Effects of Passive Aggressive Parenting

If you are wondering what kind of an effect your passive aggressive spouse/partner is going to have on your children, let me give you an example.  So many times we stay together for “the sake of the children”. Let me show you why you may not be doing them any favors.

My passive aggressive boyfriend had 3 boys when I met him, all grown. The oldest, who is doing quite well, and the middle one were from a previous marriage. The youngest was his biological. Due to her having an alcohol problem in his previous marriage, he wound up pretty basically raising the three boys on his own. (One of the reasons I thought he would be so good for my son).

The youngest is 30 now. He’s having a hell of a time in his marriage. He’s been in and out of rehab for alcohol and needs to go again, and he gets drunk and blames his father for everything. His biggest complaint is unanswered questions. Usually the BF just lets him rant on and on. Finally after this last call the passive aggressive boyfriend says he is going to tell his son the next time that he’s a grown man now, and he needs to take responsibility for his own actions. Amen!

To tell you the truth, I can sort of understand where this kid is coming from. If living with a passive aggressive makes us crazy, imagine how confusing it is to a child. And since a child needs nurturing and a loving relationship from their parents, and all they are getting is confusion and mixed signals, what do you think we are raising? More passive aggressives.

I can only imagine some of the conversations that take place between my passive aggressive boyfriend and his son. Son asks a question “why…?” BF hangs his head but gives no answer. Or, BF hangs his head and says “I know. I wasn’t the best father…”. Son walks away wondering why he never saw the brick wall he just ran into.

As I said, he’s also having problems in his marriage. Personally a lot of us think he married the wrong girl, but pushing that aside, I find myself wondering how passive aggressive he is toward her. How much of their problems he brings on himself by clamming up, just like his father instead of having an open and adult discussion.

I think when we allow our passive aggressive partners to have such a huge influence on our children we are sentencing them to a life of doomed relationships, just like the one their parent is living. I don’t think they develop coping skills so they self medicate with either drugs or alcohol, and they are constantly trying to fill that void in their hearts from being hurt or feeling unloved.

If you have children and are staying in a passive aggressive relationship because you think it would be harder on them to go through a divorce, then for God’s sakes, do everything you can to pick up the slack of your passive aggressive partner. It’s up to you to constantly reassure your children that they are loved. That the way the passive aggressive parent is acting is not the normal way to be in a relationship. It’s up to you to work double-time to make this child secure. And I don’t mean spoiling them out of guilt or any other reason. I just mean by letting them know as they can understand, how good, healthy, loving relationships with others should be.


16 Responses

  1. Lauri, does youngest son know about PA behavior? As most of us know here, just being able to identify the problem which allows us to research and learn, and help ourselves know that we aren’t the cause of the problem can help immeasurably. Especially for you, an expert on this behavior, you could help him get a handle on much of his dad’s behavior.

    • Marily- Thanks for your input.

      I tried to explain to him once, and he got this high and mighty attitude about me claiming to know his father better than he did. I’d only been with him for 10 yrs. while the kid knew him all his life. I just let it go. Most of the time he’s not a very good listener. He already thinks he knows it all. It wasn’t worth the fight for me. I did try though. Thanks again.

  2. Dear ladybeams,

    this is the most straightforward and clear message I saw in my life, regarding raising kids in this passive aggressive environment….Many thanks! you really explain the impact of this behavior in a naturally curious child who needs answers to understand the world! We grown ups are the “meaning makers” for our children, explaining them with our worlds how the world works….everyday!
    I used to hog the time at dinner table, sharing with them what happened with my job, and telling them the conclusions: “this event happened to this person, because he needed to do X and instead did Z….and these are the consequences…” We would then talk about the right ways to proceed, the wrong ways, the price you pay, how long does it take for people to understand how to do good choices…and on and on!
    At the time, I didn’t know exactly what I was doing, but later on, I saw that I was providing meaning for all kind of life aspects, and having a conversation that was badly needed for all our children. If you are married to a person who would not to do it, then it’s on your shoulders to explain the world to them….
    Thanks again!

    • Nora- I don’t know why, but your comment ended up in my “spam” folder. Sorry. Thank you so much for your kind words and your input. I really appreciate it. It’s wonderful when parents discuss things with their kids. I know because my mother’s reason my whole life for telling me to do anything was “because I said so” that I always would explain to my kids my reasons for my requests, decisions, etc. If we ourselves make bad choices (like staying in a damaging relationship) the least we owe our children is teaching them the way things should be.

