Manipulative Behavior in Dating Teens

By Candice Coleman
A manipulative girlfriend may threaten herself or her boyfriend to get what she wants.
A manipulative girlfriend may threaten herself or her boyfriend to get what she wants.

As teenagers venture into their first relationships, they're often filled with hopes and dreams that could rival the most romantic movie. Some might be surprised to discover that their handsome boyfriend is actually quite manipulative. While parents cannot control who their children date, they can educate their teenagers about healthy relationships and encourage children to leave unhappy ones.

Signs of Manipulative Behavior

A manipulative partner shows many sides, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. A boyfriend might insult his girlfriend's family or friends in a bid to get her away from them. A girlfriend might threaten to hurt herself during an argument to keep a boyfriend from continuing the argument or from leaving her. Those behaviors are designed to make the victim feel pressured into choosing a course of action dictated by the other.

Causes of Manipulative Behavior

A teenager might resort to manipulative behavior for a variety of reasons, according to Kim Jones, a marriage and family therapist in San Diego. Teenagers might become manipulative if they feel they do not have control of anything else in their environment. A feeling of insecurity might underlie the manipulative teenager, who overcompensates by trying to control others. Some antisocial personality disorders might also cause manipulative behaviors.

How to Help a Teenager with a Manipulative Partner

Educate your teenager about healthy relationships, including the idea that it is never OK to hit someone or throw objects during a fight, according to KidsHealth, a child development site. Both teenagers should feel like empowered, equal partners in a relationship, and not as though a power imbalance exists, according to Lisa Brookes Kift, a family and marriage therapist at Marin Therapy and Counseling in California. Encourage your teenager to leave a manipulative partner. If your child does not want to leave, you might have to forbid him from seeing her, according to Michelle S. Barratt, a professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas-Houston Medical Center.

When Your Child is the Manipulative Partner

Your child might not even be aware that her behavior in her relationship is manipulative, according to Jones. A child might have adopted this behavior from watching her parents or seeing how other family members and friends treat their partners. A family therapist or counselor can help your child cope with the need to be in control and offer treatment for disorders that might cause your child to behave in a manipulative manner.

About the Author

Candice Coleman worked in the public school system as a middle school and high school substitute teacher. In addition to teaching, she is also a tutor for high school and college students.