He pretends not to hear you, so get him to listen up.

How to Talk to a Passive-Aggressive Manipulative Child

by Kay Ireland

Passive-aggressiveness is an effective way for a child to get what he wants. After all, it's not the same as an outright tantrum or disobedient action; instead, he uses manipulation and quiet defiance to achieve a certain outcome. Whether it's dragging his feet when it's time for a task or pretending not to hear you when you issue a direction, you can nip passive-aggressive and manipulative behavior by letting your child know the jig is up.

Recognize the behavior and let your child know you're onto him. Manipulative kids usually think they're fooling parents with their tricks, so it's important that you verbally recognize the behavior, suggests licensed social worker Signe Whitson in an article for "Psychology Today." If he pretends not to hear when you ask him to tidy up, say "I know you heard me and it's not OK to ignore me. Please clean up or you'll have consequences."

Be specific about both your expectations and the consequences for not meeting those expectations. Manipulative, passive-aggressive kids know their parents weak spots -- yours might be finally doing the chore yourself because you're sick of asking. Instead, set timers, create a job chart and write down consequences so your child is clear on what's expected and what will happen if she ignores you.

Give your child an opportunity to vent her frustration or anger when it comes to directives, suggests EmpoweringParents.com. Children who are passive-aggressive hide their anger, choosing to be defiant or manipulative instead. If you notice the behavior, sit down and acknowledge that your child might be angry. Let her know it's OK to be upset and to tell you if she's mad at you. Let her know you understand her anger, but it doesn't give her license to avoid her chores or ignore what you say.

Offer plenty of positive reinforcement when your child overcomes his passive-aggressiveness and listens well, suggests the University of Minnesota. Try, "I noticed that you got your homework done before the timer went off -- way to stay on track!" Praise always works well, but you could also put a longer-term goal in place -- if he completes his daily chores for a whole week, you'll take him to the movie, for instance. This gives him more motivation to drop the quiet and defiant behavior.

Set a good example for behavior. If your child observes you giving your partner the silent treatment to get what you want, she soon learns the behavior is a good way to get what she wants, too. Instead, practice being direct with your family members and allowing your child to see you angry to encourage a healthy expression of anger and fewer passive-aggressive episodes.

About the Author

Kay Ireland specializes in health, fitness and lifestyle topics. She is a support worker in the neonatal intensive care and antepartum units of her local hospital and recently became a certified group fitness instructor.

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