Hostile Agressive Parenting & Parental Alienation Syndrome

A few days ago, I received a couple of rather “trolling” blog comments.  At first, I figured I would ignore or delete them.  I’m glad I didn’t, as I have since decided to address it directly, as a blog post.

I think it’s very important, as there are some critical points to raising children who are as emotionally stable as possible in an abusive environment.  Personally, as an advocate against domestic abuse and child abuse, I feel it is a responsibility to take a stand on this.

First – I want to note a couple links which speak of how “Parental Alienation Syndrome” has been dispelled and rejected by the legal community and the American Psychological Association.  My personal take from having read through the literature and posted on it previously is here and here.

http://www.stopfamilyviolence.org/info/custody-abuse/parental-alienation

http://www.leadershipcouncil.org/1/pas/faq.htm

So, are there parents who speak badly about the other parent, and who seek to destroy another parents relationship with the children?  YES, certainly there are.  HOWEVER… studies show that most often the personality disordered or the abusive individuals are the ones who are engaging this behavior.  Unfortunately, I do think it can impact children and is quite harmful to them.  Personally, my ex engages in behavior like this where he chastises me, degrades me and repeatedly speaks of how he hates me and wants to see me arrested & in jail… to our children.  Recently, I am continually reassuring my children that I would have to do something illegal and that their father doesn’t have the power to put me in jail.  I thank God  that I have the time with my children to show them my goodness and love and who I truly am as a person – so they can use their own discernment to determine who I am as an individual vs. who their father says I am.  I don’t need to speak badly about their dad, as they don’t need any more added to their plate than the bad things he does to them directly.  They need me to help them cope with the situation as a neutral person, not to add more inflamed comments.

Now… onto the comments that “Brad Anonymous” left on this blog:

“I’ve been studying Hostile Aggressive Parenting and Parental Alienation Syndrome. To Natalia… I’m in no way taking the side of the ex, but your blogs comments tell me, objectively, that you have been programming these kids through subtleties to alienate their less than perfect father who is there, trying to be a part of their lives. It’s each CO-PARENTS job to try to make the other parent look good in the eyes of the child, no matter WHAT they ACTUALLY think. Bless this. Bless that. Pray this. Pray that. You’ve written him off and the kids see and hear that. It damages them long term to add your opinion to his mistakes. Think, MOM.

Also, Hostile Aggressive Parents tend to attempt to recruit others to their way of thinking. Kinda like what you’re doing here on this thread… Everyone cheer for mom when you haven’t heard dads side of the story. It’s entirely possible that he’s nowhere NEAR as much of a devil as you paint him. Children don’t hate a parent without programming from the other parent o we time… Read up on this before being so supportive to the accuser here.”

My responses:

1- It is our job as PARENTS to be raise our children to be emotionally intelligent (great resource: Raising An Emotionally Intelligent Child).  If we try to make an abusive parent look good in the eyes of a child, we are denying them their truth.  If the child says “Daddy hits me” and “Daddy calls me an asshold, but I don’t even know what an asshold is.”, and we tell them that certainly they are telling a lie and Daddy is wonderful… this will cause them to never trust what they see in the world, and they will likely wind up in abusive relationships repeatedly down the road.  It is invalidating and disregarding of their feelings.  It also shuts down communication between the child and the parent – why would a child bring any other events in their lives to a parent who tells them that they don’t know what they are talking about?

2- When a child reports abuse, we can listen with empath and reflect -without being further degrading to the parent.  The conversation can be held honoring the truth of what happened and speaking factually/neutrally about the difference between healthy relationships and abusive relationships.  The child can use that information to determine how each parental relationship (or friendship or any other type of relationship) is for them.

3- Personally, I believe in teaching my children to accept each of us as parents for our truths and who we are.  I’m not perfect either.  I teach them compassion for their dad when they complain about his screaming rages by telling them how he was raised as a child to communicate by screaming and yelling (a fact their dad shares himself).  Perhaps my children and I can teach him or guide him by modeling loving ways to interact themselves, although it’s not my children’s burden as children to teach their parent.

4- “Children don’t hate a parent without programming from the other parent“.  If I child is being abused by their parent - whether the parents are still married or divorced, and therefore hates their parent because they are raged at, cursed at, hit, physically harmed, or at the worse sexually abused… YES THEY MAY HATE THE PARENT WHO DOES THAT TO THEM.  However, it is possible that they still love them (Stockholm Syndrome).  Consider situations where the parents are still married in particular and the non-abusive parent stays in the relationship without badmouthing the other parent… the anger that the child may have at an abusive parent is completely valid and not because they’ve “been programmed”.

