Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Problem with PAP

PAP= Passive-Aggressive Parenting

The problem with Passive-Aggressive Parenting (PAP) is, quite simply, it just doesn't work. Normally, I try to reserve judgment (aloud, at least) for whatever parenting choice you make. Becoming a parent myself has humbled me tremendously. Back, before kids (BK), I may have had all sorts of opinions about the way you parent-- How you talk to your kid while walking down the street, what food your son has for lunch, how you listen to your iPod on the subway while riding next to your child, essentially ignoring her, how your offspring is running wildly through the aisles unchecked, the dangerous 'toy' weapon your daughter is wielding, etc.

But I have learned my lesson (mostly) about judging other parents. One never knows the full context of a situation that we may see just a quick snapshot of as outsiders. Maybe you eat only organic, vegan fare at home and your child just underwent a painful medical test so you relented to his pleas and let him try sodium-laden Lunchables for the very first time. Perhaps, your child just finished singing her version of Raffi's Greatest Hits for the eighteenth time, which you listened to patiently each time, even smiling slightly throughout her off-key Baby Beluga--yet again, and just needed a little Springsteen in your life. Maybe your little darlin' has just been cured of selective mutism, suddenly able to speak to the grocery check-out clerk, and is celebrating his remarkable breakthrough, while you stand stunned by his public words. There have certainly been moments in my parenting career that I would not want a camera turned towards me, so I have tried to abide by the 'live and let live' philosophy when seeing how others parent. I surely have learned that nearly every time I have uttered, "Well, I would never __________" in terms of parental choices, I've ended up doing many of those things (My kids eat hot dogs, for example. Gross.). Often we are all doing the best we can in the situation and parents should be supportive and understanding of others fighting the good fight.

However, there is a judging caveat here, and that has to do with PAP. You see, if you were just employing this strategy at home, then I might have nothing to say about it. The issue is that you use PAP everywhere and suddenly, my kids and I get pulled into your ineffective and blame-somebody-else way of 'disciplining.'

For example, when your child roughly tackles mine without provocation in the playground, and you say, "Now, Beulah, you know that C is very sensitive and hockey isn't a sport he likes," you have just placed the blame on my kid for getting upset by your kid's aggressiveness. When your son grabs food from F's hand as he enjoys his snack, and I decide not to force F to share, as I most definitely would have if someone asked politely, your response of "You see, Herbert, some parents have their children share their food, but they don't have to, so you can't eat F's snack," you have just told your son that his behavior wasn't bad, mine was.

Look-- call your kid out on his poor behavior. Tell him what he's done wrong. Punish him if appropriate. I will do the same for mine. Because in the end, if you continue with your PAP, don't be surprised if 1.) people stop returning your phone calls asking for a playdate, 2.) your kid gets the 'needs work' box checked for 'plays well with others' in his social skills assessment in kindergarten, or 3.) your little darling grows up to never, ever take responsibility for anything she does wrong and continually blames the world and her parents for whatever doesn't go her way.

Oh, and if you don't call him out on his bad behavior when he's hurting my kid, don't be surprised when I do.


Anonymous said...

I do something similar to that all the time, but the other way around. "See how nicely that boy is sharing his toys?" "Look, M ate all his chicken!"

Jayne Major said...

PAP= Passive-Aggressive Parenting Comment

I agree that parents mix up their children greatly when they are passive (they don't teach a better way of thinking and acting) and then aggressively bite them when confused children don't respond the way the parent wants them to. I show parents how to use logic, not drama with their children. Children respond to logic; we all do. Unfortunately, many parents are not as direct when they discipline their children and the discipine turns into punishment. Children don't need punishment as much as they need instruction. When parents use logic and not drama (punishment, aggression, hitting, spanking, chastizing) the parent is creating a hostile learning environment. This shuts down learning.

I've taught Breakthrough Parenting classes for 25 years. One of the benefits my students report is after taking the course they have the self assurance day to day that they are doing the right thing.

Jayne Major, Ph.D.

Jennifer said...

I think this is just a cowardly way for a parent to have a conversation with the other adult about their child's behavior. And instead of taking responsibility for their child, because it's too embarrassing, they make it about your child. I don't think a lot of this is consciously done but that doesn't excuse it. I also think kids like this don't end up growing up blaming their parents for everything, they grow up blaming everyone else because their parents are still in their lives when they are forty years old telling them how mean the big bad world is and that no one understands them like their parents do.

LiteralDan said...

Is it possible to high-five across the Internet? 'Cause you said this just right.

Andrea said...

Have people actually said those kinds of things? I am stunned! Can you really be that clueless...actually come to think of it M once had a friend who couldn't stand when M played with one of his (millions and millions of) toys--every time M picked something up, the other kid would grab it away...and his mom actually said to me, "M has a hard time sharing, doesn't he?"