How to Deal with a Manipulative Step Daughter

How to Deal with a Manipulative Step Daughter

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Living in a blended family is difficult for the whole family.

A stepmother may not know how to respond if she is manipulated by her stepdaughter. This is especially true if the biological mother is still in the picture.

What do you do if you are being manipulated?

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How to Deal with a Manipulative Stepdaughter

Loving your stepdaughter doesn’t mean giving into manipulative behaviors. Develop a plan with your partner to stop allowing yourself to be manipulated. At the same time, show your new daughter, every day, that she is a vital and wanted part of your family.

A Personal Anecdote: The Blended Family

blended family

I don’t have personal experience with having a stepchild. However, I do know that stepchildren can feel overwhelmed by the experience of living with a family where they don’t feel they belong.

Add to that the ever-changing hormones of growth and you have the perfect environment for a manipulative child.

When I was growing up, one of my best friends was a girl named Lauren*.

Her mother died when she was 10 and her father remarried shortly thereafter. Three years later, her father tragically died as well. She was stuck in a home with a stepmom who she never connected to.

When that stepmother remarried, she suddenly had a stepfather and a stepsister. Lauren acted out in the only way she knew: manipulation.

I loved Lauren because she was a smart, creative, genuine, and considerate friend. I felt as though I could rely on her more than I could my own sister.

She did not behave that way around her step-family. When she was at home, she reverted into a monster who used guilt and lies to get her way.

I witnessed it on more than one occasion. In fact, it happened so often that I eventually stopped spending time at her home and insisted we hang out at my place instead.

Her manipulation worked.

Perhaps her stepparents felt guilty or maybe she was right and they just didn’t care for her. She didn’t make it easy for them, but they also never seemed to try.

The tragedy is they never got the opportunity to make things right. Lauren died in a car accident when she was just 18.

Dealing with a Manipulative Stepdaughter

Step 1: Educate yourself about manipulation

Manipulation is the attempt to control someone using psychological methods. The manipulative stepdaughter often relies on guilt to get her way.

She may also use lies to manipulate.

For example, she might tell you that her biological mother lets her stay up until 11 PM on weekends when her bedtime is closer to nine.

Step 2. Combat manipulation with love

mom and stepdaughter

I told you the story about Lauren because I believe manipulative behavior occurs when a child feels unsure about their place in the family.

A manipulative stepdaughter might think her new stepmother doesn’t love her or doesn’t respect her. She may feel like her new stepfather views her as a burden rather than a welcome addition to the family.

She might resent her parent moving on from a divorce or the death of a parent. She could feel overshadowed by other siblings who reside in the house.

A child uses manipulation when they don’t think there are other ways to communicate.

You can tell your stepdaughter that you think of her as your own, but your actions always speak louder than your words.

Show your stepdaughter that you love her and accept her by bonding with her. This is not one big, grand gesture but something you need to do every day.

Talk with her, listen to her, find out about her dreams and goals. Pay attention when she talks.

Ask about her friends. Let her know you truly care about her life. Tell her you love her every day, even when she doesn’t want to hear it.

Step 3. Stop thinking of her as a stepdaughter

communicating with stepdaughter

She may not be your biological child, but the moment you married her parent, she became your daughter as well.

You need to communicate that with her. She may not be receptive to it, but she will appreciate the gesture in the long run.

Step 4. Develop a relationship with her other parent

2 parents talking

It is vital for you to have a friendly relationship with her other parent if they are still in the picture.

This may feel hard, but it is not always impossible. If the other parent is not interested in a friendship, at least strive to communicate so that you are always on the same page when it comes to parenting your new daughter.

Of course, there will be times that the relationship between your new spouse and their ex is so broken that you can’t find a way to communicate.

Step 5. Do not give in to manipulative behaviors

sad kid with mom with her laptop

It’s easier said than done but you can’t allow the manipulative behavior to continue.

Talk with your partner and, if possible, the other parent. Decide together how to approach the situation, and then follow through.

For example, if your stepdaughter tries to manipulate you into letting you skip school and then tells you that her other parent lets this happen, you can honestly respond by saying you know this isn’t the case.

Step 6. Prepare yourself for the worst

Whenever your stepdaughter tries to manipulate you, and you don’t give in, expect her to behave in a very negative fashion.

She may even make up lies about you or tell your partner that you are being abusive.

You cannot let the fear of retribution keep you from doing what is best for both you and your new daughter. Every time she reacts with anger, you need to counter with patience and love.

Key Takeaways

Have you been the victim of manipulation by a stepchild? What kinds of manipulative behavior does your stepdaughter exhibit?

Tell us about it and how you have dealt with it in the comments. We’d love to hear your stories and your tips!

*name has been changed

Have You Read These Yet?

Frequently Asked Questions

Develop a plan with your partner to stop letting yourself be manipulated. At the same time, show your step-daughter she is a wanted and loved family member.

Yes, it is. You and your stepchildren may never develop a close bond, and that’s okay. Not liking your stepchildren doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t have a good family anymore does liking your stepchildren mean you will have a good family. Ultimately you have to try your best and be good enough.

If your stepchildren are hurting your marriage you need to have a good long discussion with your significant other. Ultimately you both have to get on the same page about a course of action. Seek out a therapist for help on how to navigate this situation.

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John Doe
John Doe
2 years ago

This is good advice but skips a basic core problem: many birth parents enable and even encourage the manipulation. Their poor child – who has every gadget and lives in a beautiful house with a beautiful room – is just misunderstood. Her countless former “friends” who now want nothing to do with her are all in the wrong, not her. Never her. Those teachers are all surely stupid. Those countless activities she’s dropped out of; there’s always a reason.

Stepdad who provides is “stupid” and the child lets him know it by telling him that, exactly, with mom saying nothing or even supporting it. Mom makes it clear the child deserves respect after all. She’s earned those C’s in school which makes her a top student except for the losers who are just, like, whatever. One skill the child does have is making excuses, the vast majority of them based on provable lies. Her mom knows she lies but says it’s ok because “everybody lies.” Just to clarify lying is ok she tells the child it’s just fine to lie.

Her mom hasn’t worked in years so she can focus on her little high school junior making sure her precious doesn’t have any chores. After all, the princess needs adequate time to play Minecraft and chat online. She likes chatting online because there’s an endless stream of kids to replace the ones who decide they can’t her. Plus, since she has no bedtime she can stay up all night doing whatever she pleases. If mom asks how late she was up, another lie will be quickly accepted and she knows it.

Liking things is very important to her. She’s very clear she will only do things she likes. Unfortunately, besides gaming and chatting online she can’t really name anything she likes. She does have a very long list of things she dislikes though.

If stepdad mentions he’s uncomfortable, unhappy, or even insulted she knows she can always get mom to flip and start screaming at him. Even the smallest insult — saying the child shouldn’t be the sole decision-maker in the house — is a “freakout” and “abuse.” There’s no disagreeing with the greatest person in the world after all. It’s also a total coincidence that birth dad, who is long gone, was an over-the-top narcissist who didn’t pay child support. He hasn’t shown any interest in the kid since he realized so long as he’s quiet then stepdad will pay for everything and won’t push for child support.

Of course, this all begins to fall apart when stepdad the doormat decides to move on, especially if the child isn’t entitled to any support (especially at that age) and the mom’s not entitled to any alimony. Maybe she’ll find another man to support the greatest person in the world. More likely, the child – really a young woman – will find her own doormat and leave mom on her own once she’s not useful anymore.

A question to ask at the beginning of relationships: what do you think of the book The Giving Tree? If the answer is anything besides that it’s a dark warning then run.