Anti-social behaviors of parents who are alienating a child from another parent or family members


Distributed by Families Against Child Abuse Ė April 2000

To prevent the devastating effects of Parental Alienation, parents and others in the community must begin by recognizing the behaviors of alienating and hostile parents. Even non-custodial parents sometimes may engage in alienating or hostile behavior to some extent in reaction to the alienating behavior of the other parent. As it is the custodial parent who has the power and control over the child, in the vast majority of cases, it is the custodial parent who is the alienator as they have the greater ability and opportunity to alienate the child from the non-custodial parent. Remember, Parental Alienation is emotional child abuse and in many cases it has more negative long-term effects on the child than even many forms of physical child abuse.

Behaviors that are intended to alienate a child from another parent or family member are considered damaging and anti-social. These behaviors breed disrespect, hostility and conflict between family members. Children who are exposed to an environment in which their family member is employing parental alienation techniques will, in many cases, develop these same anti-social behaviors when they become adult. Just as children who are abused as children are likely to become abusers themselves, children who are subject of parental alienation will likely become alienators when they are adults.

Some of the things that a hostile and alienating parent will do to create difficulties and interfere with a childís relationship with another parent or person involved in a childís life;

  1. Will give the child the choice about not visiting the non-custodial parent when it is time for the child to be with the non-custodial parent. When the custodial parent asks the child, they do so in a tone to the child to make it clear to the child what the custodial parent wants them to say. The custodial parent will never ask the child if they want to spend extra time with the non-custodial parent but will only ask about when they donít want to go. Allowing the young child to decide for themselves allows the alienating parent to pressure the child in saying that they donít want to go to the other parentís home.

  2. Will tell the child "everything" about the marital relationship or reasons for the divorce. The parent usually justifies telling the child intimate details because they "just wanted 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.

  3. Will attempt to prevent gifts, cards or correspondence from reaching the child from the non-custodial parent or non-custodial parentís family.

  4. If the custodial parent has been successful in alienating a child, then they will put roadblocks of every kind and description to keep the non-custodial parent from re-establishing contact with the child. During this time the custodial parent will often tell the child that the non-custodial parent does not wish to see them even though this is not true.

  5. Refuse to acknowledge that children have their own property and may want to transport their possessions back and forth between parentís residences.

  6. Will convince their friends and neighbours that their children should not be allowed to associate with the child when the child is at the non-custodial parentís home. The alienating parent wants to prevent their own child from bringing their friends over to the non-custodial parentís home so that the childís experience at the non-custodial parentís home will be the least amount of fun as possible.

  7. Resist or refuse to cooperate by not allowing the other parent access to school or medical records, school pictures and schedules of extracurricular activities.

  8. Will blame the other parent for financial problems, breaking up the family, changes in lifestyle, or having a girlfriend/boyfriend, etc. Often this parent will complain about these things in the presence of the child to make the child sympathize with the custodial parent.

  9. Refuse to be flexible with the visitation schedule in order to respond to the child's needs and wishes. The alienating parent may also schedule the children in so many activities that the other parent is never given the time to visits. If course, when the targeted parent protest, they are described as not caring, selfish, controlling and interfering with the wishes of the child.

  10. Claim that conflict between parents makes the other parent not fit to parent the child. This assumption is in most cases unfounded. The dynamics between two parents is quite different between that between a parent and a child.

  11. Will ask the child to choose one parent over another parent which causes the child considerable distress. Typically, the children do not want to reject a parent, but instead want to avoid the issue. The child, not the parent, should initiate any suggestion for change of residence.

  12. Will not provide proper discipline for the child and instead give the child lots of freedom. Many teenagers will often spend more time with the parent who gives them the most freedom. This, of course results in children who end up running the house rather than the parents..

  13. Will undermine the other parentís authority and discipline by encouraging the child to defy the other parent. Often the alienating parent will tell the child that they donít have to go to the other parentís home and have to put up with the rules there.

  14. Will attempt to change a child's name or have the child adopted by a new spouse without the knowledge of the other parent.

  15. Will tell the child to lie to the other parent about abuse or other inappropriate things that may be going on in the custodial parentís home. Often children subjected to abuse are told that if they say anything they will be beaten.

  16. Will set up temptations that interfere with the child's visitation with the other parent, such as offering to take them on a holiday at a time when the child is supposed to be with the other parent.

  17. Will, through or actions or words, react with hurt or disapproval to their child having a good time with the other parent. When the child sees that the alienating parent does not like them being happy when with the other parent, they the child will withdraw and not communicate about their happiness. When they do have fun with the target parent they will frequently feel guilty or conflicted not knowing that it's "okay" to have fun with their other parent.

  18. Will ask the child about the other parent's personal life and use the child to find out what is going on in the other parentís home. This causes the child considerable tension and conflict. Children who are not yet alienated want to be loyal to both parents.

  19. Will not inform the non-custodial parent of medical emergencies involving the child until after the crisis have expired, so that the alienating parent will appear to the child as the only one who cares for them.

