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Recognizing passive-aggressive co-parenting behaviors

On Behalf of | Jan 31, 2019 | Child Custody

Not all co-parents’ battles involve yelling, swearing, insults and turning the kids against their other parent. Passive-aggressive behavior, however, can be just as damaging to the co-parenting relationship — and ultimately to your kids — as regular fighting.

You may be more than familiar with your co-parent’s passive-aggressive behavior from your marriage. Maybe your spouse used it to avoid doing something because they didn’t want to have a confrontation. However, some of their tactics may be new now that you have a different parenting dynamic. You may not even realize that this is what’s going on.

It’s essential to recognize passive-aggressiveness for what it is to deal with it effectively. Let’s discuss a few common examples.

Saying “can’t” instead of “won’t”

Your co-parent doesn’t want to do something they’re supposed to — like come to pick up the kids rather than make you bring them over. Maybe they even have a good reason for not being able to. However, rather than say they won’t do it, they say they can’t. It often avoids a confrontation.


This is a common passive-aggressive tactic. When someone doesn’t want to do something, they keep putting it off until the other person gives up or does it themselves. Maybe your co-parent promised to set up a swing set in your backyard for the kids. They don’t really want to do it, but they don’t want to fight about it, so they just keep avoiding the task.

Silent treatment

This can be one of the most frustrating of all passive-aggressive behaviors. Someone doesn’t want to discuss a difficult subject or risk getting into a fight, so they just shut down and refuse to talk (or ignore texts or emails).

The problem with passive-aggressive behavior is that both parents may think they get along fine because they never argue. However, at least one of you is unhappy, and the kids are probably not getting what they need.

If you see yourself slipping into passive-aggressive behaviors, recognize them. Don’t be afraid to be honest about what you want (or don’t). Don’t be afraid of a little confrontation.

If your co-parent’s passive-aggressiveness is becoming an issue, you may want to add some more detail to your parenting plan. When things are spelled out in a legal document, it’s more difficult to avoid them. Your family law attorney can help you work to seek these modifications.