As the former director of a preschool, I was bombarded daily with parents and the way they deal with their children. However for some of these parents, the issues with their child’s behavior were often their own fault. Dealing with issues in a passive aggressive manner sets the stage for behavior problems that are learned early and can continue through childhood and into even larger problems when the child becomes a teen. Here are some of the passive aggressive behaviors I most often saw parents demonstrate when dealing with their preschoolers.
Playing the Victim
Some parents play the victim in front of their child blaming others for their problems or issues. When this is constantly displayed to children they will begin to mimic the behavior. These are also the parents that always see their child and themselves as the victim in any situation. They reinforce this to their children by telling them that the situation is not their fault but the fault of another child or adult. This does not teach accountability, self-control or the difference between right and wrong. These children grow up thinking they are above the rules or that everyone is always out to get them.
Just like in playing the victim, parents make too many excuses for their child’s behavior or their own. Like with playing the victim, constant modeling of this type of behavior shows young kids they don’t have to take responsibility for their actions. Parents of preschoolers often made excuses for everything from not bringing their child to school in appropriate shoes to dealing with a child who was biting others. These children then begin to make excuses when they misbehave or will not follow directions in the classroom. Often these children don’t ever understand that they have done something wrong. This creates confusion, frustration and anger on the part of the child. Like with victimization, these children often don’t think that they will be blamed or don’t have to follow the rules.
No Follow Through
If I only had a dollar for the number of time parents were in my office because of a behavior problem promising to “deal with it” and come to find out the next day, they did nothing. In one situation the parent told the child over and over again that there would be no television for the rest of the week because the child had spit in the teacher’s face. The next day, the child could not wait to share with the class how his mom had let him watch the latest Disney video. Parents sometimes have a hard time understanding that this mixed message gives children the idea that they can do anything and the threats are just words.
Rewarding Bad Behavior
As a parent, most of us know when our child has done something bad or wrong, the worst thing we can do is reward them for the behavior instead of teaching them it was not right. Many passive aggressive parents swear they will not reward bad behavior but then turn around moments later and do. It is a difficult habit to break and one of the most common when parenting young children. You cannot tell a child they were really naughty today and then turn around and give them candy an hour later. If you are going to punish your child then create an appropriate and consistent punishment, mixed messages don’t work.
Putting off things is one passive aggressive behavior that I have seen over and over again mimicked by preschoolers. Children don’t want to clean up their messes for instance and say that they will “do it later”. Children don’t understand putting things off unless it is modeled for them. Parents don’t understand that allowing their child to “do something later” and then not making them go back and do it, teaches them to put things off and neglect basic responsibilities when they are around others.
Blaming the Child for the Parent’s Own Issues
The blame game is a big no-no if you are parenting preschools. Preschoolers naturally want to please adults so often you will hear them blame others or even blame objects for their behaviors. Once I had a mother who blamed everyone and everything so much for her life that we called her “Blom” or the “Blame-Mom”. We called her child “little blom” because this child was so used to hearing his mom blame everyone else that he blamed everyone and everything whenever you asked him a question, good or bad.
Negative Talk with a Splash of Humor
Often using humor or a “light” tone, parents will make remarks about their child never amounting to anything or that “he is not the brightest color in the box.” They will also make remarks about their child’s behavior like “ya, he is just a mean kid” or “you should see how mean he is to his sister!” These comments are ways parents skirt the issue of being accountable for their child. Trust me, if you have a child who is hitting and biting everyone, jokes are only going to make it worse, not better with the other parents and the staff.
Many parents fail to listen to their children and disregard their opinions or needs. Children at an early age are sponges for learning and teaching communication is a great way to not only give your child confidence, but to encourage self expression and independence. It was sad the number of times that I watched parents role their eyes as I stood and listened to the opinions of their children. It is not a waste of time. Communication is one of the most important skills a person can learn. Children that are never heard, my introvert or not be willing to interact with others because they are afraid of being told that their opinion doesn’t matter. This can have a lasting effect on their development and easily pass over into adulthood.
We all want our kids to be a success. However some parents push their children into activities with the premise that they are going to do a great job and then spend the entire time yelling at them that they are not. This is often seen when kids go into sports or team games. The parent is yelling at the child to “look at the ball” or “stand up straight” instead of just encouraging the child’s best and accepting it. For some, this behavior starts when their child is as young as three or four years old.
The Little Adult
Not allowing a child to be a child can have a huge effect on their development. Parents expect their children to be adult-like and child-like at the same time. This confuses the child and prevents them from naturally exploring the developmental milestones of being a child. It can also cause resentment later in life when the now adult feels like they never had a chance to be a kid.
Passive aggressive behaviors can have a lasting effect on a child. Parents however fail to recognize that they are even acting in a passive aggressive manner.
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