  20. Will make demands on the other parent that is contrary to court orders.

  21. Will listening in on the children's phone conversation they are having with the other parent or not giving the child privacy when they are trying to talk to the other parent. Quite often they will tell young children that they cannot call the other parent.

  22. Will insist that the non-custodial parent strictly adhere to the times stipulated. If the non-custodial parent is late or early the custodial parent will make the parent suffer for it in some way.

  23. Will insist that the non-custodial parent detail where they take the child and under what conditions. The custodial parent will not inform the non-custodial parent of anything they do with the child.

  24. Will make changes to arrangements to the parenting schedule without giving the non-custodial parent advance notice of these changes until the last minute. If the non-custodial parent complains they will lose contact time. If the non-custodial parent wants to change schedules the custodial parent will simple refuse to accept the changes and the non-custodial parent will lose contact time.

  25. Will deliberately offer the child alternative events on the non-custodial parentís days and then say the child has chosen the alternative event. If the non-custodial parent insists that they want their time, the custodial parent will make the non-custodial appear mean for stopping the child from going to the event.

  26. Will duplicate gifts you give the child to undermine the value the child puts on it.

  27. Will not allow the child to have any photos of the other parent or the other family in their room or photo album. Often, hostile parents will destroy photos which contain anything to do with the other parent or family, even if this photo was given to the child by the other parent.

  28. Will hide, break, or deliberately be careless with things that the other parent gives the child.

  29. Will deliberately misinterpret anything the other parent does or say to the point where the other parent will think twice about doing or saying anything. In most cases it is the custodial parent doing this as the custodial parent can easily create difficulties for the non-custodial parent should they say anything out of line.

  30. Will ask for extra money for the child, and present the request in such a way that it obviously implies that the non-custodial parent will lose out on contact if they donít get what they ask for.

  31. Will write to inform the other parent of changes in contact times but post the letter so that it cannot possibly reach the parent in time. Most alienating parents, however, will not write, as this will leave a paper trail which most of them donít like.

  32. Will not keep the other parent informed of the childís well being, education reports, activities or anything that a normal parent might expect.

  33. Will take the child to daycare when the non-custodial parent is able to provide care for the child.

  34. Will select day care providers without any input or prior approval of the other parent. The custodial parent will often choose a daycare provider that will follow their instructions only and not listen to the other parent. Generally these types of day care providers are unable to appreciate the best interest of the child and place their loyalty to the parent who is paying them ahead of the best interest of the child.

  35. Will criticize the target parentís taste in clothes or understanding of the childís needs.

  36. Will criticize the target parentís home, friends, and life style and will use any of these as an excuse to stop contact with the child.

  37. Will tell the child that the court doesn't allow the child to see the non-custodial parent more than what is on the court order. Yet, in reality, the custodial parent can grant any additional time they wish and in most cases children want more time with the other parent.

  38. Will allow the child to miss homework during the week so that it has to be done during in contact time with the non-custodial parent, making it more difficult for the non-custodial parent to make other plans for the child.

  39. Will interpret the other parentís contact time as being the total amount of time available for all purposes. If the parentís of the non-custodial parent want to see their grandchild it will have to come out of the non-custodial parentís time which in most cases is already minimal.

  40. Will ignore the non-custodial parent should the two parents accidentally meet in public. Most of the time the custodial parent will force the child to ignore the non-custodial parent as well.

  41. Will attempt to keep the non-custodial parent for being involved in the childís activities at school. The custodial parent often will contact the school and inform them (incorrectly) that the non-custodial parent should not be at the school or that the court has banned them from being at the school.

  42. Will attempt to turn others against the other parent by telling them bad things about the other parent, many of them untrue and without any supporting evidence. They may do this with neighbours, school officials and others in the community. Note: This may force the target parent to have to defend their name and reputation. When a target parent is forced to defend themselves as a result of the actions of an alienating parent, then this would not be considered a hostile behavior for the intent of alienating a child from the other parent.

  43. Will often insist that a new partner of the non-custodial parent not be involved in contact times as it distresses the child. Often custodial parents will insist that the child will not be able to come to the other parentís home if their other partner is to be present.

  44. Will see that gifts meant for special occasions will get overlooked on the special day or "accidentally" thrown in the garbage.

  45. Will screen phone calls by always answering the phone or having the answering machine take messages. This is to keep the child from having phone contact with the other parent. The alienating parent will give excuses such as the child is busy, out of the house or in bed. If the child takes the phone, the alienating parent will listen or interrupt the childís conversation on the phone.

  46. Will constantly remind the other parents shortcomings in front of the child. Any replies to this will be regarded as instigating an argument or harassment.

  47. Will move the child further away geographically from the non-custodial parent to make it more difficult for the non-custodial parent to see the child or be aware of what is happening to the child in the care of the custodial parent. In many cases custodial parents will move out of the province or state and, in some extreme cases, out of the country completely.

  48. Will refuse to be cooperative in implementing effective communications between parents. Alienating parents will often refuse to give out fax numbers, E mail addresses or cell phone numbers. They donít want the other parent be able to easily reach them.