Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Some Examples and a Plan to Take Back Control

If you have identified passive-aggressive behavior in your children and know that your typical responses to it are not working, then you are ready to make a plan that does work.

An Analogy to Help us Focus

Let’s use a simple analogy to help us see the problem more clearly. Think of yourself as the employer and of the child as the employee. Employees are expected to perform tasks within a time frame. If they do their work well, they keep their jobs and receive benefits. If they don’t, they’re fired. My boss expects me to come to work on time and to work when I get there. She doesn’t call me every half-hour to cheer me on or to remind me that I need to keep working. She doesn’t promise to buy me lunch if I work hard. She doesn’t even threaten that she will fire me if I don’t work. And she doesn’t call me names if I slack off (at least not that I’m aware of) or threaten to call my husband to squeal on me.

Apply the Analogy to Your Situation

Simply apply the analogy to your situation. You are the boss and you have the control. Your kids are expected to perform tasks within a time frame. If they don’t, they should suffer the consequences. Take some time to write out your expectations and some natural consequences for failure to comply. Don’t announce them. Don’t warn and hint. Simply fix them in your mind. The next time they pull a passive-aggressive stunt, let them and don’t say a word. Then, when it is time, follow through with the consequence.

The First Example

For example, Sally is supposed to complete her language arts and math before lunch. By noon, she hasn’t even started her math. What do you do?

You prepare and eat a fantastic, delicious lunch (make it superbly out of the ordinary), but eat it quietly and alone. When she comes to the kitchen, you calmly say, “I’m sorry, Sally. I guess you missed lunch. Your work isn’t done. As soon as you finish, let me know and I’ll make you a snack.”

It’s important that you say this with no accusing tone. It should be a statement of fact, delivered in a loving way. You are genuinely sorry for her. Don’t gloat, and make sure the snack is nutritious but boring. If you think it will be hours before she will be done and you don’t want her going that long without food, then have a pre-made snack ready on a teeny, tiny plate and let her take it to her desk so that she can nibble as she works.

This may sound horrible, but you won’t have to do this more than once or twice. Trust me; it works.

The Second Example

Another example is that you ask Sally to clean her room. She spends the afternoon goofing off and doesn’t begin cleaning. You make a mental note, but say nothing. You go about your business (remember, it is not your problem). Later that day, when it’s time for her to watch her favorite show or go outside, etc, you say, “I’m sorry, Honey, you can’t do that today because you didn’t obey me earlier when I asked you to clean your room. ”

Then follow through—no negotiating, no backing down, not even if she flies to her room and frantically does the job as fast as she can to make up for it. The consequence is not for neglecting to do the job; it’s for not obeying you when you first gave the instructions. A wise person once said that anything less than instant obedience is disobedience. And consequences must follow disobedience every time without fail.

When you start to take back control, expect resistance in the form of whining, accusing and arguing. Whatever you do, DO NOT DISCUSS THE MATTER OR ARGUE WITH YOUR CHILD. This is the fastest way to lose ground. You are above that.

A Second Analogy

Can you imagine being stopped by a police officer and debating the terms of your ticket? How about promising to drive slower to cancel the fine? Can’t you see the cop kicking your tires, screaming or begging you to take the ticket? How about stopping other motorists and whining, “She never wants to take this ticket!” How ridiculous! Police officers are in authority and their calmness and confidence show it.

You are in authority in your home. Be calm and confident. Don’t back down, don’t threaten, warn, discuss, debate and don’t argue. There is something pathetic about an adult arguing with a young child. It demonstrates weakness to the point of helplessness and desperation. Confidence and calm inspire admiration and invite others to follow and obey. Remember, you have complete control of your kids’ lives. Simply follow through and watch the change.

You Will all be Happier

You will be happier and so will your kids when you regain control of your home because your home will become a peaceful place again. None of us is happy with anarchy.

Dianne Dachyshyn is a freelance writer and a motivational speaker who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.  She works as a home education facilitator, helping homeschooling families plan their programs and deal with challenges.  Dianne is passionate about teaching children to write.  Visit her website at

avatar Dianne Dachyshyn (14 Posts)

Dianne Dachyshyn is a freelance writer and a motivational speaker who lives in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. She works as a home education facilitator, helping homeschooling families plan their programs and deal with challenges. Before working as a facilitator, she home educated her three children for seven years. She has sold curriculum, worked as a private consultant to homeschoolers, served on a homeschooling board and has been a keynote speaker at homeschool conventions and support meetings. Dianne is passionate about teaching children to write. From her experience in the classroom, in homeschooling and in relationships with other writers, she knows that this is by far the most challenging area to learn and to teach. Dianne Dachyshyn is available to speak to groups on the topics of homeschooling, parenting and teaching writing. She can be reached at

2 Responses to Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Some Examples and a Plan to Take Back Control

  • I know exactly what kind of a day you had, Becky, because I have had those days, too. I hate to tell you this, but you blew it when you exploded and tossed him out of the room. Once we get to the point of venting at our kids, we have lost. The only way to get a handle on passive-aggressive behavior is to plan ahead. If we allow ourselves to be caught off-guard, we’re done.

    Re-read my three articles and then map out a plan. You need to take control by initiating the plan. The key to this whole thing is to remain CALM. The only way that you can pull that off is by putting yourself in control long before the bad behavior begins.

    By losing your cool first, everything after that point came across as punishment and he in typical childish behavior, dug in his heels and resisted you.

    Read the articles again and then contact me again. You can email me directly at

    Good luck and God bless!

  • avatar
    becky says:

    Hi Dianne, Your article was really useful to me about how to deal with passive resistance behavior. This morning (SA time) my 9year old decided to operate on a ‘go slow’ attitude.
    Unfortunately I lost my cool with him and sent him out of the schoolroom (almost throwing him out) I told him when he was ready to do his work he could come back. He didnt, and I found him reading Tintin and Calvin&hobbs comic books. After confiscating those, sending him back to do his work in floods of tears, I made myself plus my second child a nice lunch and told my 9yo he can only have peanut butter. Another flood of tears and a huge guilt trip on my side.
    Could I have dealt with this better or should I have just left him reading his favorite books?

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