Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

Word Choice September 27, 2013

At Jays back to school parent teacher meeting his teacher mentioned that Jay is a manipulator.  A manipulator

I flinched at that word because it has such a negative connotation.  I don’t like hearing people use negative words when talking about my child.

In that moment, I scrambled to think of a better word for her to use but I came up blank and it’s been bothering me since.

The truth is that Jay does get crafty when he is trying to get his own way.  He thinks a couple of steps ahead and he plans and he uses all types of different strategies.  I think it’s pretty damn clever.  I love that he can see what he wants and can put a plan together to make it happen.


Eg 1. Jay LOVES to play in water.  He loves everything about it.  He loves it so much that after a bath he stays in the tub and watches every drop go down the drain before he gets out.  Even flushing the toilet is fun for him.  He will flush multiple times after he has used it and will stay in the bathroom washing his hands WAYYY longer than is necessary.

The other day I found him repeatedly flushing the toilet just for the fun of it.  I asked him to stop.  With a frown and an exaggerated “awww” he did as I asked.

Not 2 minutes, later he came and asked me if he could go and pee.  Without thinking, I said yes, of course.  After he had “peed”, he came back to me with a huge grin and said “Can I flush?”


Eg 2.  If you remember, when we were in Florida, Jay got hooked on cereal commercials.  He came home asking for Lucky Charms.  I bought a box hoping that he would eat it, but all he did was play with the rainbow marshmallows.  On more than one occasion he has climbed up to where we keep the cereal and poured some into a bowl.  I decided that he was filling the bowl up too much and I was tired of the cereal falling all over the beds and the floor.  I gave him a bowl with a little bit of cereal in it and told him that was all he was allowed to have.  Then I put the box back in the cupboard.

A little while later, Jay asked Ace if he’d like some cereal.  Ace fell into the trap said yes and so I poured him some also.  (They both like dry cereal as a snack).  Jay then asked me to get him some juice.  I knew he had a trick up his sleeve so I left the room but watched secretly through the door hinge.  Every time Ace wasn’t looking, Jay stole some of Ace’s cereal and put it in his own bowl until it was full to the brim.


Eg 3. Jay is not a good eater.  That’s not news to anyone who has been reading along with me for any length of time.  I worry about it a lot and do my best to get him all the nutrients his mind and body need.  The other night he kept asking me for popcorn.  I told him no because it was dinner time and he hadn’t eaten any real food all day.  Seriously, all he had consumed  ALL DAY was cheese doodles.  I suggested that he eat some Ramen Noodles and then he could get popcorn.  He didn’t like that one iota and continued to plead his case for the popcorn.

He must’ve realized I was a lost cause because he eventually gave up and lay on my bed sulking.

A few minutes later, CC came in and Jays head perked up.  He took CC by the hand and started tugging at him …

Dad, can you come please?

What do you want?

I want Dad come please.

But what do you want?

Dad, come please?

Where are we going?

Dad, come please?

Eventually CC went with him and they made their way to the kitchen.  Once Jay thought I was out of ear shot he made his request:

Dad, can I have popcorn?


Eg 4. I’m in my room watching Entertainment Tonight.  I hear some thudding noises coming from the kids room but I don’t hear any crying and I know CC is in that vicinity so everything must be alright.

A short while later, I hear CC telling Jay to “Stop doing that.  No more.”

I don’t know what “that” was, but whatever it was Jay wanted to keep doing it.

He knows better than to disobey his Dad though so what’s a 5 year old to do???

He comes to me and puts on the best fake crying performance anyone has ever put on.  He hugs me and buries his face in my shoulder and with the whiniest of whiney voices says:

But Mom, I’m crying.


The bottom line is that I do understand where his teacher is coming from.  I’m not saying she’s totally off base with what he’s doing … I just didn’t like her word choice.  Word choice matters.  The people who are working with my son need to know that.  Especially when they are speaking about him in front of him.

I am going to let her know that I didn’t feel comfortable with her calling my son a manipulator and instead, can she please think of him as being RESOURCEFUL.


3 Responses to “Word Choice”

  1. I love “resourceful”!! As I was reading, I was thinking about how these qualities will serve Jay as an adult. He will persist, not taking no for an answer, and will probably become a great negotiator. When our son was about Jay’s age, or a little bit older, we taught Little Man about negotiating. And yes, I’d talk to the teacher. Sounds like she could use a lesson in seeing the good in her students. I don’t like to have my son with me for conferences, unless the teacher requests it.

  2. Ann Kilter Says:

    I said to my youngest daughter’s 4th grade teacher that she was a manipulator. Like your Jay, she was always trying to figure out how to get her own way. Her wise teacher, Mr. Wier, told me that that meant she was smart. Smart. Creative. Always thinking. That gave me a new perspective and a new way to present her to her teachers.

    You might enjoy this comic…

    Frazz. We get it in our local newspaper. One of the characters, Caufield, is especially creative in the way he interacts with the world. 🙂

  3. Lisa Peters Says:

    Your post really resonates with me as my son Weston was also labeled a “manipulator”. I agree with you so completely…words matter. I used to tell Weston he was a good negotiator. I guess great mom minds think alike!

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