The Ballad of the Manipulator

My son Carter has a way with words.  We’ve had more than one time where Val and I will be in the next room doing stuff and listening to him talk to Aiden.  In true big brother style, he will tell Aiden to say or do something he’s not supposed to do.

They will battle over stuff and Carter will get a little too rough.  Just before Aiden cries he will try to convince him that it was an accident and sooth the situation.

This morning we were discussing going to a lesson scheduled for noon. He played every angle with me, coming up with reason after reason to skip it all because he wanted to play Mario Baseball on the Wii.

My son is a manipulator.

My gut response was always the same as when you just read that sentence.  It is a bad thing, I thought, I need to work on having him be just like Val and I.

Recently, I’ve found myself reconsidering the end goal.


Manipulators can have wildly different results.  They can find themselves in a mire of solitary confinement as people discover their ways. They drop all the balls they are juggling in the air. Their world shakes and, in an attempt to regain the control they desire over everything, they will go to any means necessary to get it back.

Manipulators also become CEOs. They start businesses and create movements. They are lawyers, advocates, champions for those whose voices may not be as loud or skilled at getting results.

They stand out.

As a father, I know Carter can’t be exactly like me.  I need to listen to and validate his emotions. This means embracing the passions that make him unique.

For years I looked down on assertive peers.  Now, God has given me one as a son and I know the lessons are just beginning.


The Kindness Challenge

Tell me if this has ever happened to you.  You have a family member, client, friend, business partner, boss, perspective client, etc who has asked you to do something.  It may be part of your normal routine or maybe an effort above and beyond.

If you are like me, you like to see problems through until the end, even if it means going the extra mile.  So, you work.  When it is all said and done, you go back to this person with the results and you hear….



We found ourselves in the midst of a consumer culture. Every conversation is an exchange, a presentation of need and delivery.  Our boys do this all the time and, as kids, it is natural behavior.  It’s why we drill into them, “say please and thank you.”

Did you ever look around your office or your church and wonder what happened?

This weekend, take a day and make a point of saying thank you.  Do it often.  If you go out to breakfast, thank the waiter or waitress.  If you are in the grocery store, thank the cashier. Tell your spouse that you appreciate them.

Thank your kids for listening.

Send a family member, friend, or client an email thanking them for being a part of your life.

We talk often of sacrificial love, of social change and a revolution of faith. The mountains can only be climbed with a first step.

Kindness is where we start.