7. Passive Aggressive Behaviour


In our two previous lessons, we have had a lot to say about pent-up anger in a child. We know that anger is a natural emotion and will be expressed by every child from time to time just like we adults do.

If it is suppressed by the parents and becomes pent-up, then later on it can produce many problems. For example, we know that one of the major ways for it to express itself is in depression. Depression is dangerous because it can become severe enough to cause a young person to even commit suicide.

There is another alternative to depression. If it does not come out as depression, then it will come out as what is professionally called ‘Passive-Aggressive Behaviour’. This is nothing more than a fancy term for a form of rebellion with the intent of making parents suffer.

It is anger that gets back at a person indirectly. It can manifest itself in many different ways. It is a subconscious thing that a child is not even aware that their behaviour is being directed toward someone.

Often a young person is puzzled as to why they act as they do when asked about their action. They will say something like, ‘I don’t know why I do such things.’ They are unaware they are using their action to release their pent-up anger to upset their parents. In almost every situation it is always used to upset their parents.

Types Of Behaviour

It can show up at any age. One of the earliest ways a child does this is by soiling their pants even though they are toilet trained. Later on, it may be poor work in school. Subconsciously the child is saying, ‘you can make me go to school, but you can’t make me make good grades.’

While all this is very disturbing in children it can be disastrous for a teenager. Their way of handling pent-up anger can run from making poor grades to using drugs, becoming pregnant, committing crimes, and even attempting suicide. Any one of these things would hurt a parent.

Some children have been known to attempt suicide several times not knowing why but the real reason is that it is their way of hurting their parents by this action.

It is striking back with all the anger that has been pent up for years. Many teens come in late at night far beyond their curfew as a means of upsetting their parents.

Often a teenager will turn their unresolved anger onto themselves, resulting in psychosomatic problems such as headaches, ulcers, skin problems, etc.

In the case of suicide, the attempt is to make a particular person feel guilty, upset and hurt. Yet if you ask them why they have done this, they don’t understand why they behave in this manner.

Anger Must Be Vented

Most people do not understand anger or what to do with it. Anger somehow seems wrong and sinful, thus it must never be vented. When a child becomes angry a parent will often smack them or yell something like, ‘shut your mouth, I will not tolerate such talk’.

When a child is faced with such an ultimate turn, they have two alternatives. Either express the anger and be punished or second, or they can hold it inside not openly expressing it.

But just remember it will not go away. It will be suppressed in the subconscious and remain there just waiting to be expressed in later years in a disturbing and harmful way.

Passive-Aggressive Behaviour can become an ingrained pattern that will last for a lifetime. This will affect this person’s relationship later on with their husband, wife, children, people they work with and their friends. One of the most dangerous ways we see this expressed is in the driving habits of some.

Have you ever had someone speed up when you try to pass them? Perhaps you have had someone pass you then suddenly dart in front of you causing you to use your breaks suddenly.

Another dangerous way this is expressed is by immoral things people will do in later life. For example, let us say we have a woman in her thirties who has been raised in a Christian home. She was never permitted to express anger. Even at this stage in life, she will do things to hurt her parents.

Her life is designed to upset her parents by doing exactly the opposite of what her parents taught her as a girl. She may consider herself a Christian but when approached about her actions she cannot give any explanation as to why she acts the way she does. Thus such patterns can last for a lifetime.

It might be well at this stage for us as adults to think back about our childhood and see if our situation was such that we never could express anger and if so would some of the patterns of behaviour we have to go back to simple pent-up anger.

If so we need to vent that anger to someone verbally, forgive, repent, and forget it. You see so many immature ways of handling anger every day. Wife and husband yelling, screaming and cursing at each other.

A wife or husband having an affair to get back at the other. An employee doing poor work undermines the employer’s interest. A principal abusing a teacher or a teacher subtly working against a principal.

Sixty to eighty per cent of problems in an organization are personnel-related because people have not learned how to deal with their anger maturely.

Take Care Of Anger Early

We must teach children early in life how to deal with anger and control it. This is not an easy task for handling anger does not come easy. It must be ventilated slowly and then resolved. This is all a part of training up a child in the way he should go.

When parents make themselves unapproachable by overreacting to a child’s remarks or by not permitting a child or teen to express negative or unpleasant feelings we are directing them on a dangerous course.

When the emotion of anger comes out, let it come out, then take every opportunity possible to train your child to appropriately show their anger.

You don’t express anger by kicking the dog, throwing something at someone, or calling someone a name. You can be angry but show it in appropriate ways. Teach them that you do not let anger come out in abusive or harmful ways. Once it has been vented then it must be allowed to die out.

Show them the importance of Paul’s instruction, ‘let not the sun go down on your wrath.’ Ephesians 4:26. The more immature a person is, the more immature they will be in expressing their anger. Thus as a child matures, they will also mature in their handling of anger.

One Is Responsible For Any Bad Behaviour

The fact that pent-up anger can lead to various behavioural problems does not excuse bad behaviour. So none of the things we have said so far should be understood as saying a child or a teenager cannot help being the way he or she is.

We can help from being what we are, we can learn to do better. This is all a part of training a child on how to handle their anger. The important thing is to understand that anger is a normal emotion. It is up to us as parents to train our children how to handle their anger.

Go To Lesson 8


"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect."