Understanding Your Role: Early Warning Signs of a Passive-Aggressive Child

When a mother of a 12-year-old girl reached out, I was taken aback. “Every interaction turns into a power struggle, and it’s exhausting.” It was hard to believe her daughter’s aggressive behavior was solely due to her. After our talk, it became evident that the mother’s actions played a part. 

Learn how to identify early signs of your child’s passive-aggressive behavior and how to prevent it.


Signs of Passive-Aggressive Behavior


  1. Sarcasm:

    • Recognition: Frequent use of sarcastic remarks, especially in response to requests or discussions.
    • Spoken Example: “Sure, I’ll get right on that. Because my chores are obviously the most important thing in the world.”
  2. Silent Treatment:

    • Recognition: Prolonged periods of unresponsiveness or avoiding eye contact during disagreements.
    • Spoken Example: Complete silence or one-word responses when engaged in conversation.
  3. Backhanded Compliments:

    • Recognition: Positive words paired with a negative tone or insincere body language.
    • Spoken Example: “You actually did a good job on this. I’m surprised.”
  4. Procrastination:

    • Recognition: Consistent patterns of putting off important duties despite reminders.
    • Spoken Example: “I’ll do it later, okay? It’s not like it’s a big deal anyway.”
  5. Veiled Criticism:

    • Recognition: Expressing disapproval through disguised comments rather than open communication.
    • Spoken Example: “You always have such interesting fashion choices. It’s unique.”
  6. Selective Forgetting:

    • Recognition: Regularly failing to follow through on commitments without a genuine reason.
    • Spoken Example: “Oh, I forgot you asked me to do that. My bad.”
  7. Passive Resistance:

    • Recognition: Engaging in tasks with a lack of enthusiasm or purposely doing them poorly.
    • Spoken Example: “Fine, I’ll do it, but don’t expect me to do it well.”
  8. Victim Mentality:

    • Recognition: Consistently framing situations as if others are intentionally causing harm.
    • Spoken Example: “Nobody cares about how I feel. I’m always the one getting blamed.”
  9. Guilting:

    • Recognition: Expressing disappointment or hurt to make others feel responsible for their actions.
    • Spoken Example: “I guess I’m just a burden to everyone. It’s fine; I’m used to it.”
  10. Nonverbal Cues:

    • Recognition: Negative expressions or gestures during conversations or interactions.
    • Spoken Example: Eye rolls accompanied by heavy sighs when asked to do something.


How can I deal with my Passive-Aggressive Teen?

If the examples shared above sound familiar, know that you’re not alone in facing the challenges of your teen’s passive-aggressive behavior. Many teens go through phases of expressing discontent, and as parents, it’s crucial to provide the necessary support. Recognize that every behavior displayed by our children reflects underlying emotions.

In the following section, I provided the teen’s mom with various examples to help uncover the root of the problem. Feel free to explore and apply those that resonate with your situation.


  1. Open Communication:

    • Strategy: Encourage open and honest dialogue.
    • Spoken Example: “I want to understand how you’re feeling. Can we talk about what’s going on?”
  2. Active Listening:

    • Strategy: Pay close attention to what your teen is saying.
    • Spoken Example: “I hear that you’re upset. Tell me more about what’s bothering you.”
  3. Avoid Power Struggles:

    • Strategy: Choose your battles wisely; not every situation requires confrontation.
    • Spoken Example: “Let’s find a compromise here. What can we both agree on?”
  4. Set Clear Expectations:

    • Strategy: Clearly communicate expectations and consequences.
    • Spoken Example: “I expect you to complete your chores by Friday. If not, there will be consequences.”
  5. Teach Problem-Solving:

    • Strategy: Encourage your teen to express their concerns and find solutions together.
    • Spoken Example: “Instead of getting frustrated, let’s figure out a solution. What do you suggest?”
  6. Positive Reinforcement:

    • Strategy: Acknowledge and reward positive behaviors.
    • Spoken Example: “I noticed how well you handled that situation. Great job!”
  7. Model Healthy Communication:

    • Strategy: Demonstrate healthy ways of expressing emotions and resolving conflicts.
    • Spoken Example: “When I feel upset, I try to express myself calmly. Let’s work through this together.”
  8. Establish Boundaries:

    • Strategy: Clearly define acceptable behaviors and consequences.
    • Spoken Example: “We agreed on the rules, and it’s important that we both follow them. Let’s discuss what happens when we don’t.”
  9. Therapeutic Support:

    • Strategy: Consider family therapy or individual counseling for your teen.
    • Spoken Example: “I think it could be helpful to talk to a professional about what’s going on. What do you think?”
  10. Encourage Emotional Expression:

    • Strategy: Teach your teen healthy ways to express their emotions.
    • Spoken Example: “If you’re feeling overwhelmed, maybe drawing or writing can help you express what’s going on inside.”
  11. Promote Self-Reflection:

    • Strategy: Encourage your teen to reflect on their behavior and its impact on others.
    • Spoken Example: “Take a moment to think about how your actions may be affecting the people around you. Let’s talk about it afterward.”
  12. Seek Professional Help if Needed:

    • Strategy: If the behavior persists or worsens, consult with a mental health professional.
    • Spoken Example: “I’m concerned about what you’re going through. Maybe talking to a therapist could provide some insights and support.”



Parental Influence: Healthy Behavior for a better Connection to my Child

As parents, it’s essential to acknowledge the significant impact our behavior can have on our teenager’s emotional well-being. The examples shared earlier might have sounded familiar because, often, a teen’s passive-aggressive behavior is a response to the environment at home. 

In order to foster a more supportive and understanding relationship with your child, be aware of these tips. 



How to foster a Healthy Relationship with my Child

To begin, fostering open communication involves actively listening without judgment. Instead of dismissing concerns, parents can say, “I’m here to listen. What would you like to share?” Additionally, when setting expectations, it’s crucial to communicate them clearly with empathy. Rather than issuing stern demands, parents can engage in a collaborative discussion, stating, “Let’s discuss the expectations together and find a middle ground.”

Positive reinforcement plays a pivotal role. By consistently acknowledging positive behaviors, parents can create a more affirming atmosphere. Redirecting focus from negatives, they can express appreciation, saying, “I value your efforts; it makes a difference.” Modeling healthy communication involves demonstrating effective ways of expressing emotions and resolving conflicts. Instead of raising their voice, parents can suggest, “Let’s talk calmly about what’s bothering us.”

Furthermore, encouraging emotional expression is essential. Parents should provide outlets for emotional expression and support their teens’ chosen methods. Rather than dismissing hobbies, parents can express genuine interest, saying, “I’m keen on understanding why this activity is important to you.” Integrating active listening into these adjustments completes the circle, ensuring that teens feel heard and understood.


Free Resource for Parents of Passive-Aggressive Teens

Curious about additional mental health coaching strategies for your teen?

Access my free master class — a one-hour video providing immediate insights into active listening methods and other tailored coaching strategies for parents.

Thank you for making a positive impact on your teen’s life!


Hope that helped!😊

Alexandra Allover


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