In this post, I am going to discuss what Parental Alienation is and how it affected my family. In my personal experience, there have been three separate situations where it exists and in all three stories men did it.
Parental alienation is the process, and the result, of psychological manipulation of a child into showing unwarranted fear, disrespect or hostility towards a parent and/or other family members.
Recently, I have spent hours listening to Amy Baker, Ryan Thomas, and Jennifer Harman discuss in depth about parental alienation. Richard Gardner wrote about this in 1987 and coined the the phrase Parental Alienation Syndrome. He believed that this syndrome was used during divorce by on parent in child custody disputes to the child(ren) against the other parent. In those days, he typically found this to be something that was done by mothers against the fathers. This would make sense, since in early days of divorce; children typically resided with their mothers. However, Amy Baker said that in her research about 75% of the cases were done by the mothers and the other 25% by the fathers.
Gardner also mentions that abuse was not present in his cases. In my situation, verbal and emotional abuse was present in all three situations. I also have strong reasons to suspect sexual abuse may have also occurred. Additionally, all the men I describe below also exhibit Narcissistic behaviors. Plus, I recognize that each of these men are also extremely controlling and emotionally abusive.
Additionally, there were many cases where PAS was legally misused to get custody of the child from mothers who simply had ‘normal parenting’ rules. Anyway, regardless of the criticism attached to this ‘syndrome’. my personal accounts show evidence that it is very much a strategy used to influence children to turn against one parent.
Child of Parental Alienation Syndrome
My first experiences with Parental Alienation Syndrome would have to be my own experiences. My father spent my entire childhood speaking awful things about my mother. In fact, his parents often said horrible things about my mother too. Their primary goal was for me to side with my father or to turn me against my mother for her perceived wrongdoings.
My parents divorced when I was four years old and I began visiting my father twice a year every year from that age forward. During every visit I would hear awful things said about my mother by almost all members of the family. My father called her promiscuous and often said that she was the reason we didn’t have a happy family. He even wrote a poem with cartoon unicorn illustrations telling a story about an unfaithful wife cheating on the husband. This started when I was absolutely too young to even comprehend what he was saying. He often used bible scriptures to justify his comments.
His constantly tearing her down was very hurtful to me as a child. It created so much confusion and I grew into a very angry teenager. Additionally, I was an only child and so there was no one to talk to about this adult business I was hearing. My mother was often not at home because she was a single working mother and dating. So, as you can imagine, leaving an angry teenager alone with very little supervision was a recipe for problems. During those days, I was skipping school, drinking, and hanging out with other troubled teenagers. Then I grew up to marry an abusive man who did the same thing to our daughter.
My father’s comments did two different things. First, they probably created some challenges between my mother and myself. I was very disrespectful and angry. Plus, looking back, I believe most of my rebellious behavior was meant to get attention. That saying that ‘bad attention is better than no attention’ is probably exactly the truth. Another thing, I ended up making many of the same mistakes as my mother throughout my life. So, if my mother were a bad person for those things, then would I be a bad person too?
My aunt discussed how uncomfortable this made her feel when witnessing them doing this to me as a child and my cousins. She told my cousin, “I always liked your mom.” She said she really wanted to make sure my cousin new this about her mother. My aunt definitely believes all of us experienced PAS by our fathers. She also agrees that my grandfather also contributed. My grandfather was extremely controlling towards his wife and children.
My mother told me once that my dad and grandfather drove across several states after their divorce and stole her car. Then they called her up and asked her to meet with them at a restaurant. They told her if she gave back the stocks she had been awarded in the divorce, then they would give her the vehicle back. She said she didn’t know what else to do and gave them back. A decade later, my grand parents were forced filed bankruptcy and so the company was worth nothing today anyway.
Witnessing Parental Alienation
My second experience was witnessing my Uncle turn his kids against his ex-wife. He promised one of my cousins his dream vehicle if he moved in with him. My cousin so badly wanted this vehicle that he agreed to move out of his mothers house to live with this father. My grandfather fully participated in this maneuver and may have helped pay for the vehicle too. In my experiences, Parental Alienation is a family business. So, my Uncle was successful at turning all three of his children against my Aunt. As children, they didn’t dare say anything because he provided a roof over their head and food to eat. So they went along with everything and didn’t visit their mom.
In my experiences, Parental Alienation is a family business.
