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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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