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How to deal with a manipulative step-daughter?

Well, I just figured it out...(I posted a ? yesterday and got some good answers), but here it is...
So, my husband and I don't trust his daughter. But yesterday I saw some really disturbing traits that I need help with. My stepdaughters school counselor called my husband and let him know that she was crying, so she called her in to the office to see what was going on. She told the counselor that she had cut herself (again) and that she want to regain the trust with her Dad back. So Dad did what every concerned dad did. He picked her up from school and decided they needed to go out for dinner (just the 2 of them), Ok, I am cool with that. So, he asked her where they should go and she without any hesitation blurted out where she would like to eat. He said Ok, not a second later she say's very upbeat and giddy,"Can I use your phone Dad?" (not sure why). So they went. Upon their arrival home, she walked in said "Hi" to me and went to bed, after asking her dad to take her to school the today (we live 5 blks from school). So, then it was my turn. I asked husband about their time and if they talked things out. He said he didn't want to get into it then. Hmm..So I backed off a bit. I asked if they talked about the pot that was found (by me) in her purse, he said yes they talked about it. But she lied about where she had put it (I was looking for her cousins wallet that was left behind a few days prior, that's how I found the stuff). So, I came to the conclusion that she is completely manipulating her father, just as her mother (not in the picture, on drugs and lost custody of all 4 of her children)did for 10 years. Step-daughter told her father that when we "fight" (we argue) that upsets her, and when our 4 year old daughter yells and acts up that upsets her too. So now she is blaming our marital spats and a 4 year old. I think that she is not out to hurt herself but to hurt her father. She knows that when she messes up, he gets angry, she "cuts" (no blood is ever shown, just a scrape) herself, he has sympathy for her. I also don't think she has ANY remorse for her wrong doings, because if she had, she would not only apologize to her father, but me as well. Last weekend she pulled another stunt. Dad let her use her phone to call him after v-ball practice, only to find she was texting the whole time. Friend asking if Dad saw FB posts from the night before. so that day turned sour as well, but yet she still got ho stay with her grandma for the weekend (gam is housesitting a beautiful home w/2 dogs). I took some advice I got yesterday and talked to her before they left and was very nice, but this morning when I woke up It dawned on me she is totally manipulating her father and I have to stand back and watch my husband who works so hard to make a nice life for us deal with this. It is so unfair for her to do to all of us. She was like this when she was little too, before we married and had little one. This is learned behavior from her mother and now I may as well be living with her. I feel so sorry we are dealing with this. I have tried being her friend, parent, and everything else in between, tried being nice, mean, ignorant, but now I am so angry. She has never said she was sorry to me for any of her behavior. I have always apologized to her for ever getting upset with her (I yell, but am actively working on that and have not yelled in a long time). Which leads me to believe she is really selfish. She was raised by her mother and people say that if you come into a child's life after the age of 5-6 it is really hard to connect with them. We are going on 9 years. I was taught that you right your wrongs in a timely matter. It takes a lot of courage to say you were wrong, but once you begin todo that, you are on a great path. Please help me. I don't want to leave my husband because of this, but it is tearing me apart. I just thought I couldn't trust her, but I have come to the realization, she is extremely manipulative. Have tried talking to husband about it, but he blames other things and people as well, like our little girl. So, it's only natural for step-daughter to now blame her. She is an innocent person and has no idea whats going on, but really doesn't have a relationship with her sister (10 years diff), because she never tries(d) to. Little one doesn't bother her that much, isn't allowed in her room, NEVER gets talked to or played with, so it's only natural for smalls to gravitate toward me that much more. Help me please. I posted another ? yesterday and got some good advice, so if you need more info, read that post to get a better understanding. Thank you all!

Answer Question

Asked by A.Muir at 8:52 PM on Jan. 25, 2013 in Teens (13-17)

Level 2 (7 Credits)
Answers (8)
  • Also, "family therapy" isn't the only option for families. Many child psychologists focus their meetings & their work with the parents, primarily. They usually will meet the child at least once, but sometimes that is it! And sometimes, they never involve the child directly in therapy. Many therapists DO work directly with older kids & teens, but the possibility to work with parents is even more promising, because THEN there's the potential to increase the functionality of that teen's ENVIRONMENT and make the family more & more functional. It's all a continuum (a family's function/dysfunction.) There is some dysfunction present in your household, representing old pain & responses that don't help but instead keep the hurt ongoing.