5- The purpose of my blog is to focus on how to remain positive in a difficult situation, and to connect with others who are trying to do the same.  Yes, it sucks to have to deal with someone who is abusive and disordered.  However, the world becomes much lighter when those of us in that situation can focus on ourselves, healing ourselves from any abuse that we have endured, and finding positive, healthy ways to deal with disordered individuals through being centered, grounded, healthy and using boundaries and effective communciation.

My conclusion to this long post is .. the best place to focus really is on ourselves.  What can we do better? How can we be the best parent we can be? What do our children need from us?  When I write articles like the one about my ex’s performance review – I write it not to degrade him, but to help those who may be trying to get out from the fog of being in a relationship with someone who is disordered and uses emotionally abusive behavior which attempts to have the person deny their reality (e.g. discounting/devaluing, crazy-making, gas lighting).  It is helpful to validate that the behavior you’ve been told is “normal” (e.g. “all families scream at each other”… “but I didn’t mean what I said, you’re just being overly sensitive”) isn’t really normal or healthy at all.   Recognizing this behavior for what it is is step 1 in recovering from an abusive relationship and taking back your own power.   So, even in this instance – while I may highlight my ex’s behavior, the purpose is to look within at what is acceptable behavior and see that it is okay to set a boundary on what is unacceptable.

I encourage my commenter to do the same… look within.  Instead of looking out and finding “syndromes”… look within yourself at what you are doing when PARENTING and what you can do best for your children.


9 Responses to “Hostile Agressive Parenting & Parental Alienation Syndrome”

  1. coffee says:

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  2. JenelleMarie says:

    You know I use to feel as the anonymous poster did too, until I realized who and what I was really dealing with. It is very hard for society and good people to believe that people can be just this bad. There is no cheering going on, there is support, empathy and understanding from others who have seen the devil and realize he isn’t a figment of the imagination to scare people into religion. He’s a real person in a strangers’ life. Just because you haven’t seen the equator doesn’t mean it does not exist.

    I agree with all of this. We are choosing to empower and educate our children. I was raised without my bio father and wasn’t given negative impressions or thoughts about him at all. So the poster is wrong. Children come to the opinion on their own. I grew up, met my father as an adult and realized what he was and wasn’t and made the decision 100% for myself. I choose to empower and teach my children the same gift my own parents gave me. Accept their father for who he is, protect yourself as you would with any person and know when and what lines are healthy boundaries.

  3. Heather says:

    It’s sad that I have to do this w/two young girls. I am blessed enough to have a CYFD worker who is part of our case who is willing to “chat” w/my ex and be the heavy w/o Actually opening up a case against him (athoughhe may tip the line at some point). I just called the guy to ask him to talk w/the ex about his mother’s house (she hoards and it’s not a safe environment to have the kids in….the ex admits this but had them
    There for 1-2 months while it was turning into a disgusting mess). He also got my kindergartener to school late 20+ times last semester. In a public school he’d be in truancy court by now. I definately tell my kids that these are not healthy behaviors or situations to place them into. That is not “parental alienation.” it is an accurate recount of his problematic parenting. I do my absolute best to be compassionate to the ex. However my girls need TP be aware of when he puts them into dangerous situations.

    • Agreed… it’s not any different than saying that their grandmother (your MIL) hoards, and that hoarding is not a healthy behavior. As such, both parents need to take steps to keep the girls out of the hoarding situation. They can still accept and show compassion towards hoarding grandma while understanding that it’s not a healthy way to deal with life. It also teaches them to recognize as they grow up that if they are behaving in ways similar to grandma or their father’s behaviors – that they may need to address it.

  4. Julie says:

    I agree also. I don’t think the poster has had personnel experience with this issue. We are talking about men that have committed domestic violence and have a personality disorder not average men behaving badly during difficult divorces and custody battels. There is a big difference. I have been to court and called the police many times. I have been assaulted, threatend, smeared, been to court, been to counseling- because of my x. in what world is that a father/x partner that is normal? My child has told me that my x calls everyone stupid, screams at everyone, Drives crazy, abuses animals and is scary. My child has night terrors and outburst. So what should i say that is ok? No!!!! I say that is wrong and daddy should act better, he loves the child but his behavior is wrong. As a parent it is most important to teach boundaries morals and self respect!

    • Good point – I also differentiate loving the person from loving the behavior, and that it’s important to stand up to behavior which is not loving. It is so hard, though, for people who haven’t ever crossed paths with a person who has a psychopathological disorder to understand it. Heck, it took us long enough to recognize the person’s issues too!

  5. Heather says:

    Totally agreed. Explaining that bad behavior is bad is an example of appropriate parenting. I have to do this all the time with my kids. They are just as connected with their father but they also know my phone number and know to let themselves out of the car if he leaves them there again.

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