A Look at Parental Alienation and Protective Parent Behaviors

Within the list of behaviors used to describe “parental alienation” (which is unfounded), there are some which resemble behaviors of a personality disordered individual, and others which may be contorted views of actions taken by a protective parent.  Parental alienation, however, is most often brought up by the abusive parent, accusing the protective parent of alienating the child from them.

Most certainly there are behaviors noted which a protective parent might do if trying protect the child from an abusive ex.

It is my opinion that the behaviors used to describe this “syndrome” are a mix of potential real, exhibited behaviors by protective parents, and behaviors which a personality disordered parent may do themselves and be projecting onto the healthier parent.

In many ways, it seems that the psychological labels get in the way of looking at the behaviors vs. looking at the label itself.

Here are some behaviors a protective parent may exhibit that could be swept up into a “parental alienation” accusation.

  • Seeking to reduce the amount of time a child spends with the other parent because the parent’s behaviors are harmful to the child
    • It’s easy to see the abusive parent saying “she doesn’t care about my relationship with them. She’s alienating me from them because she blocks me from spending time with them.”
  • Making comments about the other parent’s character or lifestyle, activities, etc
    • This may easily come about when trying to explain things to a child who has been hurt by the behaviors of an abusive parent, such as not showing up for visitation, having a revolving door of new romantic interests, etc.
  • Emphasizing the other parent’s flaws, such as temper or being unprepared for the child’s activities
    • This may also easily occur when talking with the child about how to handle scary situations with the other parent’s rages, or empathizing how the other parent doesn’t bring towels to the indoor pool even on 20 degree nights and your child has to dry off with their coat.
  • Discussing what’s going on in court with the child
    • I know parents who have explained to their children that the court insists that they go with their abusive parent – simply because they need that way out of explaining why they are sending them to do something which feels so awful to the child.  If the child explained of abusive behavior at school or at daycare, the parent could investigate and pull them out of the situation.  In the case of court ordered visitation, there’s no choice or ability to do anything about it. So, it helps to explain that portion.
    • For e.g., a friend of mine keeps her child posted because she wants him to know she’s asking the court for what he begs her for.
  • “Making the child think there’s a reason to fear the other parent”.
    • A list I’m looking at includes this item.  It frustrates me, because usually the abusive parent is creating the reason to fear themselves, but they say that the protective parent is creating an unfounded fear.  Truly, a sane parent wants their child to have two “good” parents and won’t create an unfounded fear.

I’d like to see family courts and mental health professionals look at the behaviors listed by the “parental alienation syndrome”  and notice that if they are coming up in their court room or with their patients/patient’s parents, it warrants a closer look.  It would be great to determine where the behaviors are coming from and who’s accusing who of them.  It would be my guess that most likely… one or both of the parents are dealing with a personality disorder of some sort.  Perhaps the disordered is displaying some of these behaviors or accusing the other of these behaviors, or perhaps the protective parent is doing things which are for their and their children’s safety.  Nonetheless, it’s not likely that it is just “two warring parents” who are actually mentally and emotionally stable.

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2 Responses to “A Look at Parental Alienation and Protective Parent Behaviors”

  1. StrongerMe says:

    Thank you for this post. Thank you Thank you Thank you. My ex is an alcoholic, compulsive gambler that abuses women and gets evicted. My kids have seen more than they should and I am constantly explaining behavior, and then feeling guilty that they are immersed in such a grown-up world. They are 15 and almost 14, so they are old enough to understand, but it just seems so unfair. I try to remind them that their dad loves them the best that he can, but at the same time, I also have to explain alcoholism and addiction and abuse. AND I CONSTANTLY FEEL SO GUILT. This helps me SO SO MUCH!

  2. heather says:

    good points

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