  3. Thank you for this comment. I agree about what happens to children who are raised in a house where pa is the standard. When I divorced my husband I really thought that I would be free of the pa behavior. However, my son was grown up and married when I got the divorce. He practices the PA stuff on me. At this time, it has been 4 years since he has spoken to me. He believes in the silent treatment when he does not like what I do. I should have expected this last bout of this behavior because it has happened before. He knows that I am a communicator but either he cannot bring himself to talk about what is bothering him or he cares too little to be bothered. I wrote him a letter to explain my feelings (after his wife was disrespectful and nasty unnecessarily to me–she knows she can get away with this) and invite him to come talk about our issues. He has never responded. Initially, he thought I would just ignore the lack of response, but when I did not rise to his trying to avoid me except to send me a Christmas gift (as if that was enough of an interaction) through the mail. He thought I would try to alter the situation as I did when he was little. When I did not, he became very silent.
    The problem is that his dad made me the scapegoat for everything (of course, as I have said before, with my unknowing encouragement), using put downs, name calling, avoidance and of course the silent treatment. So my son now makes me the scapegoat.
    The children of parents who practice pa learn how to treat others by watching their parents. I tried to make things work and his dad didn’t. My relatives (the ones who are acquainted with my situation) believe my son is a coward when it comes to conflict with me (of course they don’t really understand pa). I think he is afraid of me. It is much easier for him to not deal with me.
    It used to hurt when I got the silent treatment. I cannot do anything about it and I know this is a “norm” for my son. I feel so sorry that I helped lead him down this negative path.
    I realize this is going to be the continual state of things because of my refusal to go along anymore. Believe it or not, I find that I am happier being on my own than having to continually tippy-toe around my son. If he ever wants to have a genuine conversation with me, I am open to it, but I will not do it without another person present. A therapist suggested this strategy to keep myself from being “set up ” once again.
    This is tough but it is easier than constantly fighting a psychological war for control over my own life. I hope and PRAY that my son realizes that he is not really happy this way. And I hope that my grandson does not perpetuate the behavior.

    • Elleke- This is so sad. I am so sorry. This is exactly what I’ve been talking about when it comes to the effects of a passive aggressive parent on our children. And you have a grandson in the middle of all this that is missing out on the love from his grandmother? That is really sad. I wonder what your son tells him if he ever asks about his father’s mommy. It sounds like your son may be as emotionally detached as his father. Also, if his wife is being disrespectful toward you, it usually stems from things he has told her. So many of the adult children I have met that come from one passive aggressive parent and one basically passive parent, meaning they let the PA get away with the PA behavior toward them, have absolutely no respect for the parent that didn’t stand up for themselves. They end up treating the passive parent, the one that tried to keep peace in the family, the same way as the passive aggressive parent did. It’s awful how it spreads and feeds. That’s why I say people who stay in those kinds of relationships are really not doing their children any favors.

      My oldest daughter tries the silent treatment on me every once in awhile if we get into a big beef, but I just can’t let it go on very long, and pretty soon she relents, we talk about it, and it’s over. I really couldn’t stand it if there was a grandchild involved. I always pursue the making up, but that’s because I don’t think I could bare it if something was to happen to her while we were not speaking, and I never got the chance to “fix” it.

      I do understand about you not wanting to have to “tip-toe” around your own son. You shouldn’t have to. Do you all live close by each other? or does he live rather far away? When you two are on good terms does he interfere a lot in your life?
      Just trying to understand a little more the dynamics between you and your son. My children live a few hundred miles away, so we don’t see each other very often, leaving us all to live our own lives while still being interested and caring for each other.

      Thank you again for sharing. I look forward to hearing more from you.