    Manipulative behavior isn't an impossible situation. Response is key. I would hope for a proactive rather than reactive response, but it sounds like you will need support to approach or achieve that.

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:30 AM on Jan. 26, 2013

  • If you alone were to get some listening time for all the thoughts you have about the situation, and the feelings you carry in response (the feelings that interfere with your relating in your home, because they are reactive & tend to lead to the type of response that escalates & entrenches existing dynamics), it would help the family because it'd be helping you. Processing would lead to greater flexibility & openness in you (you are describing a very closed, rigid & reactive state right now, which is understandable because you are feeling really upset, provoked, victimized & defensive) because more of your need to be heard & understood about what is so upsetting & troubling, would be met. You sound unable to approach a kind of relating that would be constructive for the family & your stepdaughter right now. That's not because you don't care or are a bad person/parent; it's because your own unmet needs situation is pretty acute!

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:16 AM on Jan. 26, 2013

  • "Family therapy" really depends on the practitioner, but it's not always about a whole family in a room. Murray Bowen (developer of family systems theory) was very clear about the fact that you can successfully work with "one motivated member" of a family & change the dynamic in that family. It's not about "the problem" being present or willing in the room, or "the problem" being the one to get "fixed," because you are dealing with a SYSTEM of relating, and each participant influences the climate in the home. One (parental) response will escalate a situation with an angry teen, while a different response from the same parent might open things up in a different way. We all are lucky as parents/families that it's never the object of our focus (the problem child or problem parent or problem situation we identify) that "has" to change first before things can improve...because our role in a situation can change.

    Answer by girlwithC at 8:05 AM on Jan. 26, 2013

  • I completely agree with Tessiedawg. Dealing with the whole step-family situation can be hard enough at times, but then adding in the drugs and manipulation--I'm sorry you're going through this. Family therapy will be helpful, no matter how many of you go. If you can't get your husband to agree to that, at least setup some individual counseling sessions so you can deal with your feelings about the manipulation and watching what your husband is going through.

    Answer by Ballad at 11:16 PM on Jan. 25, 2013

  • You both have to agree on the same rules and consequences. That way, the daughter cannot divide and conquer. By staying a united front, there is no room for continued manipulation. Your husband has to understand this if he wants things to get better. It does not even sound like he cares that she's manipulating him. He is enabling her behavior. Is there some kind of silent agreement that because she's not your natural born daughter that only the father decides how to raise her? If he truly sees it this way, you've got bigger issues. And pot at her age? OMG. You need major intervention ASAP or this will just get worse, I promise. And just a thought here, when I grew up poor, we didn't experiment with anything and were good kids *because* we knew we couldn't afford to be otherwise. We were in "survival" mode which didn't leave room to be anything else. You can act poor and don't let the kids know you're not.

    Answer by hellokittykat at 10:59 PM on Jan. 25, 2013

  • You have to get to therapy. I know this from experience. My 13 yo was doing a number on us and it was awful until I proposed family therapy. SD didn't want go, thought it was stupid, etc. same with DH. Well, I told them the appointment is made, I'm going and if you want to go cool, if not, also cool. DH can't always make it because of work, but SD hasn't complained once after grudgingly going the first couple of times.

    The dynamic is just too much for you to handle alone. It will tear you and your dh apart and then everyone loses. Even if you can't get anyone else to go, you need to go to learn how to better cope with your circumstances and be heard by someone neutral. GL

    Answer by tessiedawg at 9:40 PM on Jan. 25, 2013

  • Oh, Sorry, new to this and just was writing as it came. Will do! Thanks

    Comment by A.Muir (original poster) at 9:09 PM on Jan. 25, 2013

  • paragraphs, please.

    Answer by 3libras at 9:02 PM on Jan. 25, 2013

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