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How to deal with passive-aggressive parents?

(17 Posts)
dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 11:06:01

I'm not sure of the best way to deal with ongoing passive-aggression from my parents.

Background: Me, DH and dcs live abroad. I come with the dcs about twice a year to stay with my parents for about 2 or 3 weeks at a time. I am there now. And only just surviving.

I've gradually become aware over the years that they are very passive-agressive. For example, every day they ask what I want to do tomorrow. They won't stop until I say something. Then the following happens - I will say something like "I would quite like to take the kids into the countryside for a picnic" and they say yes, ok, fine. Then the next morning they pick a time when I'm out of the room to suggest something to the dcs which they know they will say yes to (i.e. something like "let's go and buy toys and sweets") then when I come back they say to me "the dcs want to do X but we said they have to ask you if it's ok." So then I either have to go along with it, or be the wicked witch who spoils the fun.

So today I did this: (they suggested soft play). I said "Well I really don't fancy soft play today, but you're obviously welcome to take them there if that's what you fancy, and I'll be quite happy to stay here on my own." And they have gone. In a huff, I can tell.

I really don't know if that's the right way to handle this. It's not about the soft play itself, obviously, it's just I'm fed up being manipulated. I feel a bit guilty that I might have played them at their own game, but they kind of backed themselves into a corner, and I don't think it's unreasonable for them to take the dcs out on their own sometimes. They never, ever offer to do that, and I know if I asked them they would say yes but mean no then somehow get out of it.

This is obviously only one example of a constant stressful atmosphere of no-one being able to say what they want or how they feel. DH is not here so thank goodness for MN otherwise I might just explode!

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 11:50:10

And should have said - I'm getting time off at the moment, but I know that tomorrow the situation will be manipulated so I have to take the dcs out alone. But that's fine...sigh.

Bonsoir Fri 30-Jul-10 11:53:14

I think you need to plan your holidays much better to avoid all this confusion.

I often stay with my parents for extended periods and I fix up a timetable of things I want to do with and without DD (or DP) and inform my mother well ahead of what our movements are going to be. That way she knows what is going to be going on in her own home, which makes her more relaxed too.

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 12:00:02

Well the "without dcs" part could never be planned - they would 100% wriggle out of any babysitting.

I could go out more on my own with dcs but would have to get public transport or rent a car. I have tried getting on the insurance of one of their cars. They agreed to it beforehand but when I asked how much I owed them for it, they said they hadn't done it as they were happy to give me lifts. It's all very controlling.

Bonsoir Fri 30-Jul-10 12:03:47

I think you should rent a car so that you are independent of movement. It is not really fair to borrow your parents' car when staying with them.

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 12:06:53

But I asked them before and it wouldn't be much, and they agreed (in theory). And my mum's car sits on the drive most of the time. But yes, next time I will rent one.

ItsGraceActually Fri 30-Jul-10 12:07:04

You might be surprised at how much the kids have noticed. How about "conspiring" with them to wangle the GPs into doing something you & DCs want to do? Turn the tables, as it were.

ItsGraceActually Fri 30-Jul-10 12:08:51

Oh, yes, hire a car next time! If you've still got another week to go, it's probably worth doing it now.

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 12:10:02

I could do that Grace, but I feel that's like me being just as p-a as them. I've spent years changing my own learned p-a behaviours. However neither do I think a big show down is the answer. We don't do that kind of thing in our family wink

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 12:10:42

I mean the "conspiring", not the renting a car! Was responding to your first post.

ItsGraceActually Fri 30-Jul-10 12:14:09

I know, it's far from ideal. Congrats on getting yourself over it, they sound horrible - though I'm sure they're lovely from the outside hmm

However. They are manipulating the children. It actually is quite important for the kids to be aware of that, and to have strategies for resisting manipulation.

I do realise my suggestion wasn't the healthiest strategy; but it sounds like more fun grin

curlyredhead Fri 30-Jul-10 12:15:15

Definitely hire a car, or go for public transport, for days you want to do something in particular. And if you don't have plans or anything you particularly want to do, could you say something like 'oh I don't know, why don't you suggest something to the kids?' - again, taking wind out of their sails by handing them the power to choose what to do, instead of sneaking it in after you've picked.

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 12:20:33

Thanks. Indeed they are tricky. Every time I come to stay I say never again.

I have many issues with what the dcs could be learning from them. When it's me and DH and dcs at home, we hang out a lot in the house and garden, the dcs amuse themselves mostly, we try to create an atmosphere where everyone can have an opinion and feel how they want to feel while respecting and not insulting others (don't always manage that by the way!). Then 2 weeks here and the dcs have turned into passive consumers of tv and toy shops theme parks and can't seem to entertain themselves for 2 minutes. They are also criticised or mocked if they show anger. I hate that. However I take comfort from the fact that it's only twice a year. And I feel I should promote the grandchild-grandparent relationship.

dreamworld Fri 30-Jul-10 12:21:52

Grace how do you think I should approach this with the dcs? I agree they need strategies but I don't want to badmouth the gps to them.

ItsGraceActually Sat 31-Jul-10 00:58:05

I wasn't sure about answering you in case my reply would be manipulative!! confused

By the time you see this, you'll probably have weathered another morning - I'm dying to know how you handled it? How was your evening, after your 'day off'?

I think the responsible approach would be to talk with the DCs about how your M&P always seem to come up with a different idea from what you'd agreed together - do the children really prefer their idea every time, or do they feel railroaded into it? Do they say yes to be polite to their GPs?

Depending on their ages, it would be interesting to ask them what they think is happening: they're aware of conflicting pressures pretty much as soon as they start school, so this could be an illuminating chat for you anyway.

On the practical front, getting yourself some transport and coming up with days out that your GPs will hate (heh, now I'm being manipulative) might help you enjoy your holiday a bit more. Please post back, and good luck

Angelcat666 Sat 31-Jul-10 01:11:50

I agree with Bonsoir, you need to plan ahead. Before visiting your parents next time sit down with the children and plan activities that you will do eg one day you'll do x the next y. Allow a bit of flexibility if something relies on good weather by having something else planned in reserve if the weather means you can't do the original activity.

ItsGraceActually Sat 31-Jul-10 01:15:13

I agree with curlyredhead, too, about shifting the dynamic by handing the day plan over to them once in a while. I'm also with you on the mocking/criticism thing, too - it must be very hard for you, as this is presumably what they did to you as well.

There's a difference between jollying a child out of a mood and taking the piss (bullying or discounting their feelings). I've had this fruitless argument with my mum a few times. I do think it's worth saying something to the children when it happens - after all, you can't change your parents but you can continue supporting your own DCs. How do you normally respond?

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