I've been married for 12 years and have a daughter, 7 1/2 years old, and a son, 3 1/2 years old.

My wife is a very controlling and passive aggressive person (though I hesitate to use the term, the easiest shortcut for describing her behaviour is to say that she has many narcissistic traits). Some months ago, my eyes finally opened to the fact that the 'problem' in our marriage is that she has been emotionally and verbally abusive for at least the last two years and in many ways for much longer. Her favoured tactics for domination are passive aggressive - the silent treatment, accompanied by swearing under her breath and facial expressions of intense disgust and contempt; withholding affection and conversation; breaking commitments and promises; and gaslighting. The silent treatment continues for a few weeks to a few months at a time. She does occasionally become physically violent but that is rare.

One of the primary reasons I have not left this marriage is to provide my children with an alternative way of being. My wife has several times threatened to cut off the children from me, and that is a real fear if I do get a divorce (I live in India, where courts are not very strong on fathers' rights of visitation).

I give all this background not to ask for advice on this situation, but to ask for any stories, examples or books I can give my children that will help prepare them for similar tactics being used against them.

My wife is not an evil person, and has as yet mostly refrained from using these tactics on the children. But I can see that she is beginning to use them, and I anticipate she will do that much more as the children get older and begin to challenge her authority. They are both empathetic and sensitive children and the thought of them being treated this way - and the likely consequences for their emotional health - terrifies me. So I would like to help them, in whatever small way, be aware of these behaviours and that they are not responsible for them.

I have used some small lessons already (for instance, emphasising to them that other people's anger is not always their fault, they are only responsible for their own actions, showing how much I cherish them whatever they do, etc.) but stories, books or examples of people dealing with passive aggression would be really, really great. If they exist :).

  • You could always make up your own stories- I find it's not very hard to come up with stories that children love - they can be very simple and straightforward. Jun 22, 2017 at 11:25
  • Sorry for the long silence. Any suggestions on good places to start? I've been doing this, but it is often hard to think of good ones...
    – SGo
    Jun 26, 2017 at 6:12
  • Hmmm, maybe if you raided Amazon for teen/YA literature on abuse, you might find stories for teens which you could simplify for your kids? Jun 26, 2017 at 11:25
  • Personally, I've invented a ship crew of three, consisting of a somewhat stupid, agressive but still likeable captain, the ship's cook and a very smart little girl, and I keep telling stories about their adventures. The captain keeps giving stupid and often unfair orders to the girl, who mostly has better ideas, and the stories are mostly about what they do so that they all get along again in the end. I'm not using emotional abuse as a topic, but I guess I could. The important thing for the kids is that there are pirates, treasures, treasure maps, dolphins, slapstick humor etc. They love'em. Jun 26, 2017 at 11:31
  • That last is a brilliant idea! My kids love space and I tell them a lot of space stories so I could put this in there. Plus the teen stories idea. Thanks
    – SGo
    Jul 8, 2017 at 2:05

2 Answers 2


I love the question and dedication to your children. A book that will address nearly all of the things you mentioned is Real Time Relationships. A book that helped me out around the age of 21 in dealing with verbal and even physical abuse (I wish I had read it at age 14!).

Real Time Relationships (Amazon)
Real Time Relationships audio book (free)
Real Time Relationships PDF (free)

Note that the book is not a fun read. It is honest, practical, and sometimes painful. It also works around situations that you may not want your children to be exposed to.
I recommend reading it for yourself first.

  • Thank you, I'll try that book out. I've been drawing a lot on Respect Me Rules and am hoping I can use that with my kids as well. But still looking for suggestions on stories and experiences, since those work best with kids this age...
    – SGo
    Jun 26, 2017 at 6:13
  • This book is written in 2008 and yet it assumes all sorts of gender roles that probably made sense in 1988. "Men want more sex and women prefer to stay at home" type assumptions. @Craig does it teach something that makes up for these shortcomings?
    – user27243
    Jan 30, 2018 at 8:24

This book is not as focused as your question but has some relevant material (mostly discussing various situations you and your kids may see or be part of and even doing some role playing):

Raising Independent, Self-Confident Kids: Nine Essential Skills to Teach Your Child or Teen by Wendy L. Moss PhD and Donald A. Moses, MD Published by the American Psychological Association, 2018, $20.

Since it is published by the American Psychological Association, this book has a higher level of credibility than some other similar books.

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