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How do I keep my marriage strong when a child keeps playing us against each other?

My husband and I have been married almost 5 years. My step-daughter continually keeps playing us against each other by trying to be "friends" with one or the other just to get what she wants. She has her daddy wrapped around her little finger and I am the authoritarian, what do I do so it doesn't cause anymore problems between us?

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Asked by tries2bmom at 1:24 PM on Mar. 4, 2009 in General Parenting

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Answers (9)
  • He needs to understand that she's doing this first. Once he's on the same page as you, you can work together. He honestly needs to be the authoritarian instead of you. It is difficult for children to take orders from new parents that have been introduced into their lives without their control. Instead of lashing out and being angry about having to listen to a new authority figure, she's instead learned to be passive-aggressive and manipulative. If there is a decision that needs to be made about her, he needs to make it. If only one parent is making the decisions, she knows she won't be able to go to the other one to play games.

    I know this sounds mean, but it isn't about making a step-parent feel less valuable. It is about looking at the situation through the child's eyes and immaginging how they must feel about the things in their life they can't control. Rules will be best coming from her father.

    Answer by NovemberLove at 1:28 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • Personally I think you and Daddy should sit down and come up with rules you both agree upon and then post them on the fridge or her bedroom door so she knows what is expected of her and what her consequences will be if she can't abide those rules...and that both Daddy and you are in complete agreement...

    Answer by beachmamaof2 at 1:38 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • I recommend checking out the stepparenting forums here on Cafemom. You'll get a lot of useful information from folks who've been there/done that.

    If it's truly a problem in your marriage, you may want to consider completely disengaging from any discipline issues with your stepdaughter and telling your husband that he's going to have to parent his own kid instead of making you be the bad guy.

    Answer by Avarah at 1:38 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • You are the adults and need to not play into it. She is being a kid and doing what many kids of divorce do. This is not her fault but her parents and step parents fault.

    Answer by Anonymous at 1:42 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • Dont paly the games. Let daddy take care of her. Become aloof and only do what you have to do. I dont mean mean or antagonizing, just aloof. Go on about your day without worrying about her.   She will see that your not so bad and daddy will see that you do much more and put up with much more then you should be.


    Answer by mistynights234 at 1:49 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • You guys just have to agree on boundaries. I would also make sure she is more active socially so that she is less interested in clinging to either of you.

    Answer by Terry22 at 2:36 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • YOu and him need to communicate and set up the rules beforehand. If youre talking to one another in deep conversation, then you should already have her little manipulative game figured out. We have a teen and a tween in our house, so this is nothing new. He needs to be an authoritarian as well and not leave all the work to you, especially since shes his daughter. She obviously knows the game well. Once you call her on it and put a stop to it....she can no longer do this. You and him need to get on the same page and yes, youre ruins marriages.

    Answer by momofsaee at 3:28 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • I totally agree with ANON 1:42.....she is the child and you are the adults. She's only doing what you allow her to do. Please have a serious talk with your husband about this. You need to have a united front in raising her and need to stick together.

    Answer by NJMom2Tyler at 4:25 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

  • We had major problems with my daughter playing us. Nothing changed until we became united. When he asks her to do something, and she refuses, I back him up. I count to three and give a timeout if she doesn't listen. The school counselor explained it this way, when you leave your child with a babysitter, they won't behave unless they know that they will answer to you. You tell them that you are going to ask the babysitter about the behavior and there will be consequences if they misbehave. The step parent is like the babysitter. The child won't listen until the know that there are consequences from you if they don't.

    You have to be a team though. That is most important. A child cannot play two parents who are in communication. My daughter has also asked one of us and got a no, and then asked the other one. She knows that if we find out she is in trouble so she doesn't try that very often. It is not an easy situation.

    Answer by stassy77 at 7:38 PM on Mar. 4, 2009

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