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Horrible, Manipulative Behavior and Lies, Lies, Lies

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I’m a mom of a 6 y.o., and stepmom to a 9 y.o. with ADHD, and a 7 y.o. who is violent, short tempered and manipulative. He has no problem with lying on a daily basis. His mother is a drug addict and prostitute. He is not fully aware of her issues, but is aware of her pathological lying.He is very intelligent in “book-related” things, such as reading and mathematics. Other than that, he is below par. He shows little to no respect for the rights of others. He has made up stories of children being molested in the classroom, and other stories to get others in trouble and show how “good” he is. He has stolen and “coveted” things that do not belong to him. He lies so much, I assume everything he says is untrue. He will attack the other two boys on a daily basis for the slightest percieved ‘wrong’. If he does not get what he wants, when he wants it (litterally), he will fake-cry (it is obviously fake) for up to an hour. For example, when his father comes home from work, the child immeadiately will ask for a quarter and a trip to the store so he can spend it on a gum ball machine. After the tooth brushing bed time routine he will continue asking for something to eat (even though he had a snack before brushing) untill his dad gives in or he is carried, crying and faking injuries to his bed. He seems to not understand at all that the rules also apply to him, “because he gets good grades in school”. His ego is so out of control, we simply can not take it any more.The unmedicated ADHD child is much easier to deal with!He is perpetually seeking attention by any means necessary. He unfortunately, can’t seem to handle positive attention. He will use it to manipulate the emotions of everyone around him.Even when he does do what he is told, it has an air of selfish manipulation.He seems to do it to make the others seem bad, and himself, the best.

His mother and I had a fist fight about a year ago. (Not my most shining moment, I admit.) She had the 2 boys for the weekend. She made up horrible stories about how their father and I were rotten to her, and she is the victim. She has been assulted by her on-again, off-again boyfriend on more than one occasion, in front of the childeren. I, at first, thought his behavior was caused by the altercation with his mother, but I did apologise to them and talked at length about how I was wrong and the issues she and I have do not involve them. It was after a huge fight between the mother and boyfriend,(when the child’s birthday cake was thrown across the room and all 3 were thrown out of the house onto the street at night time (not the first or last time for that).

I do love this little boy, but am finding it almost impossible to like him at all. I fear my reaction to his deciet and manipulation may just make him a monster. I value honesty above all. I try to not be too harsh, since he is just a child, but nothing we do seems to improve his behavios. He even said he knows the difference between right and wrong, but he choses wrong.I am very concerned about him developing a personality disorder. This behavior has been present since birth, but has increased severely over the last year and a half.

He was neglected by his mother. His diapers were not changed, he was allowed to urinate and deficate on the floor, and then punished because she was sick of changing diapers. He was not held by her very often. He was driven from sitter to sitter and carried around in his car seat carrier. He was in it for over 6 hours daily.He was not fed by hjer. At 4 months, she would throw him a Happy Mael in the back seat of the car and expected to self feed.

He now wets the bed atleast 3 times a week and has a very unhealthy food issue. He will only eat junk (obsessivly). When we sit down to a healthy dinner, he will cry, whine and make himself gag, while crying for mac and cheese.This is even for the meals he picked out and helped prepare. He will tell me he never picked it out, he doesn’t like it (even though he ate it before with no problem)and he will go without food, but hoards candy in his room. He is aware of our rule of no food in the bedrooms.

What can we do to help this child realise his great potential, and not give in to the instant gratification lifestyle he is heading for?

Horrible, Manipulative Behavior and Lies, Lies, Lies

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Hello, and thank you for your question:

I don’t have to tell you that you have an extremely serious problem here and that you honestly need family therapy. This little boy is very disturbed and his behavior will only get worse over time without some help. There are some things that will help him understand that he cannot manipulate the two of you, but he’s headed for some serious problems if you don’t get help soon.

First of all, you and your husband must present a united front with all of the children. If one parent sets a rule or a consequence, the other parent must not give in, or undermine the first parent. For instance, if this little boy throws a temper tantrum and you try to set a consequence, does Dad take him out for gum anyway?

The daily trips to the store have to stop as well until he can earn them. Remember, adults have to work for rewards, too—we have to go to a job to get the reward of money so we can get gum too.

Never reinforce a behavior that you don’t want. Understand that reinforcement for this child is attention. Any kind of attention. So, he throws a temper tantrum, you either give him a time out or ignore him. Only reinforce behaviors that you wish to see, and let all of your children understand that this may be a change in your behavior.

If you change the rules without telling people, that won’t be fair. Sit down with each person involved. If you can’t do it in a group, do it individually, and tell them what the consequences will be and how they will be reinforced.

Develop a reward system. That is, put a sheet of paper on the refrigerator with names and chores and give a star to each child who has behaved or done his chores. At the end of the week, the stars can be redeemed for something that is reasonable, such as an ice cream cone, etc. At the end of the month, reward the most stars.  This works for nearly all children, but unless you have professional help, the 7-year-old won’t believe you, nor will he comply.

Finding a professional in your area is pretty easy; go to Find A Therapist and put in your zip code.

Best of luck with this very difficult problem,

Dr. Diana Walcutt

Horrible, Manipulative Behavior and Lies, Lies, Lies

This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on August 10, 2009.

Therapists live, online right now, from BetterHelp:

Diana L. Walcutt, Ph.D.

APA Reference
Walcutt, D. (2019). Horrible, Manipulative Behavior and Lies, Lies, Lies. Psych Central. Retrieved on December 3, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 1 Jun 2019 (Originally: 10 Aug 2017)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 1 Jun 2019
Published on Psych All rights reserved.