Stop wondering about this....
There are two questions that parents always ask about their children that causes them to make mistakes. If you stop debating about these questions, you will be better able to choose how to manage your child.
First, stop wondering if the emotion your child is expressing is the "right" feeling for the moment. Feelings are not fact. Feelings are neurological reflexes, like blinking. We can't stop them. The feelings just bubble up and appear without logic. So when you ask yourself if what they're feeling is correct or not you are missing what you actually need to do.
Accept the feeling and move towards helping them manage the emotion they are expressing. If they're angry, help them calm down. If they are sad, listen and hold them until it passes. If they are frustrated, remind them to take a break, try to breathe, and try again. I know this is hard since they tend to be feeling these difficult emotions when we set boundaries. Once you have set the boundary, you have handled the behavior. The next step is to help them manage the emotion.
When you get stuck on judging whether or not its right or wrong that they are feeling sad, frustrated or angry then you loose the opportunity to help them through and manage an emotion, learn emotional intelligence.
Second, stop wondering if they are manipulating you. Your child is not "doing" anything "to you". Your child is constantly attempting to connect with you, to attain affection from you, to have you notice them. That is not manipulation, it is love. It is not manipulation, its them asking for a relationship with you.
Next time your child is "trying to get something" stop and ask yourself,
"how are they trying to connect to me?" -
"how are they trying to seek my affection?"
If you ask these two questions your response will be calm and loving. If you think they are manipulating you, your response will be harsh and defensive.
Hope this helps.
Hope this changes how you see this person you dreamed of long ago when you imagined what it would be like to raise a child.
Until next time!