The Behavior Isn’t Manipulation, It’s Survival!

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It's easy to view your child's behavior as manipulation, but there's something deeper going on that is hard to see on the surface...

I press my fingers into the temples of my head because I’m so…unbelievably…done!  I can’t take one more second of the manipulation…the lies…the conniving…the sneakiness!

It’s a mind-game of sorts. “What are you getting from this?” I want to scream at the top of my lungs! “Are you not happy unless you are mind-twisting me into a complete frustrated puddle of a parent?

I want to run away. I want to send him to his room forever just so my mind can have a rest. I want to throw my hands up and conclude that this is the best it’s gonna get!

And then it hits me….this isn’t manipulation as it appears to be.

This is survival. This is, I’m afraid so I’m going to fight. This is, I’ve lost so deeply that all I know to do is work my charm to try and get something…anything…even if it’s not real.

This is, I’ll take any type of attention…even if it’s bad…to try and close the gapping wound on my heart.

This, my friends, is a child functioning from their brain stem…the place of survival…the place they’ve retreated to time and time again through the chronic trauma they’ve experienced.

I’ve become convinced after 5 solid years of researching trauma-induced behaviors, that this is not a kid behaving badly!

When the pre-frontal cortex of the brain is damaged, logic and reasoning go out the door. When the child has experienced abuse…neglect…lack of felt safety…needs not being met…this child has not only retreated to the brain stem (survival mode) they’ve set up camp there.

Once they’ve done that, every single thought, emotion, reaction, behavior, and instinct come from that place of survival.

I know that understanding doesn’t make us feel less frustrated. The understanding might help for a minute and then our emotions may boil too. We are human. You may begin to feel like you are going crazy. You may be asking yourself if you are a good parent. Listen, you are not alone. You are human, with human emotions. You can feel frustrated but you can also feel hopeful.  You have the capacity to slow down and understand where our kids are coming from.

Hang in there, friend. I’m cheering for you. Keep loving those precious ones deeply. This is the road to healing.

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Mike and Kristin Berry are the Co-Founders of The Honestly Adoption Company and have been parents for nearly two decades. They are the authors of six books, and the host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.

Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is the executive assistant to Mike and Kristin Berry. And she is the best in the land. In addition to providing a warm and friendly response to the many emails our company receives on a weekly basis, she also manages Mike and Kristin’s speaking and meeting schedules, and makes sure that team events go off without a hitch.

Nicole Goerges

Nicole Goerges is a Content Contributor & Special Consultant for The Honestly Adoption Company. She works with Mike and Kristin as a recurring co-host for the Honestly Adoption Podcast, and co-host of Kitchen Table Talks, exclusive video content for Oasis Community, along with Kristin. She is a fellow adoptive mom, and former foster parent.

Matt McCarrick

Matt McCarrick is the Content Production Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. If you’ve loved listening to our podcast, or enjoyed any of the videos trainings we’ve published, you have Matt to thank. He oversees all of our content production, from video edits, to making sure the tags are correct on YouTube, to uploading new videos to Oasis, to hitting publish on a podcast episode, he’s a content wonder!

Karen Anderson

Karen Anderson is the Community Engagement Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends the bulk of her time interacting with, and helping, people through our various social media channels, as well as providing support for Oasis Community members through chat support or Zoom calls. In the same spirit as Beaver, Karen is also passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and supported. Karen is also an FASD trainer and travels often, equipping and encouraging parents.

Beaver Trumble

Beaver Trumble is the Customer Care Specialist for The Honestly Adoption Company. Chances are, if you have been in need of technical support, or forgotten your password to one of our courses, you have interacted with Beaver. He is an absolute pro at customer care. In fact, he single-handedly revolutionized our customer care department last year. Beaver is passionate about connecting with parents and making them feel loved and encouraged.

Kristin Berry

Kristin Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Content Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. She spends most of her time researching and connecting with guests for our podcast, as well as direction, designing and publishing a lot of the content for our social media channels, blog and podcast. She loves to connect with fellow parents around the world, and share the message of hope with them.

Mike Berry

Mike Berry is the co-founder of, and Chief Marketing Specialist for, The Honestly Adoption Company. He spends the bulk of his time and energy designing and building many of the resources you see within our company, as well as social media and email campaigns. His goal is to use media as a means to encourage and equip parents around the world. He is also the co-host of The Honestly Adoption Podcast.