Having a hitch-free relationship as a step-parent with your stepchild is difficult. If you are honest with yourself, the order of the day is usually a strained relationship between step-parents and stepchildren.
Strained relationships between step-parents and children are frequent because most books and movies portray step-parenting as evil.
Unconsciously the children have this ideology of step-parents being evil hence their stubbornness towards their new parent.
In this article, we revealed tips on how to deal with a manipulative stepchild.
What is Child Manipulation?
Manipulation is a technique people use to get what they want from others. A manipulative stepchild typically uses negative emotions to control or influence someone else’s actions.
This emotion could be tears or anger to get what they want. They often learn this behavior while growing up from watching their family dynamics, usually from both parents and other siblings.
Regardless of how difficult it is for you to accept, this behavior was not designed to target you specifically.
Instead, it is a way for children to learn to communicate effectively with others when he did not get what they desire.
Signs of a Manipulative Stepchild
When your stepchild is trying to manipulate you, they might display any following behaviors.
1. Emotional Blackmail
You often see this behavior in children older than seven years of age. Children at this age can be very complacent, kind, and welcoming. When they get in the mood, it isn’t easy to know whether they meant well.
You may hear mean statements like “I hate this place; we were a lot happier before you got married” or “Before you came into our lives, we had so much fun, but now that’s impossible.”
These words may be untrue, but kids will say anything to get a reaction from you.
2. Deliberate Display of Disrespect
You could ask your stepchild to do things around the house calmly and respectfully, and they would flatly refuse.
This behavior may be followed by a slight threat such as “You can’t make me do anything” or something related.
This should irritate you by default. Many parents with this experience inform their partners about their stepchild’s behavior.
When their parents ask them to do what you have asked them to do again, they do so without question.
This pattern, repeated over time, will make you feel unwanted in your own home, which is the goal of the little manipulator.
3. Throw Tantrums
The tantrum is an effective way for children to push past their limits, and many know this.
It is probably a sign that they want you to do something if you ask them to go to bed and they cry or say gibberish in response.
One of the most common tantrums children throw is lying. They use this to escape from doing basic things like schoolwork, keeping to bedtime, and taking power naps.
4. Say Hurtful Words
A kid’s intuition is very sharp. They know our weak points and go for it to get what they want. They do it so well that they don’t need to stay with you for long to deduce your strengths and weaknesses.
I’ll share this story with you; a woman named Stella shared her story with us. She narrated she has been through several unsuccessful marriages.
Medically she is unable to bear a child. Being someone that loves kids, this was hard to take.
While she moved with life, she met Felix, who has a ten-year-old daughter, and they both agreed to raise her together after marriage.
Unfortunately, his daughter did not like her, and she made her life miserable.
She would often taunt her using her reproductive issues. The situation got so toxic that Felix temporarily gave up his custody rights by sending his daughter to her Mom.
Don’t be scared; your situation may not be the same as Stella’s, but these kids know how our Achilles heels.
Her goal is to get Stella super angry so she can walk away from her dad’s life.
5. Instilling Doubt in Your Mind
They would purposefully move your belongings while denying ever touching them.
They may damage your belongings and make you appear to be at fault. All of their actions are well calculated, so you frequently doubt yourself.
You may believe that you are to blame for what they have done. This extends to attempting to undermine your relationship with your partner.
Most times, they often succeed without getting caught in the act. If you are not careful, their behavior can cause severe tension in your marriage and divorce.
6. Guilt Tripping
Some stepchildren will stop at nothing to make you feel guilty when they find out about their step-parent’s weaknesses.
They may blame your actions for things that occurred before and after entering their lives. Some of them might make you do things their parents disapprove of for the sake of causing a rift.
You find yourself wallowing in guilt and figuring out how to make them like you when they put you on a pedestal.
The sweetness of your stepchild may make you doubt yourself due to their manipulation.
A stepchild is capable of deceiving you or your partner. It’s pretty challenging to know when they’re lying and even more challenging to solve.
They can accuse you of treating them poorly, starving them, or forcing them to do things they don’t want.
When such lies are voiced to the other, it may raise legal concerns, and your partner may have to regularly appear in front of a lawyer to reassure them that everything is fine and under control.
This can be embarrassing, especially when you mean well to them.
8. Quiet Treatment
The silent treatment is an old trick that makes you feel like you’ve wronged someone even though you have no idea what triggered their rage.
You have most likely done nothing wrong with your stepchild. They have a problem with you because they believe you are responsible for her parent’s divorce.
No matter what you say to them, you will not receive a response, and they will not respond to you. All you’d get are scornful looks and silence.
9. Openly Ignoring You
Kids above age 7 have unpredictable characters, not to talk of a manipulative stepchild.
