Dealing with Manipulative Stepchildren

Children are good manipulators – they know which parent will let them have a biscuit, which one to ask if someone can sleep over, how to get their siblings in trouble while looking innocent… the list goes on, and when I was 10 I had mastered most of them.

Stepchildren hold more power than other kids, and they often find themselves swaying situations much larger than themselves. Seeing as kids are pretty good manipulators anyway, and a step parent feels pretty vulnerable already, this can be recipe for disaster.

To deal with manipulative stepchildren you need to:

  • be in control of your own reactions
  • Feel secure in your relationship

Control your reactions
Don’t panic. You are not dealing with a criminal mastermind, you’re dealing with a child who has learnt to control their world with a certain behavior. If your partner seems to excuse or be blind to it, thats okay too – they have learnt to control their child with a certain kind of behavior.
The best cure of manipulation is good communication.

Just because a child knows how to manipulate, doesn’t mean they have the emotional intelligence to understand what they’re actually doing. This is the hardest part, but if you can master it you’ll be free – Don’t take it personally. It isn’t personal. It has nothing to do with you, nor is it a reflection of how much your partner cares for you, it’s just a learned bad habit between parent and child.

As an extra note, make sure you don’t lose too much of yourself. You need a life outside of your stepfamily or you will lose any sense of perspective.  Normal forms of child misbehavior can easily become malicious, evil behavior when it’s all you think about days on end.

Feeling secure in your relationship
You and your partner are a team. If there is a problem between you and your stepchild, your partner’s number one concern should be facilitating the resolution, not taking a back seat. However, they can’t do this unless your communicating properly. The killer of manipulation is good communication. Talk things through with your partner (using methods outlined in resolving disagreements regarding your stepchildren) and agree on how to best address the behavior. Let them know how you feel and why.

 Be honest and be open about your feelings from the start.


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