Blended Families National Step Family Day Emily Bouchard

Passive Aggressive

The StepHero Community Newsletter

Dear Emily,
I wish you would address passive aggressive behavior in a child as you mentioned your daughter was. My stepdaughter will not speak to me for an entire weekend while she is it our house and just give me dirty looks, but will not share what the problem is. When her father asks, she just pretends she is sick which causes him to pay attention. I can't help but resent this situation.

"Martha" (not her real name)

Dear Martha,

Thank you for your request.
And I can feel your resentment and hurt -- I've been there!

I can also feel your stepdaughter's resentment and hurt too.
That's the place I would invite you to go.

Remember, she didn't ask to have you in her life. She didn't ask for her parents to divorce. She certainly didn't choose to have to spend time in different households. Keeping her reality in mind can help you to:
  1. Not take her silent-treatment and dirty looks personally.
  2. Appreciate her for even the littlest things, like the fact that she comes and chooses to spend time with her father, which makes him happy, as she could not come and he would be so sad to not be with her and see her.
  3. Take care of yourself during her visits. What would it be like to switch it all around. You could make a game of it with yourself. Why not attach something you would thoroughly enjoy doing (and that you wouldn't often do for yourself) to her giving you a dirty look. That way, when she does, you can smile, get excited, and then go and do something you've really been looking forward to (things like watching a DVD you bought for yourself in advance -- something you'd enjoy but your husband would not; or taking a luxurious bubblebath with some new bathsalts you purchased to only be used when hit with a look; or chatting with a dear friend you haven't connected with in a long time; you get the idea). This way, instead of getting to you, upsetting you, or otherwise causing you grief, her behavior is actually a call to fun action towards yourself. This way you win either way -- she gives you a look, you get to do something nurturing and fun; she doesn't give you a look and you have a bit more peace in your space.
  4. Simply look at her with love and compassion and say "I understand." or "I can sure see why you'd choose to look at me like that right now."
I would recommend that you connect with her father ahead of time and discuss how you two would like to be with her, so that you don't feel undermined and so that he does not allow his daughter to manipulate him through lies. You two get to set the standards in your household. Make sure that you treat her with love and respect, especially if that's what you want from her.

Enjoy your home and your life and see all the things you can focus on that you can appreciate, truly, about all that you have. This can help make those times when she comes a bit more tolerable.

The most important thing I discovered with my stepdaughters was the power of being willing to be hated -- not needing the girls' respect or approval or appreciation. When I did need that from them, I lost. When I didn't need it, I discovered a great deal of joy and gratitude flow in to my life when they chose to be respectful, appreciative, or even acknowledge my presence.

The key to being successful in this is to get lots of respect, acknowledgment and appreciation from your husband and from your family and friends. Fill yourself up in your life so that you have lots to give your stepdaughter and so that you don't need to look to her for anything other than to be a daughter to her father -- so that your husband is happy. If he's happy, that should make you happy. And if you're happy and don't need things to be different, then you'll have a much more fulfilling relationship, and you'll end up getting a whole lot more love in your life as a result.

Hope this helps.


NOTE: For those parents who have teens who have crossed the line and have become abusive, or simply intolerable to be around, I highly recommend the Total Transformation Program (see their ad to the right).

Wishing you and your blended family
all the best in ,

Emily Bouchard, founder,


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