Let me see. If I was 12 and I felt uncomfortable, I would instinctively use the tools available to me to try to change my situation.
If I didn’t want to do something, like take a train or take a plane by myself, I might not be able to say so, and likely my feelings would come out in other ways.
At the age of 12, I certainly did not have the capacity for self reflection, the emotional maturity to own my own shit, or the fortitude to look in “the mirror” to know how those feelings of fear and insecurity might have come out in dysfunctional or manipulative ways.
Hang on strip that back. …
If I was 12 and felt “uncomfortable”… …feelings of “fear and insecurity”…
Instead of being able to (consciously) articulate how I felt I might revert to being a little girl. And I’d do that to the people i trusted. Trying to communicate. Actually trying to get needs met.
Now whilst manipulative behaviour if left unchecked can sometimes become pervasive, and counter productive, in a junior burger it might just be how we are able to express ourselves. The only way actually. Temporarily.
In which circumstances, trying to out the behaviour might not really achieve anything other than an ability to “observe” it, but not to be able to change the root cause. It’s like asking a baby to be reasonable about how loud it cries out.
One way to deal with such behaviour might be to watch it and hold space. Use your own emotional maturity to deduce the underlying reason and then provide the actual sustenance required.
Feeling uncomfortable and fearful and insecure might just need reassurance. You did a great job. I am proud that you handled that so well. I love you and I am always here for you. Stuff like that.
You could explain what you are doing (noting the behaviour; deducing the underlying need; and pointing out how you are bypassing the useless stuff to get to the real issues). Eventually as they grow up they might start to be able to own their behaviour. Different children might need you to do it for different periods of time.