What To Do When Your Spouse’s Child Manipulates

by childless stepparent

The short answer is: do nothing.

Let your spouse handle his child when she manipulates or otherwise misbehaves. Remember, this is his relationship to manage and you are not a parent.

This becomes more complicated when the manipulation involves you.

Like most children, especially children of divorce, my husband’s daughter plays her parents against each other from time to time.

She tells little lies about each parent to try to cover for when she doesn’t practice piano, doesn’t do well on her homework, gets extra hot lunches at school, etc. My husband has addressed her lying directly with her many times, but it continues to happen. He’s concerned but also says it’s normal kid stuff. He says what she needs is “constancy of purpose.”

Her latest manipulation involves her schoolwork. She told her mom that we don’t help her and that’s why she’s been getting mediocre scores on her homework.

That is simply not true. It’s disappointing that my husband and I have taken the time to guide her only to learn she doesn’t experience our guidance as help unless we sit down next to her and talk her through every single answer.

My husband believes that working independently, being resourceful, and taking pride in her work are all important lessons for his daughter. I will continue to support that. My husband will decide how to handle the rest.

I will take a step back, breathe, and let go.

Manifesto #1 | I am a childless stepparent. My stepchild has two involved parents. I don’t need to take on a parenting role.

Question: Has your spouse’s child ever lied about you? What did you do – or not do – in response?