WHEN EX-WIVES BECOME ALIENATORS...
After reading the list, don't get discouraged
when you notice that some of your own behaviors
have been alienating your ex-spouse. This is normal
in even the best of parents. Instead, let the
list help sensitize you to how you are behaving
and what you are saying to your children. Here
are common mistakes:
To prevent the devastating effects of Parental
Alienation, you must begin by recognizing
of PA. You will notice that many of the
symptoms or behaviors focus on the parent. When
the child exhibits hatred and vilifies the targeted
parent, then the condition becomes parental alienation
syndrome. After reading the list, don't get discouraged
when you notice that some of your own behaviors
have been alienating. This is normal in even the
best of parents. Instead, let the list help sensitize
you to how you are behaving and what you are saying
to your children.
1. Giving children choices when they really
have no choice about visits. Allowing the
child to decide for themselves to visit when the
court order says there is no choice sets up the
child for conflict. The child will usually blame
the non-residential parent for not being able
to decide to choose whether or not to visit. The
parent is now victimized regardless of what happens;
not being able to see his children or if they
see them, the children are angry. Again, if you
do these things intentionally, it make give you
a chuckle now knowing you are hurting your ex,
but you are truly hurting your child who eventually
grows up, learns how things work and turns their
back on YOU in turn. In literally 90% of these
cases, the parent who causes the problem ends
up with the short stick.
2. Telling the child what you want them to
think is "everything" about the
marital relationship or 'all' reasons for the
divorce is also alienating behavior. The parent
usually argues that they are "just wanting
to be honest" with their children. This practice
is destructive and painful for the child. The
alienating parent's motive is for the child to
think less of the other parent. In reality, the
child always looks up to a parent. If that parent
lets them down in person, then that parent suffers.
If you are doing these things, you are in person
and it is a let down. You will suffer eventually
for these actions.
3. Refusing to acknowledge that children have
property and may want to transport their possessions
between residences. Doesn't matter who bought
who what. Once it is given to someone, it is theirs.
4. Resisting or refusing to cooperate
by not allowing the other parent access to school
or medical records and schedules of extracurricular
activities. Telling professionals not to let the
other parent have access is going to work against
you. These professionals know what you are doing.
They may humor you but they know the law. It is
not yours to rewrite. So 'behind' your back, they
will grant legally to the other parent whatever
it is they need. Also note, if the opposing parent
were so evil you felt they do not deserve access,
why are they allowed to walk the street? It will
backfire in a big way in time.
5. A parent blaming the other parent for financial
problems, breaking up the family, changes
in lifestyle, or having a girlfriend/boyfriend,
etc. Just like when you hear someone else tell
the same tale, the child may not know it yet,
but in time, just like when you heard it, they
will know you are an excuse maker.
6. Refusing to be flexible with the visitation
schedule in order to respond to the child's
needs or other parent's work schedule. The alienating
parent may also schedule the children is so many
activities that the other parent is never given
the time to visits. Of course we all know you
do this so when the targeted parent protests you
can described them as not caring and selfish.
However, the child will eventually wise up that
the complaining parent only wants to see them
and you were the one conflicting the schedule.
7. Assuming that if a parent had been physically
abusive with the other parent, it follows
that the parent will eventually assault the child.
This assumption is not always true. Sometimes
you cause the other parent to dislike you and
become abusive. Pretending this is not true does
not change the facts.
8. Asking the child to choose one parent over
another parent causes the child considerable
distress. If you try to sneak in "Well, which
of us would you rather be with?" you are
looking for trouble. Typically, they do not want
to reject either parent, but instead want to avoid
the issue. The child, not the parent, should initiate
any suggestion for change of residence.
9. Children will always at one time or another
become angry with a parent. This is normal,
particularly if the parent disciplines or has
to say "no". If for any reason the anger
is not allowed to heal, you can suspect parental
alienation. Trust your own experience as a parent.
Children will forgive and want to be forgiven
if given a chance. Be very suspicious when the
child calmly says they cannot remember any happy
times with you or say anything they like about
you. That means someone at home is brainwashing
10. Be suspicious when a parent or step-parent
raises the question about changing the child's
name. A mother can change her name back to
maiden but in the majority of cases where the
child is denied the father's last name, the amount
of further alienation is immeasurable. There is
no other means that compares to show what is to
come if a mother changes or denies the father's
name. It will not get better.
11. When children cannot give reasons for
being angry towards a parent or their reasons
are very vague without any details. This is because
the alienated parent has done nothing to them.
