Your Prescription for Passive Aggressive Children
A Lesson from Horton: I Meant What I Said and I Said What I Meant
Symptoms: Here you are, trying to enjoy a Sunday afternoon with your family. Before we get into some Sunday football, a game of risk, and a family dinner with gratitude exercises, you’d like a few chores to be done. So, you send Charlie into his room to gather his clothes laying on the floor. With your eyes set on a “perfect set of family activities,” you mistakenly forget that Charlie’s top passive aggressive maneuver is procrastination. He wanders around his room kicking his socks. Charlie’s sister causes more problems. Lisa withdraws from family activities when she is asked to help clear the table. You are surprised because the request appears minimal compared to the amount of work you had to do growing up on a farm. Other kids pout, sulk, throw temper tantrums, or flat out resist demands which seem incredibly reasonable to parents but are a cause for yelling and/or screaming for kids.
Passive aggressive behaviors may look like any number of actions by children. Parents want to pay careful attention to some of the following that should be viewed as red flags: Using silent treatment, claim misunderstanding of the directions, “forgetting” how to do certain things, and shutting down explanations or conversations with exasperated “OK,” “Fine,” and “Whatever.”
A secure and confident parent will identify these behaviors and confront them directly. First, the household rules need to be absolutely understood. These rules are based on crystal clear expectations communicated to the child. Second, when expectations are not met, passive aggression is identified directly by the parent. So, how do you directly address Charlie’s procrastination and Lisa’s withdrawal?
Prescription for parenting passive aggressive children:
We want children who directly and powerfully advocate for their needs, wants, and feelings.
We do not want our children to try to manipulate others into doing what they want. That is weak. Parents who are drawn into the manipulation tell Charlie “alright, just come and sit with us and we’ll clean the room later.” Or, they may say to Lisa, “just be with us and don’t worry about the table.” Soon, the kids learn that passive aggressive behavior works in the relationship dynamic. This is a problem.
When a child pouts, whines, or procrastinates, they are trying to manipulate the parent into getting their way. The last thing a family needs is to reinforce this weakness. Instead, we directly address manipulation and passive aggressive behavior.
The goal of a healthy family is to reinforce a culture of honest and direct communication.
TAKE ACTION TO MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER!
“In our family, we don’t manipulate. And, we aren’t passive aggressive. Instead, we are direct.”
1. Encourage your child to name their feeling.
2. Then, encourage the child to express their needs. What did they not like? What would they like to see happen?
3. Require politeness
4. Validate the child’s emotion even if you will disagree with their expressed need or want.
In this case, our actions as parents are going to speak even louder than our words. If we have developed a bad habit of manipulating kids with our emotions (“I can’t believe you did that after all I’ve done for you. I don’t know how I’m going to make it” or “you make mommy so mad.” In some cases, we may want to name the passive aggressive behaviors in our own lives. The main point is that we want to facilitate a culture of direct communication in our families. “Charlie, you are being passive aggressive. Let’s talk directly about what the problem is.”
Dealing with passive aggressive behavior is often easier said than done. Remember to stay consistent and encouraging your child to name their feeling, express their needs, be polite and directly problem solve.
To your joy and health in parenting-
The parenting doctors.