Now, all my cousins are in the 30s, married with kids of their own. Now, they realize that the problem wasn’t with their mother and that 90% of the problems were because of their father. However, you do not get to make up that lost time they missed with their mother. I spoke to my aunt about this very thing and she said, “I have forgiven their father, but my children have not.” Now his kids have moved away and rarely visit their father. Whenever they visit, they will not stay in his house. It does not seem like the damage of lost time has been repaired with their mother, but they are no longer estranged from her.
Becoming the Targeted Parent
My third experience was dealing with my ex-husband working to manipulate our daughter for all these years. In my daughter’s journal, at the age of 9-10 she wrote all the time about how she couldn’t sleep, her stomach hurt, and her V hurt. I wrote a blog post in 2011 about Journal Entries by my Daughter. V stands for vagina and one pediatrician said to stop using nicknames. I guess if she said that “XXX touched her TT’ may not be as powerful as ‘X touched her vagina.’
My daughter used to complain about her vagina hurting from the age of 4 – 9 and despite our frequent visits to the doctor we were never able to prevent. The first complain happened at the age of 4 and was one year before we divorced. The one common denominator was that every complaint preceded with a visit with her father. All the red flags are present, but we never had an admission from our daughter, and the doctors never discovered medical explanation. My daughter does not remember and there was not medical proof. I have written about this topic over the years.
My ex-husband would continuously put our daughter in the middle of situations or under-mine my authority. Our daughter was subjected to his subtle, but continuous manipulation. This often created confusion for our daughter. Plus, she would become anxious right before a visit with him and then whenever she returned home she was a different child. It would take days before she would start behaving like her normal self. Then we would have to do it all over again the next week.
I never understood exactly what he was telling her. However, I know my ex-husband all too well and his subtle manipulations discussed as ‘helpful suggestions’ from someone who cares. At the age of 5 or 6, I remember her coming home from her father’s house and saying “Mommy, you scared me.” I remember being completely surprised by her comment since it seemed to come out of nowhere. Later on, I asked her “Honey, earlier you said I scared you. What did I do that scared you?” She replied, “I don’t want to talk about it.” To this day, I have no idea what he might have said to her to make her say that.
This blog is full of stories about what my daughter would say or what my ex-husband had told her. The crazy situation where her school was no longer a neutral ground. In one conversation when she was around 16 years old, I told her that I was really sorry she was in the middle of our divorce. She told me that it wasn’t my fault. I agreed, but my response was that I am sure I could have done a better job in my responses. She said that she understood and how hard it was to not feel angry with some people. One year later, she barely speaking with me and we were being sued for custody by my ex-husband of our 17 1/2 year old.
Amy Baker describes the challenges of dealing with teenagers and how they can be difficult all by themselves. How an Alienator can ride on the coattails of those difficult teen years by promising the children more freedom, less rules, or in our case a car. Initially, when my daughter first left, she wouldn’t give me her phone number for months. I wrote about it in my blog post in 2016 titled Parental Alienation Syndrome – Courts Deny It Exists. It was like I had been completely rejected.
Plus, over the past two years, many people have advised me to tell my daughter the truth. However, in almost every one of the articles and videos I have watched, they say the exact opposite. They often advise to listen, love them unconditionally, and ask questions to help them develop critical thinking skills. They say the child really needs this because the alienator is not going to love them without conditions. Another thing Amy Baker said was that you shouldn’t take what the child says personally because they are only repeating what the Alienator told them. We were definitely guilty of taking her attitude and hateful words very personally.
Life After Parental Alienation
So, right now my daughter is still reaching out to me. Over the past few months we have gotten together many times for dinner or met at coffee shops. Often she will sit with me for 2-3 hours at a time. My new approach is to just listen, be supportive, and ask her questions when appropriate. I might say, “Oh, how did that make you feel.” Last week, she said her father told her to pay attention to how boys treat their mom. He told her if they treat their mom bad they would treat you bad. My response was, “Oh, I am not sure I completely agree. Men can often treat their mothers wonderfully and treat wife or girlfriend badly.”
Anyway, I am not going to talk about our past or my experiences with her father. It doesn’t matter. It does, but telling her the truth is not going to help our present situation. She needs more time and life experiences to figure this all out. Plus, she still lives under my ex-husband’s roof and she will have to live by his rules. His rules are controlling and not appropriate for a 19-year-old adult. However, this is something our daughter needs to figure out for herself.
My Parental Alienation Blog Posts in Order
- Parental Alienation Syndrome – Courts Deny it Exists
- Aftermaths of Parental Alienation by a Narcissist
- Navigating Through Parental Alienation (PAS)
- Rising Above – Parental Alienation and the Narcissist
Hopefully this helps someone else going through a similar experience. I would love to hear your thoughts and comments about this topic as well.