactics like guilt-tripping, emotional blackmail, and criticism to control their children.

These tactics can undermine a child’s self-esteem, leading to feelings of worthlessness and inadequacy.

Difficulty trusting others:

If you are manipulative as a parent, it can be challenging for your child to trust others. They may learn that people cannot be trusted or that others will use them to meet their own needs.

Inability to assert boundaries:

Manipulative parents may not respect their child’s boundaries, leading to a child who struggles to assert their own needs and desires. This can lead to difficulty establishing healthy relationships and boundaries later in life.

Difficulty regulating emotions:

Children with manipulative parents may struggle to regulate their emotions, leading to feelings of anxiety, depression, or anger. This can have a significant impact on their mental health and well-being.


Children of manipulative parents may develop a codependent relationship with their parents, believing that they need to care for or protect them at all costs. This can lead to difficulty establishing healthy relationships with others.


Children of manipulative parents may feel pressure to meet unrealistic expectations, leading to perfectionism and a fear of failure.

Difficulty with decision-making:

Manipulative parents may not allow their child to make their own decisions, leading to a child who struggles to make decisions or who lacks confidence in their choices.

Difficulty forming healthy relationships:

Children of manipulative parents may struggle to form healthy relationships with others, as they may not have learned what healthy relationships look like.

Lack of autonomy:

Children of manipulative parents may feel like they don’t have control over their own lives, leading to a lack of autonomy and a sense of helplessness.

Difficulty with intimacy:

Children of manipulative parents may struggle with intimacy, both emotional and physical. And they may have difficulty trusting others and may fear vulnerability.

How Do You Know If You’re Being Manipulated?


It can be difficult to recognize if you are being manipulated, especially if the manipulation is subtle or if you have grown up in an environment where manipulation is normalized. 

However, this blog post will open your eyes to some ways to detect it:

1.      If you are feeling like you are always to blame for problems or conflicts, then you may likely be in a manipulative relationship.

2.      Always feeling guilty or ashamed for not meeting someone’s expectations, even if those expectations are unrealistic or unfair. Then you may be under a manipulative person.

3.      Feeling like you are walking on eggshells around someone, or like you have to be very careful about what you say or do to avoid setting them off. Then you are being manipulated.

4.      If you feel like your thoughts or opinions are not valued or respected.

5.      Feeling like you are being pressured or coerced into doing something that you don’t want to do.

6.      Feeling like you have to justify your actions or decisions to someone else, even when you don’t feel that you should have to. Then you are being heavily manipulated.

7.      Feeling like you are being isolated or cut off from other people in your life.

8.      Feeling like you are being gaslit, or made to doubt your own perception of reality.

9.      Feeling like you are constantly having to make sacrifices or compromises to appease someone else, even if it’s not in your best interest.

10.  Feeling like your boundaries are not being respected, or like someone is trying to control your behavior.

How To Outsmart A Manipulative Parent


Dealing with a manipulative parent can be challenging and emotionally draining. Manipulative parents can use various tactics to control and influence their children, such as guilt-tripping, gaslighting, emotional blackmail, and passive-aggressive behavior.

To get away from a manipulative parent, here are some strategies you can use:

Recognize the manipulation tactics:

The first step to outsmarting a manipulative parent is to recognize the tactics they use to control and manipulate you. 

Manipulative parents often use emotional manipulation and guilt-tripping to make you feel responsible for their emotions or actions. 

They may also use passive-aggressive behavior to indirectly communicate their displeasure or disapproval.

Set healthy boundaries:

Setting healthy boundaries is essential when dealing with a manipulative parent. Hence, you should clearly communicate your needs and expectations and assert your boundaries. It is also crucial to be firm but respectful when setting boundaries with your parents.

Practice assertiveness:

Being assertive can help you stand up for yourself and communicate your needs effectively. Practice using “I” statements and bold communication techniques to express your thoughts and feelings in a clear and direct way.

Seek support:

A support system can provide you with the emotional support and validation you need when dealing with a manipulative parent. You can consider talking to a therapist, trusted friend, or family member about your experiences.

Don’t engage in arguments:

Manipulative parents may try to provoke you into arguments or manipulate you through emotional outbursts. 

Hence, you should avoid engaging in arguments or emotional reactions, as it may give your parent more control over the situation. Instead, stay calm and respond with empathy and understanding.

Be aware of your emotions:

It is essential to be aware of your emotions when dealing with a manipulative parent. Therefore, you should practice mindfulness and self-care activities to help you manage your emotions and reduce stress.

Seek professional help:

If your parent’s manipulation tactics are causing significant distress, consider seeking professional help. 

A therapist or counselor can provide you with tools and strategies to cope with the situation and improve your mental health.

Final Thoughts On Manipulative Parents

In conclusion, manipulative parents can have a significant impact on their children’s emotional, psychological, and physical well-being. 

Such parents often employ different tactics to control their children, including emotional manipulation, guilt-tripping, gaslighting, and even physical abuse. 

Children who grow up under such circumstances often struggle with self-esteem, self-worth, trust, and relationships in their adult life.

Also read: 9 Incredible Types of Moms [Find your own category]

It is important to note that manipulative parents can have different motivations for their actions. Some may genuinely believe that they are acting in their children’s best interests, while others may have narcissistic or abusive tendencies that drive their behavior. 

Regardless of the underlying motivation, the impact on the child is often negative and long-lasting.

Therefore, it is essential for parents, educators, and society at large to recognize the signs of manipulative behavior and intervene early to prevent harm. 

This can include providing resources for parents who may be struggling to manage their emotions or seeking professional help for children who may have experienced abuse or neglect.

Furthermore, raising awareness about manipulative parenting and its impact on children is crucial. 

This can be done by sharing articles, participating in discussions, and supporting organizations that provide services and resources for children who may be at risk.

In conclusion, the effects of manipulative parenting can be detrimental to a child’s growth and development. 

It is our collective responsibility to create a safer and healthier environment for all children. 

Let us take action by sharing this article and educating ourselves and others about the signs and impact of manipulative parenting.

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