Is Your Teen Passive Aggressive?

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Marie just told her daughter Laura that she could not go to the after-party for the winter formal. After a quick argument where Laura quickly realized nothing she could say would change her mother’s mind, she stormed upstairs. The next day Marie reminded Laura that she would need to hustle out of school at 3pm so that Marie would not be late to her doctors appointment that she has been on the waiting list for three months. Come three o’clock, Laura took her time at her locker, chatted with friends, fixed her lipstick in the bathroom mirror and said goodbye to her old soccer coach.
By 3:26, Marie had circled around the block multiple times, been yelled at by the security guard for blocking the driveway and called her Doctor’s office twice to tell them she was still coming. When Laura sauntered out into the front driveway Marie was begging the nurse to postpone the time. Laura languished into the front seat and picked at her nailbeds and Marie burst out, “They are giving away my slot! Who knows how long it will be until I get in again.” Laura rolled her eyes, “Sorry, I had some stuff I had to do.” Marie huffed, “Well Laura, I told you I needed you out right at 3pm today, this appointment was important to me!” Laura peered at her mother through her blonde bangs, “Was it as important to you as the after-party is to me? Now you know how it feels.”
Passive aggressiveness is becoming an increasingly common complaint in my inbox from parents. How can parents deal with teenagers who are lashing out with passive aggressive behavior instead of angry words?
1. Pinpoint where they are learning it
Many TV shows and movies are actually teaching teens how to be passive aggressive. Even some books like the Clique Series teach teens to be subversive and sneaky with their meanness. Look at what your teen is watching and reading and try to figure out where they are learning the behavior.
2. Make sure they are not learning it from you

It is very hard to be aware of our own behavior. Some passive aggressiveness is subconscious and difficult to conquer. Ask your spouse or friends if they see you acting passive aggressively and then be honest about what you might have done with your teens to teach them this behavior is OK.

3. Maybe fighting isn’t so bad?

You cannot get rid of passive aggressive behavior and not replace it with anything. Passive aggressiveness is a way for people to deal with confrontation and disagreement. If you discourage open communication in your household, your teens might have to turn to more subversive tactics. Tell them you always would prefer open arguments to passive aggressive behavior. At least this is honest and productive when all issues are on the table.

4. Talk about how being passive aggressiveness is a lose-lose

Go through times when either you have been passive aggressive or been a victim to it and how you felt. Usually, no one feels good after they have punished or been punished by someone else in this way. When they realize that being passive aggressive is not only not fulfilling but harms relationships long term they are more likely to change it.

Passive aggressive behavior is sneaking into many of our interactions, lets help teens be aware of their behavior before they are too set in their ways to change it!

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2 Responses to “Is Your Teen Passive Aggressive?”

  1. Chelsea
    November 2, 2010 at 5:05 am #

    My first thought on reading the title was, “Aren’t ALL teenagers passive aggressive?”. It’s the nature of the beast, as it were. It’s a time when people don’t have a ton of skills in expressing themselves and handling frustration, mixed with a lack of power because they are still underage. People who use being p/a (including adults) do so because it offers a temporary feeling of power, especially if they don’t know other ways to express themselves. The point about asking if your kids are learning it from you is very valid. It’s worth examining.


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