>Lest you think that passive aggressive behavior is only for the experienced antagonizer, it should be noted that younger children are perfectly capable of using compliant defiance. Like their older counterparts who gather that passive aggression can be more satisfying (and often less likely to result in punishment or immediate confrontation) than overt aggression, even preschool-aged children catch on to the fact that a tantrum in the candy aisle will result in being whisked out of a store, but pretending not to hear Mommy say “Look but don’t touch” can easily result in an “accidentally” unwrapped candy bar and subsequent chocolate purchase!

I witnessed two funny examples of preschool passive aggression just yesterday:

My three year old was happily playing with her father, but after a time, he needed to make work phone calls, so he ended their playtime…much to her disgruntlement…and walked into his home office, closing the door behind him. Keen enough to understand that yelling outside of his door would result in consequences she did not want, our daughter did the next best thing outside of that door; she locked it. If Daddy wanted to work in his office, then she could help make that happen, since he now had no way of getting out!

She was subtle enough in her act of passive aggression, that I didn’t even notice her locking of his door. She and I then spent a good 90 minutes together in another part of the house…a part far, far away by my design, as my intention was to keep my husband’s office area nice and quiet. As it turned out, he spent most of that hour and a half knocking on his own door, hoping we would be close enough to hear and let him out! Guess she showed him…

My second observation was at a karate studio, where 5-8 year olds were taking their afternoon class. A 4-year old little sister was eager to join her sibling in the class. Though she had an understanding of the studio’s rules against non-students going “on the mat” and she could clearly hear her parents’ repeated admonishments not to enter the studio, she entertained herself by testing all of the limits given. With a classic angry smile on her face, she kept stepping on the mat and looking back at her mom, waiting for her mom to notice. When her father would warn her to step back, she smiled a little bigger and stepped forward. As her parents grew more and more frustrated with having to repeatedly warn her and carry her out of the studio, her enjoyment of the passive aggressive game increased. It was one of those moments that was cute from an observer’s point of view…maddening from a parent’s perspective…and oh, so amusing from the child’s!

Please Comment here, sharing your own stories of passive aggressive behavior by children.