We have covered how to deal with a manipulative stepchild in this article, in addition to the signs of a manipulative stepchild which will help you understand even more better how to employ the tips as presented in this guide.
From as early as fifteen months, all children have gotten an idea about the correlation between cause and effect. They have learned about behaviors that get them what they want and how they should behave. A child learns to associate crying with getting fed, being hugged, and being taken care of, so whenever they have this need, they cry with all their might.
This behavior sometimes lasts into their toddler days and even longer. There is a possibility that your stepchild is just trying to get their needs met. It’s also possible that they are well aware of their actions and that their effects are powerful. The first thing to do is understand where the behavior is coming from before finding ways to tackle it.
This article looks at the signs of a manipulative stepchild along with clear guides on how to deal with their manipulation.
Signs Of A Manipulative Stepchild
Manipulative children are no different from adult counterparts. They know they are messing with your head. The effects of their behavior is very clear to them. The power their manipulation bestows on them can be quite addictive and trying to get them out of the habit will be a bit difficult.
Below are ten subtle signs your stepchild is manipulating you.
1. Makes Hurtful Statements
The intuition of children is daringly sharp. They do not have to live with you for too long to estimate your strengths and weaknesses. They know the areas that hurt and the right buttons to push to get them what they want.
Take this scenario as an example. Ms. Bright has been through several unsuccessful marriages. She realized from early on that she would be unable to give birth to a child. Being a child lover, this truth hurt her badly. When she met Mr. Best, he told her about his daughter and they agreed to raise her together after marriage. His daughter however did not accept her and tried to make her life a living hell. She often made comments about her reproductive health and the situation got so bad that Mr. Best had to temporarily give up his custody rights by sending his daughter to her Mom.
Your circumstances may be different from that of Ms. Bright but the little manipulator knows how their words hurt you. The intention is to get Ms. Bright super angry so she would walk away from her Dad’s life.
2. Intentional Show Of Disrespect
You could calmly and respectfully ask your stepchild to do things around the house and they would outrightly refuse. This behavior can be followed by a subtle threat like, “You can not make me do anything” or something related.
By default, this should get you angry. Many parents who experience this inform their partner of their stepchild’s behavior. When their parents ask them again to do what you have requested, they oblige without questioning them. This pattern repeated over a continuum of time will leave you feeling insecure in your own home and that’s the goal of the little manipulator.
3. Openly Ignoring You
We all occasionally get home accidents. When this happens, we naturally expect the people around us to gravitate towards us and show concern.
One parent narrated her encounter with her stepson. She was making pancakes in the kitchen while he sat on a stool close to the door. He was watching her closely without saying a word. As she turned around to pick up some utensils, she mistakenly hit her foot on the wall. Of course, it was really painful and she expected him to show concern. He knew she was in pain but instead of saying sorry or trying to help, he asked her if it hurt. She replied affirmatively and then he told her presence hurts him in the same way then he walked out.
This incident left her wondering what she could have done to hurt the poor boy but obviously, all she had done was try to bond with him.
4. Guilt Tripping
When some step children get to know about their step parent’s weaknesses, they stop at nothing to make you feel guilty for everything.
You may be getting blamed for things that happened before and after you came into their life. They might get you to do things their parents will disapprove of to cause a rift.
They kind of put you on a pedestal where you find yourself wallowing in guilt and thinking of how to get them to like you. Your stepchild may be so sweet outwardly that their manipulation can leave you doubting yourself.
5. Silent Treatment
The silent treatment is an old tactic that makes you feel like you have wronged them yet you would not know what could have prompted their anger.
With your stepchild, you have likely done nothing wrong. The issue they have with you is the preconceived notion that you are responsible for the change in their family.
No matter what you say to them, you would not get a response, and neither would they say a word to you. All you would get is scornful stares and silence.
6. Creating Doubt In Your Mind
They would intentionally move your things and deny ever touching them. They could spoil your stuff and make it look like you are responsible. All of their actions are well calculated so it often leaves you doubting yourself.
You might be led to believe you are responsible for things they have done. This goes further like trying to break the trust between you and your partner. They would plot out stuff, hurt you, and parade it as your partner had done it. They would do this to their parents as well and blame it on you. Their intention is to boreholes in the trust you have for each other. Most of the time, they succeed without getting caught. If care is not taken, their behavior can cause serious damages to your marriage and an eventual separation.
Your stepchild could lie about you, your partner, or themselves. It can be very hard to spot their lies but then, it’s hard to get to the bottom of it. The lies can range from things like saying you treat them badly or you starve them or you make them do things they do not want to. When such lies are coated and narrated to the other parent, it could even raise legal concerns and your partner would have to constantly appear before a lawyer to reassure them that all is fine and under control. This can be crazy especially when all the tricks used to get the child to stop lying fail.
8. Emotional Blackmail
This behavior is common in children older than seven years of age. Their behavior can be very complacent, kind, and accepting. When they execute their plans, it’s hard to decide if they meant well or not.
You may hear things like;
“Before you came into our lives, we used to do so and so but now that’s impossible.”
“We were a lot happier before you married our [your spouse].”
The list is endless. Some of these statements may be untrue but they would constantly say this thing to get a reaction from you.
9. Throwing Tantrums
Tantrums are very effective when children want to push beyond their boundaries and many of them know this. If you have had encounters where you asked your stepchild to go to bed and it was followed with a bout of crying or saying gibberish, it’s probably a sign that they want to manipulate you into doing something.
The most popular tantrum children throw is lying. They try to use it as an escape from doing important things like homework, keeping to bedtime, taking power naps.
Offer a manipulative child their favorite food and watch them reject it. This action may come after scolding or executing a punishment. It is done in a bid to gain the upper hand and make you feel like you are treating them badly.
Some children may go on to lie that you offered them no food when the choice to not eat was made by them. No matter how hard you try to cajole them out of this, they would resist. Many will steal away part of their meal so they can eat it when you are not watching.
How To Deal With a Manipulative Stepchild
Children are exceptional manipulators. You can get to the bottom of your stepchild’s manipulation if you are intentional about it and get both parents involved. Before diving headlong into this, understand and settle whatever grudges your stepchild may be holding against you. Try to get close to them. By doing so, you would understand why children manipulate their adult caregivers. Most of the time, it doesn’t have a direct correlation with your relationship with them.
Children manipulate their caregivers for many reasons. They can do this if you do not have strong boundaries because they know they will get whatever they want. The manipulation might be to make you feel guilty about your parenting approach. Sometimes, it’s to secure your love and attention. It could also be as a result of the power struggle they have created in their heads. Some children who have trouble owning up to their mistakes and feelings turn to manipulation as a getaway.
Your stepchild has reasons for being so manipulative. Understanding the motive behind it gives you some sort of direction on how to go about their behavior.
The following are tips you can employ to help you get to the bottom of this.
1. Do not React
Whenever you notice your stepchild is trying to guilt-trip or manipulate you, do not react. Acknowledge the situation and let them know you understand them and where they are coming from. Try to meet them halfway. If you have deprived them of something as a punishment, reassure them that they can get it back after they have served their time. Do not offer your stepchild lighter alternatives. It would fuel their manipulative patterns and make them feel their tactic helped them buy their way out.
2. Understand That You Cannot Please Them All The Time
The urge to want to keep your stepchildren happy at all times can be difficult to resist. This makes you weak in the face of their manipulation. It’s okay to want the best for them and desire to see them happy. But, this feeling should not come in the way of enforcing laws when you need to. Doing the latter is way more beneficial and would guarantee their safety and happiness in the long run.
3. Be Consistent
Manipulation can have a strong effect on most parents. It pushes you to the wall and you may want to bend rules or soften punishment. You might even want to do whatever your stepchild is demanding without really thinking it true. All parenting experts agree that consistency is the hallmark of good parenting. Do not create rules today or make statements only to start acting otherwise. Disengage from whatever feeling their manipulation is creating in you. Do not let it overpower you else their behavior would get worse. If you let the manipulation work for them the first time, they would get better at it and pull your legs over and over.
4. Be Their Accountability Partner
Every time they do something manipulative, call them out. Explain to them that their behavior is bad and would not be condoned. Let them understand how grave their offence is. Tell them stories about manipulation and the nuisance it constitutes in society.
Be kind but firm. Reach an agreement on how they would get over their behavior. Encourage them to just be themselves in every situation.
5. Create Penalties
Setting goals to overcome this behavior is not enough. Let them know there would be consequences whenever they try to be manipulative. Stand your ground at all times and execute penalties whenever it’s necessary.