The child becomes confused but eventually realizes,
it was all brain washing.
12. A parent having secrets, special signals,
a private rendezvous, or words with special meanings
are very destructive and reinforce an on-going
alienation. Act your age before the child out
13. When a parent uses a child to spy
or covertly gather information for the parent's
own use, the child receives a damaging message
that demeans the victimized parent. Try this with
a teenager and they may just switch homes on you.
14. Parents setting up temptations that interfere
with the child's visitation. Planning vacations
or special events or trips to the mall to buy
something they always wanted. Making the child
late is another common mistake. As a full time
parent, you can easily schedule things around
the visiting parent. Learn to do so.
15. A parent suggesting or reacting with hurt
or sadness to their child having a good time with
the other parent will cause the child to withdraw
and not communicate. They will frequently feel
guilty or conflicted not knowing that it's "okay"
to admit they have fun with their other parent.
Just as different breeds of dogs cannot mate,
they still get along and realize it's OK to be
different. The faster you do this, the easier
the rest of your life will become.
16. The parent asking the child about his/her
other parent's personal life causes the child
considerable tension and conflict. Children who
are not alienated want to be loyal to both parents.
They also do not think of their parents in this
light. Putting them there will push them away
17. When parents pretend physically or psychologically
rescue the children when there is no threat
to their safety. This practice reinforces in the
child's mind the illusion of threat or danger,
thereby reinforcing alienation until the child
realizes the only fear is that of when you will
pull this act again. You will scare them into
18. Making demands on the other parent that
is contrary to court orders. You are not the
law and eventually the law will find out and the
law will enforce itself, correct you and cause
such embarrassment, it may cost you custody.
19. Listening in on the children's phone conversation
they are having with the other parent. They do
not want you listening in when they speak to their
friends and you do not. So do you not think they
will find it bizarre if you suddenly insist on
listening in on this particular conversation?
20. One way to cause your own alienation
is making a habit of breaking promises to your
children. Especially if they are promises
that deter the child from giving affection or
time to the other parent. In time, your ex-spouse
will get tired of having to make excuses for you
and the child will leave the truth.
You may think you know better or are more clever
than those who have
tried this before you, but trust us, you do not
know better nor
realize what you are doing. Don't believe it?
Parental Alienation: Three Types of Alienators:
The Naive Alienator
"Tell your father that he has more money
than I do, so let him buy
your soccer shoes."
Most divorced parents have moments when they
are Naive alienators.
These parents mean well and recognize the importance
of the children
having a healthy relationship with the other parent.
have to return to court because of problems with
visits or other
issues relating to the children. They encourage
between the children and the other parent and
Communication between both parents is usually
good, though they will
have their disagreements, much like they did before
the divorce. For
the most part, they can work out their differences
the children into it.
Children, whether or not their parents are divorced,
know there are
times when their parents will argue or disagree
They don't like seeing their parents argue and
may feel hurt or
frightened by what they hear. Somehow, the children
manage to cope,
either by talking out their feelings to a receptive
the argument or trusting that the skirmish will
pass and all will
heal. What they see and hear between their parents
typically damage the children of the naive alienator.
their parent's love and protection. The child
and the parent have
distinct personalities, beliefs and feelings.
Neither is threatened
by how the other feels towards the targeted parent.
The characteristics of Naive alienators are:
Their ability to separate in their minds the
children's needs from
their own. They recognize the importance for the
children to spend
time with the other parent so they can build a
relationship. They avoid making the other parent
a target for their
hurt and loss.
Their ability to feel secure with the children's
their grandparents and their mother or father.
Their respect for court orders and authority.
Their ability to let their anger and hurt heal
and not interfere
with the children's relationship with their mother
Their ability to be flexible and willing to work
with the other
Their ability to feel guilty when they acted
in a way to hurt the
children's relationship with their mother or father.
Their ability to allow the other parent to share
in their children's
Their ability to share medical and school records.
Naive alienators usually don't need therapy but
will benefit from
learning about parental alienation because of
the insight they will
gain about how to keep alienation from escalating
more severe and damaging for all. These parents
know they make
mistakes but care enough about their children
to make things right.
They focus on what is good for the children without
regret, blame or
The Active Alienator
"I don't want you to tell your father that
I earned this extra
money. The miser will take it from his child support
check that will
keep us from going to Disney World. You remember
he's done this
before when we wanted to go to Grandma's for Christmas."
