Professional interactions are a hotbed of passive aggression. Restraint prevents us from speaking our minds directly, so, lest there be any misgivings, we talk to intolerable co-workers or employees in veiled terms. It’s a level of “fuck you” that leaves the other person feeling disjointed, offended, and embarrassed, yet unable to pinpoint what exactly had just happened to them. They know what you did was insulting to them, but they can’t be sure why. For the passive aggressor, it releases just enough steam from the pressure cooker to allow her to feel vindicated against the person who failed them professionally. It may not be the most efficient, direct form of communication, but it serves its purpose and keeps us all on task.
If passive aggression is good enough for work relationships, which make up about 50% of our lives, it’s good enough for parent/child interactions, which make up the other half. In the case of children, it’s best to speak to them as if they work for another company who has an exhaustive list of requests as opposed to employees or colleagues since kids don’t do any viable work for us. Most times they only create unnecessary work by dumping full bottles of shampoo on the floor or stripping down naked minutes before it’s time to leave for school. When you find yourselves dealing with these types of “workplace” situations with your kids, here are some useful passive-aggressive techniques.
1. “Per my email…” When someone in a professional setting fails to put even the most minimal amount of effort by, let’s say, reading every word of an email you sent, a good response is “per my email…” If such wording fails to have an impact, you can go straight for the throat with a more overt act of aggression, such as copying and pasting the original email.
The equivalent to this in a parent/child relationship is giving detailed instructions on how to do correctly execute a demand they just made of you. If your child holds up an empty glass and shouts “water” inform them of how to get the water their own damn selves. Make sure the instructions are drawn-out, pedantic, and exhaustive.
“You might have noticed there’s a room right next to the living room,” you might say. “That room is called the kitchen. The kitchen is where we keep our food and beverages. In the kitchen is a refrigerator in which we store the water. You need to grab a cup from the cupboard and pour water from the refrigerator into it. Once you fill the glass, close the refrigerator door.”
Since children have no concept of irony, they don't understand that you’re being rude as shit here. To them, you’re just giving them valuable information. And, maybe the reason they demand you serve them water on a daily basis is both because they’re lazy and they forget how to pour water themselves.
2. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. When a colleague doesn’t respond to an inquiry, ask it again. And again. And again with little to no variation in the wording. With my kids, I just repeat the same thing over and over again. “Stop hitting your brother. Stop hitting your brother. Stop hitting your brother. Stop hitting your brother.” It’s not a successful strategy, but it does allow for anger to sneak its way into the words and is a good outlet for frustration.
3. Eye Rolling Behind their backs. When you’re unable to be direct and tell people how you feel, lest you damage professional relationships that your boss has spent decades fostering, the best recourse is to give them a hard eye roll behind their back. It’s a proper release. You can do the same with kids. When they’re not looking, roll your eyes. It’s very cathartic. Then, when they look back at you, resume your stoic expression, so they’ll never suspect how painful their two hours of freestyling was for you.
Following the same coping mechanisms, you utilize during your work day to deal with your kid’s idiosyncrasies helps them be much more tolerable. It allows you both an outlet for frustration and helps you maintain your relationship with them without having to apologize too much. Beware, though, kids start developing a sense of irony around nine, so the usefulness of this passive aggression will surely go away by the time they’re in fourth grade.
Oh, and just an FYI, if we have worked together or will work together in the future, these are all just techniques I’ve heard about from other people. They’re definitely not something I’ve utilized in real life. All my interactions with you have been 100% authentic.