How Is Your Communication Style Impacting Your Parenting?

Abbey Williams

Communication is the way in which we send and receive information. It is a basic human function that each individual utilizes to get their needs met and survive in their environment. While there are many types of communication and some being nonverbal, in this article we are going to focus on the four types of communication: passive, passive aggressive, assertive, and aggressive.

Each individual is wired and functions in a way that is unique to them, but that was suited for their survival in early childhood. As we grow and evolve our style of communication may evolve with us, but it also may persist. Let’s take a dive into better understanding different communication styles and how they may present in your parenting journey.

Passive

An individual with a passive communication style is often indirect with communication, denies personal needs, apologizes for emotions, defers to other’s opinions, minimizes one’s experience, and prioritizes others’ emotions. Individuals with a passive communication style struggle to identify and advocate for their needs and rather than communicating their frustrations they allow them to buildup until there is an outburst. This usually leads to a guilt and shame cycle after the incident, which causes individuals to return to a passive communication style.

A passive communicator tends to apologize frequently and allows others to deliberately or inadvertently infringe on their rights. They often feel taken advantage of but lack the ability to speak up for themselves.

In one’s parenthood journey this communication style can perpetuate feelings of resentment. Parenthood in general is a constant push and pull of one’s needs and struggle to find that balance of time for oneself while meeting the needs of everyone else. Parent’s with a passive parenting style are more susceptible for not getting their needs met and having these outbursts while things buildup. Some impacts of a pattern of passive communication is that these individuals feel anxious, not in control of their life, depressed, stuck, hopeless, like no one cares about their feelings, resentful, and stressed.

Passive Aggressive

An individual with a passive aggressive communication style is often indirect with communication, denies difficult emotions, indirectly expresses anger, backhanded compliments, denies there is a problem, and feigns cooperation. Individuals who are passive aggressive communicators appear passive, but are acting out of anger in subtle or indirect ways.

A passive aggressive communicator will often mutter things under their breath that they wish they could say rather than confronting someone. They will use sarcasm, deny there is a problem, use facial expressions that do not match how they are feeling, and use means to get even.

In one’s parenthood journey this communication style can present emotionally withholding from a child after a disagreement or defiance. This could also look like using sarcasm to respond to your child’s feelings or criticizing their friends. The effects of passive aggressive behavior on children are negative and can include difficulty expressing their emotions, struggling in relationships, and inability to process experiences.

Assertive

An individual with an assertive communication style is often direct in communication, appropriately honest, advocates for oneself, utilizes “I” statements, listens and doesn’t interrupt, and expresses emotions. These individuals are able to actively advocate for their rights without violating others. These individuals value and respect both themselves and others.

An assertive communicator feels connected to others, in control of their lives, addresses issues as they arise which leads to maturity, and can create a respectful environment for others to grow and mature. These individuals are confidant in who they are while upholding respect for others they are in relationships with.

In one’s parenthood journey this communication style is a great asset for children to grow, be nurtured, and thrive. As a parent with an assertive communication style you can model mature emotional development, appropriate self-care, and respect for yourself and others. Children with assertive parents feel valued and respected in their homes.

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Aggressive

An individual with an aggressive communication style is often inappropriately honest, dominates others, does not listen well, criticizes or blames others, low frustration tolerance, and only uses “you” statements. These individuals express their needs in a manner that violates the rights of others. This type of communication is verbally and/or physically abusive.

An aggressive communicator will act in a manner that disagreements are all the other person’s fault, that others owe them, that they own others, and that they are entitled to getting their way. These individuals make those in relationships with them feel worthless, fearful, and isolated.

In one’s parenthood journey this communication style is detrimental to the emotional and physical well-being of the child. Children that are living with parents who present with this communication style are often made to keep secrets, which leads them to being isolated from others. These children grow up thinking they are always to blame and that their parent does not like them.

Did you identify with any of these communication styles?

What communication style do you think your parents demonstrated in your childhood?

What impacts did your parent’s communication style have on you?

Effective and healthy communication styles are important in parenthood. They are important in all of our interactions and in all of our relationships, but they have profound impacts on the parent-child relationship, the shaping of a young person, and on the child as an individual. If reading through you found yourself identifying with a communication style you did not find aligned with your values as a parent, challenge yourself to dig deeper into where this style of communication came from for you and how you can do better at communicating.

It is important to continually remember, our children learn much more by watching you than by listening to you. That may be confusing when we are talking about the subject of communication, but they will learn to survive in the environment they are in. Be mindful to give your children healthy and positive means of learning and a good model for behavior. If there is ever a time to break unhealthy or unhelpful cycles, it is now.

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Abbey Williams is the producer and host of the Mimosas with Moms Podcast, content creator of the social media platforms @mimosaswithmoms, and mother of 4. She is committed to supporting, empowering, and connecting with mothers in all seasons of motherhood. She navigates her blended family/coparenting life with her husband, four kids, and two sister labs.

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