      • My son lives in a suburb to the city where I live. It might as well be the other side of the country though.
        You asked if he interfered in my life when we are on good terms. Yes and no. When he was younger we were able to have long conversations about everything and enjoyed those talks. Now, however, those conversations involve judgments on my behavior (and other family members sometimes). Those are his “opinions.” He is very ready, though, to take offense at someone else’s opinions and debate them endlessly if they don’t agree with his. I have to be extremely straightforward and say things such as, “I really don’t think you can make an adequate judgment about whatever situation because you don’t live here and don’t see things close up.” This hardly ever changes his mind because he then discusses what I said with his wife (but he does not bring that particular subject up again), who has to add her “opinion” which is rarely positive where I am concerned.
        The reason why I have given up trying to make up is very complicated. My son believes that he was rejected because he left home at 18 to join the army (my fault, he says) when he wanted to remain at home. He did not realize that he was no longer a child. He did not want to be grown-up and take responsibility. He had some hard playing to do and he wanted to do it.
        After he came home, he realized that he had adult expectations. Not to his liking.
        He tells his wife “everything” which in itself is not a bad thing, but she is more than willing to reinforce his “victim” opinion, even to the point of bullying my younger daughters when she thought she could.
        This has gone on intermittently for 20 years. My son has told me that his wife does not take “no” for an answer.
        The first time the silent treatment came from them about I made multiple gestures to reengage (my son played stupid for many of them, a trick of his father’s). Eventually, things did get better, but it was just a waiting game, with both of them criticizing me and not particularly caring about how I felt.
        This time around, I allowed things to continue because I am not interested in opening the door to more abuse from her or criticism from him. If I get a heartfelt apology and promise of future respect then we can go from there (these are adult people, after all). Fat chance!!
        My daughter-in-law has even tried to enlist my ex-husband’s family in the criticism of me.
        That they took my side is a shock to me because my ex’s attachment to his birth family instead of his own was a big part of our problem. The ex in-laws told her that they were sympathetic to me and that upset her.
        She has lied on me over the yearss and my son always believes her.
        I regret that I cannot make this better but the only way that I can be free from constantly “being on guard” is to let things be.
        My grandson is 15 and he has had a bad case of “only childitis” (my term) for a long time. This adds to the teenage angst he must be suffering. I am sure mom and dad say their opinions aloud in front of him. My hope is that eventually he will find out things for himself. But if mom and dad enjoy giving others the silent treatment then I believe he will practice the same.
        There are more reasons and complications than what I have said here but this is the major thrust of my situation.
        I think this current episode did come about because I wrote that letter to my son asking him to talk to me without his wife. When they passive-aggressively sent me a gift by mail and I ignored it because I wanted the personal contact, they said I was the one that has the problem, of course.
        When my ex comes around and brings up my son, I remind him that I am not the one not speaking to them because I sent a letter communicating with my son.
        Perhaps I should not have ignored the gift; another letter maybe. I think that would make for continuing frustration.
        One other item I would comment on. I never considered myself passive in my relationship with my husband as you said there was a pa and a passive. I asserted myself and expressed myself repeatedly. I blew up so much that I thought I was a volcano. It took me so long to figure things out that I felt really stupid for a long time. The lesson I learned was that passive, assertive, aggressive or even just plain nice, if the pa is true to his character, nothing is going to change him/her.
        Thank you so much for this website. Putting my thoughts together so they make sense really helps.

        • Elleke- Now as I piece together more of the dynamics between you and your son, I can understand a little better why you feel you are better off just leaving things as they are. I don’t care whether it’s a parent, a spouse or a child, no one has the right to abuse us in any form, be it physical, emotional, or mental. Obviously your son has made up his mind how things are and doesn’t care to discuss them to get anything he may be thinking corrected. When my kids were quite a bit younger they would pass judgement on things I did, and I used to tell them “You’ll understand so much more when you are older. You don’t know as much as you think you do.” Thank goodness they grew up and have been through things now on their own and realize things aren’t always how they appear to be. It sounds like your son is old enough to have reached that point, but evidently not mature enough.

          I’m sorry for you that it has to be this way. It always hurts a little more when it’s a child that we loved and took care of all of their lives, but sometimes for our own well being we just have to walk away no matter what the relationship. You are very right. From the research I’ve done a passive aggressive rarely changes. The odds are not in our favor.

          Take care, My Dear. Let us know how you’re doing. Keep in touch. Glad the site helps. That’s what we’re here for! LOL

  4. I’m considering leaving my PA husband, but I fear that he will become worse
    once we are apart. I think he might badmouth me and turn the kids against me.
    Heck it took me years to figure him out, he dupes therapists and all of our friends, why would the kids be any different? At least if i stay with him I am here
    to defend myself. This is a very tough decision.

    • Cindy- Welcome. Sorry you’re sort of standing at the crossroads right now. Basically you could be right. If you leave him he could be just like a mean little kid and do everything possible to sabotage you. What kind of relationship do you have with your children now? Are they old enough for you to talk to? If you left, would you take them with you?

      I’m sure you already know, staying in a marriage so you can “defend yourself” isn’t a very good reason to stay married. Do you have any kind of support system? If he dupes therapists, etc. you could still get a therapist on your own that could help you through all this. We all need someone to validate our feelings and help keep us standing. Do you have any close friends or family apart from him, any life? If you’re thinking about divorce it’s very hard to go it alone. Maybe you should spend some time getting things in place first.

      Hope this helps a little. At least gives you sort of a “checklist” before doing anything drastic. Have you tried talking to your husband about how you feel? I know most of the time this doesn’t do much good, but I always suggest trying it at least. Feel free to comment anytime. Keep in touch and let us know how things are going. There are a lot of us out here. Someone may have something that can help.

  5. This has been very informative to read many of the posts, especially the ones about the effects this has on our children, as that was one of my main concerns throughout this marriage. How his neglect, additudes, belief system, blaming, shaming and never being “responsible” emotionally and though a good earner not financially responsible, or “savy” and the dysfunction of our marriage would affect the relationship and the attitudes of our children.

    Him making me into his mother, and his abandonment issues……did not make for a healthy understanding of boundries…..with him or our children.