A manipulative could be yawing for the day to openly ignore you so that you know you’re not welcome.
Ms. Clara narrated her encounter with her stepdaughter. She was frying eggs in the kitchen while the daughter sat on a stool close to the door, gazing at her without saying anything.
As she moved to pick up a plate, she mistakenly hit her foot on the wall. Of course, that was painful, as she expected her to show concern.
She knew she was in pain, but she taunted her by asking if it hurt instead of saying sorry. She replied affirmatively and said her presence hurt her the same way. Then she walked away.
This left her wondering how to deal with a manipulative stepchild in other to build respect and bond.
You’ll be surprised when you offer a manipulative child their favorite food, and they reject it or throw it away in anger.
They usually do this to gain the upper hand and make you feel like you are maltreating them. This often happens after you scold or give them punishment.
You may be surprised by their response when asked whether they’ve eaten. They may accuse you of starving them to make you feel bad.
All these challenges can make you want to know how to deal with a manipulative stepchild.
How To Deal With a Manipulative Stepchild
Dealing with a manipulative stepchild isn’t easy as a stepparent, but you have to understand that these are kids and realize that adapting to the presence of a new person can be difficult for kids.
When you try seeing things from the child’s perspective, it will help cultivate a healthy relationship with your stepchild.
As much as you try to flow and be on good terms with your stepchild, do not let your stepchild steamroll you so that your compromise isn’t seen as a weakness and used against you.
The following steps will help you deal with a manipulative stepchild
1. Present a Unified Front
In building a healthy relationship with your stepchild, one thing that you must always bear at the back of your mind is that whatever your thoughts are about your partner’s ex is solely your business.
Do not bring it to the children’s notice nor speak ill of your partner’s ex before your stepchild.
Research has shown that manipulation from your stepchild will be reduced if they know that everyone is on the same pace.
If you can do it, or if possible, you can try working with your partner’s ex in parenting because whether you like it or not, they are still part of your stepchild’s life.
Their cooperation with you can make the transition of roles easier, and the children are made to understand that you will be taking up such roles in their lives while they assist.
You will also have to develop a plan with your partner on how to tackle specific issues; it should be unanimous, which will help your partner have your back.
Remember that integration would not be easy, so you should have a discussion with your stepkids early enough.
Make them realize that it is okay for them not to like you or love you at first, that you understand how hard it is for them to accept you make sure they know that they will have to respect you while you reciprocate it.
2. Keep Your Cool
When dealing with a manipulative stepchild, you must build up your shock absorber, as this will always help you keep your cool.
Your stepchild may want to get you worked up, and you losing your cool may be what they want, and once they keep getting it, they will continue with their manipulative games.
You have to turn a blind eye and deaf ear to their disturbance and act like you are not affected; with time, they will get tired of playing games with you.
3. Enforce Expectations and Set Boundaries
Remember that you weren’t part of your stepchild’s life from the beginning, so it is not a problem if your stepchild compares you to your partner’s ex.
Let them realize that you mean well and are here to cater to their upbringing.
You should do this gently because of the circumstances surrounding the separation of your partner from their ex.
You can’t predict the effect on the child, so the transition should be gentle unless the child is consistently proving stubborn.
You need to enforce expectations and set boundaries to help your kids adapt to your presence. Trust me; kids adjust to a new set of rules easily.
4. Build Relationships
Once you have passed the stage of enforcing expectations and setting boundaries and are sure that your stepchild is cooperating, you can be friends.
Try to integrate into your stepchild’s life by becoming their friend; you spend time with your stepchild playing board games, reading a book, or even walking to the park.
These activities allow you to bond; you can go ice cream with your stepchild or even help them with homework.
Being there for them in their sad moments helps make the integration faster, and once they have bonded with you, they will drop their manipulative behavior.
5. Seek Professional Help
If you think that your stepchild’s manipulative behavior is getting out of help, then it is time to involve other people and, most preferably, seek professional help.
A behavioral specialist or psychologist can help with professional advice, which may help with dealing with your stepchild’s manipulative behavior.
6. Give it time
Your stepchild would not fall head over heels in love with you immediately, but everything would fall in place with time.
Work on yourself and earn their trust and respect over time, and always bear in mind that cultivating and maintaining a good relationship with a stepchild isn’t easy.
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I am sure that you have learned how to deal with a manipulative stepchild and that the manipulation of your stepchild would soon be a thing of the past if you followed the above-listed guide.
Bear in mind that your stepchild would not fall head over heels in love with you immediately, but everything would fall in place with time.
Also, work on yourself and earn their trust and respect over time while bearing in the back of your mind that the cultivation and maintenance of a good relationship with a stepchild aren’t easy, but it is achievable.