Overview Marrying into what is essentially a fully formed family is daunting, especially when children are involved. If your spouse has been married before, his children become a part of your relationship. Unfortunately, manipulative stepchildren often cause rifts between parents and step-parents, usually as a way to control a confusing and upsetting situation. Keeping the lines of communication open between all parties involved helps prevent mixed messages sent by stepchildren who hope to derail your progress as a blended family.
Step 1 Talk to your spouse about some of the ways your stepchildren have attempted to manipulate various situations. Since your spouse's allegiance lies with his children, avoid making negative remarks about their behavior. Instead, show understanding. Tell your spouse that his children are likely acting out because of the changes taking place in their lives and that while you understand, it's hurtful to you when they attempt to manipulate your actions or misconstrue your words.
Step 2 Arrange a time for both you and your spouse to speak with the children as a way to present a team effort and united front. Have your spouse lead the conversation, interjecting only when necessary. This allows you to avoid creating a negative relationship between you and your stepchildren. Talk about some of the ways the kids have been manipulative and how to avoid hurt feelings in the future.
Step 3 Check your stepchildren's stories and expectations with the other parent, if possible. A manipulative stepchild might tell you that his mother always allows him to have a certain treat or that his mother said something negative about you. Have your spouse check on your own to ensure that you aren't performing tasks against the other parent's express wishes.
Step 4 Spend time alone with your stepchildren to get to know them better. Acting out against you likely has more to do with anger toward their parents than a general dislike for your personality. Get to know each other, and create relationships based on your experiences with each other, rather than altercations or your supposed preconceptions concerning your relationship.
Step 5 Suggest counseling for you, your spouse, your stepchildren and their other parent, if possible. Create a healthy blended family relationship based on mutual respect through family therapy and learning to react to one another. With the proper amount of respect, your stepchildren won't feel as though they need to manipulate the parents to get what they want. Rather, they learn to communicate properly and adapt to the new family situation.