    It has been a struggle I won’t detail at this time, but to say, if I had it to do over again I would not, marry nor stay with him as long as I have…….the effects on my children have been devastating. I only have one child left and as we enter the teen years I am V ERY concerned as his inability to plan, prepare, discuss, and backup “our expectations’, on things like curfew and etc……..is next to nill.

    He has stated many times he doesn’t believe in consequences. Now we all know how difficult it is to raise kids without consequences. He has always preferred to spoil them so he can be the “popular parent”, whenever they want to talk about themselves, they have to listen to his stories from long ago when he worked. He then rambles from story to story, (with no real point but how he was the hero in the story)…….and like me they often walk away without realizing they never got their “needs” met, but it was all about his need to USE them for the sake of HIS ego.

    Very sad…………I wouldn’t stay if I had young children if I knew then what I know now. Unfortunately if you have young children you are probably young enough to hope it will change. I can emphatically tell you NO matter what you do it won’t.

    You will, by power of the PA’s will and disorder, be a sexless, mommy figure, with unruly children that treat you like dirt. Do not stay as this is not love, as Pa’s cannot love……only use and abuse. No matter how strong you think you are or how much you can “overcompensate” for, it will have no good results. Sorry, but true….married 32 yrs, as I was the “one” that could make a difference……he didn’t change but everyone around him did, and NOT for the better.

    • Mitzi- Welcome and thanks so much for your comment here. One thing I try to explain emphatically here is the effect of passive aggressive parenting on the children. There are so many that are worried about the effects of divorce on their young children. What they don’t seem to realize is that once the divorce happens and it’s over, children can begin to heal. They are very resilient. When you stay in a passive aggressive marriage, the passive aggressive parenting goes on their entire formative years. Thank you so much for your support on this issue. I do get a lot of comments from people with young children and they need to know from someone who has been there. It is so typical for the PA to be the “friend” and make the one out that actually does the discipline and teaching, the bad guy. I hear and see it all the time. And if you raise a child without consequences, they have a real shock coming when they eventually step into the real world. It leaves them so unequipped to deal with any of their own relationships, be it work, personal, etc. It’s tough to override the PA in these instances because our children don’t like us very much until much later when they are mature enough to see through and understand what was going on.

      32 yrs. is a long time. You must have loved him very much to try for that many years. What passive aggressives have a tendency to do is just enough to keep us thinking there might be some hope. You say you have one more child at home. What will you do when that one is on his own? Have you just decided you’ve been in it this long you may as well stay?

      Thank you again for your comment and insight. Please stop by anytime. I look forward to hearing how you’re doing.

  6. “You will, by power of the PA’s will and disorder, be a sexless, mommy figure, with unruly children that treat you like dirt.”

    I put this comment of mine in quotes, as this will be the outcome of life with a pa. The reason for this is that they more than likely either hate, or have a bad relationship with their overbearing and controlling mother, who more than likely was abusive, narcissistic or pa themselves. This negative outcome in YOUR family is a victory over this “mommy” or origin. Expect nothing more than that and stay, want more, leave as fast as you can an severe all contact if at all possible.

    I thought I was too savy and smart to be duped, and I was wrong and the majority of my life with him…….as been one big heartbreaking pain after another. All my relationships are affected by the deep wounds inflicted on me, and them through this man and his dysfunction.,.

    On the outside he is normal, kind, and helpful on the inside he is an angry and sad little boy, and that is what shows at home. It will destroy you and your ability to trust and love……..and function at any level of satisfaction.

    I know this is negative……..and harsh, but unfortunately so very sadly true.

    • Mitzi- Thank you again for your comment. Yes, you certainly didn’t sugar coat it, but it needs to be said. It sounds like you understand passive aggressive behavior pretty well now. And yes, the outside world knows them as the perfect guy, that’s why it’s so easy for them to play the victim should you complain about them at all. People just don’t understand you can still be abused, even if there are no physical bruises.

      Good luck to you and I hope some of this blog helps you on your way to rebuilding the you you used to be, and still can be vs. what he has tried to turn you into please. Please feel free to answer any of the others on here and let us know how things are going for you.

  7. Hey ladybeams

    Just wanted to say that I loved your comment about having a normal adult conversation. I can not believe how many times I have said that to my husband, “I want an adult conversation! One where I say something and you respond’ HELLOOOOO. Geeze this frustating. I am not in love with my husband anymore as I find it hard to sustain a one way relationship and was only staying out of fear a divorce would effect my boys. Am seriously considering all my options now. Thank GOD for you!!

    • Amanda- I love your “helloooo”. LOL. That’s exactly how I feel. “Anybody in there” LOL.

      I don’t think you need to fear divorce as much as you need to fear raising the boys in such a disfunctional environment. Of course that’s only my opinion, but if you read through some of these comments, especially those on passive aggressive parenting, you may see what I mean.

      You take care of you and your boys, and God Bless you. There’s a whole future out there, and we’re here when ever you need us.

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