Dear Grandparenting: It’s a mystery to me what has come over my granddaughter. Tara is 12 but seems older and smarter in certain ways, like some other girls do. Tara has good conversational skills, too. But lately, with me at least, her two favorite words are “fine” and “whatever.” Those are conversation killers that mean get lost as far as I am concerned.
I am an easy rider with my grandkids. I give them space and make it a point not to pry into their business. But every time I open my mouth, Tara cuts me off with another “fine” or “whatever.”
So I ask her, did I do something wrong? Tara says no and no again, but it’s driving me crazy. I’m on needles and pins when I’m around her. Besides wondering what I did to deserve this, how do I fix things? Confused, Kingsport, Tennessee
Dear Confused: Your story sounds like classic textbook, the stuff that keeps child counselors and psychologists in business. And although it may keep grandparents on edge, such behavior is fairly commonplace as grandchildren come of age.
Professionals call it “passive aggressive” — a fancy term for behaviors that emanate from feelings of anger toward authority figures. In your case, she is likely rebelling against her subservient role in the family pecking order.
But your granddaughter’s options are limited. If she is openly confrontational or nasty, she risks punishment. It’s far safer to hide behind assorted passive aggressive maneuvers: ignoring, stalling and delaying, sarcasm and backhanded compliments or giving them the silent treatment.
If there’s any good news, child psychologists regard passive aggression as an age-appropriate response, a phase that children eventually emerge from after struggling to assert their independence. Knowing what to expect can give grandparents a heads-up on avoiding becoming so emotionally bushwhacked.
GRAND REMARK OF THE WEEK
Sugar Smith, of Marshall, Michigan, was “amused” overhearing grandson Tyler, 6, advising a friend about the right and wrong way to kiss.
“If it’s your mother, you can kiss her anytime,” Tyler advised a friend. “But if it’s a new person, you always have to ask permission.”
Dee and Tom, married more than 50 years, have eight grandchildren. Together with Key, they welcome questions, suggestions and Grand Remarks of the Week. Send to P.O. Box 27454, Towson, MD, 21285. Call 410-963-4426.