Most parents returning to court over problems
with visitation are
active alienators. These parents mean well and
believe that the
children should have a healthy relationship with
the other parent.
The problem they have is with controlling their
bitterness or hurt. When something happens to
trigger their painful
feelings, active alienators lash out in a way
to cause or reinforce
alienation against the targeted parent. After
regaining control, the
parent will usually feel guilty or bad about what
they did and back
off from their alienating tactics. Vacillating
alienating and then repairing the damage with
the children is the
trademark of the active alienator. They mean well,
but will lose
control because the intensity of their feelings
The characteristics of active alienators are:
Lashing out at the other parent in front of the
problem has more to do with loss of self-control
when they are upset
than with a sinister motivation.
After calming down, active alienators realize
that they were wrong.
They usually try to repair any damage or hurt
to the children.
During the making up, such parents can be very
supportive of the child's feelings.
Like naive alienators, they are able to differentiate
needs and those of the children by supporting
the children's desire
to have a relationship with the other parent.
Like naive alienators, active alienators allow
the children to have
different feelings and beliefs from their own.
During the flare ups
of anger, however, the delineation between the
child and parent's
beliefs can become very blurry until the parent
calms down and
regains control. For the most part, older children
have their own
opinions about both parents based upon personal
than what they are told by others. To keep peace,
the older child
usually learns to keep their opinions to themselves.
more trusting children become more confused and
vulnerable to their
They have the ability to respect the court's
authority and, for the
most part, comply with court orders. However,
they can be very rigid
and uncooperative with the other parent. This
is usually a passive
attempt to strike back at the other parent for
Active alienators are usually willing to accept
when they or the children have a problem that
does not go away. They
are sincerely concerned about their children's
adjustment to the
divorce. Harboring old feelings continues to be
a struggle, but
active alienators continue to hope for a speedy
recovery from their
The Obsessed Alienator
"I love my children. If the court can't
protect them from their
abusive father, I will. Even though he's never
abused the children,
I know it's a matter of time. The children are
frightened of their
father. If they don't want to see him, I'm not
going to force them.
They are old enough to make up their own minds."
The obsessed alienator is a parent, or sometimes
a grandparent, with
a cause: to align the children to his or her side
and together, with
the children, campaign to destroy their relationship
targeted parent. For the campaign to work, the
enmeshes the children's personalities and beliefs
into their own.
This is a process that takes time but one that
especially the young, are completely helpless
to see and combat. It
usually begins well before the divorce is final.
The obsessed parent
is angry, bitter or feels betrayed by the other
parent. The initial
reasons for the bitterness may actually be justified.
have been verbally and physical abused, raped,
betrayed by an
affair, or financially cheated. The problem occurs
when the feelings
won't heal but instead become more intense because
of being forced
to continue the relationship with a person they
despise because of
their common parenthood. Just having to see or
talk to the other
parent is a reminder of the past and triggers
the hate. They are
trapped with nowhere to go and heal.
The characteristics of obsessed alienators
They are obsessed with destroying the children's
the targeted parent.
They having succeeded in enmeshing the children's
beliefs about the other parent with their own.
The children will parrot the obsessed alienator
rather than express
their own feelings from personal experience with
the other parent.
The targeted parent and often the children cannot
tell you the
reasons for their feelings. Their beliefs sometimes
delusional and irrational. No one, especially
the court, can
convince obsessed alienators that they are wrong.
Anyone who tries
is the enemy.
They will often seek support from family members,
groups or friends that will share in their beliefs
that they are
victimized by the other parent and the system.
becomes "us against them." The obsessed
alienator's supporters are
often seen at the court hearings even though they
They have an unquenchable anger because they believe
that they have
been victimized by the targeted parent and whatever
they do to
protect the children is justified.
They have a desire for the court to punish the
other parent with
court orders that would interfere or block the
targeted parent from
seeing the children. This confirms in the obsessed
that he or she was right all the time.
The court's authority does not intimidate them.
The obsessed alienator believes in a higher cause,
children at all cost.
The obsessed alienator will probably not want
to read what is on
these pages because the content just makes them
There are no effective treatments for either
the obsessed alienator
or the children. The courts and mental health
helpless. The only hope for these children is
of the symptoms and prevention. After the alienation
and the children become "true believers"
in the parent's cause, the
children are lost to the other parent for years
to come. We realize
this is a sad statement, but we have yet to find
intervention, by anyone, including the courts
that can rehabilitate
the alienating parent and child.
Provided by Douglas Darnell, Ph.D.