I grew up with someone who delighted in verbal needling or chastising with the goal of generating confrontation. Once I got old enough to understand this, I simply began making note of the actions or things that would instigate the needling, and allowed those things to occur on a fairly regular basis.
In the end, I was rarely caught by surprise with respect to what the complaint or chastising would be about, and the verbal needling posture that would ensue. Almost always, the needler would get frustrated and eventually run out of steam.
In short, my defense was nothing more than intelligent preparation of the confrontational space. When you know what's going to happen has no real harm, you will no longer feel pushed to the point of breaking.