- Doesn’t inform you of upcoming school activities (especially unexpected ones)
- Expresses no enthusiasm for fun events you’re doing with the child (vacations, amusement parks, etc)
- Limits child’s cellphone usage, so you’ll rarely get a call or text
- Limits child’s email usage
- Refers to you by your first name in their home (Dad becomes “David;” Mom becomes “Julie”)
- Accomplishes a post-visitation shakedown, extracting as much info as possible to find negatives
- Hands the phone directly to the child when you call, avoiding even civil conversation with you
- Pops anti-depressant pills (as many have a history of depression)
- Able to hold resentment towards young, innocent children (ie. your children from another marriage)
- Never calls you when the child is sick or taken out of school for a day or more
- Teaches the child adult things to tell you, such as “I don’t feel comfortable about the duration of our summer visitation, Dad”
- Teaches the child how to despise or hate another human being (that being you, of course)
- Labels themselves the “good” parent; label you the “bad” parent
- Tells the child false stories about their childhood
- Tells the child how he or she was victimized by you and your actions (while taking no blame at all for the divorce)
- Teaches the child how to lie to you (coating their little hearts with false malice and scorn)
- Diminishes your extended family’s worth
- Says to you words like, “I always encourage her to see you;” “I’ve never told him you’re a jerk” while actually doing the precise opposite
- Neglects to have the child call you for your birthday, on New Year’s Eve, or other important dates
- Refuses to help the child reach and call/email/mail cards on relatives’ birthdays on your side of the family tree
- Uses a cellphone as a leash while the child is with you
- Rarely a call on Father’s Day or Mother’s Day, and even more rare a card
- Never gets the child excited about seeing you
- Reminds the child of all that he or she will be missing while with you and away from them
- Inflicts his or her unhappiness onto the child (as alienators are deeply unhappy people)
- Attempts via a lawyer to reduce visitation to that even below family court minimum standards
- Takes the child out of state without a peep, while demands precise details whenever you travel with them
- Monopolizes the child’s time for hours on the phone (if you let them)
- Views any event in the child’s life– a distant Aunt’s birthday, a friend’s birthday, etc– as more important than their time with you
- Teaches the children from their current marriage to despise you
- Is jealous of anything fun and memorable you do with the child (as they view the good times as a threat)
- Gripes about things you’re doing as a parent to the child, but says nothing to you about it
- Has outbursts around the child (extremely emotional and dramatic ones)
- Lacks a filter; spilling any adult topic into the child’s head
Two extremely unfortunate but common tactics an alienating parent will use to further damage the child’s connection to the targeted parent is to:
- Teach the child to call the targeted parent by their first name
- Eliminate the targeted parent’s last name
Teach the child to call the targeted parent by his/her first name only
This is very common. The aggrieved, victimized (in his or her eyes), brainwashing parent can’t stand the thought of the targeted parent being in the child’s life. So since labels and words matter so much in a child’s world, a quick way to devalue that parent is to label them by their first name. Not “Daddy,” and not “Mommy.”
This is destructive to a child’s soul, as now they’ve stopped having a Mom or Dad to address (of course, that label will be used on the alienator’s new spouse if they have one). Since what kids label becomes their reality, over time this causes their feelings to become at minimum muted towards this “Justin” or “Christine.” Imagine calling your own mother “Christine” for years, and never muttering the words “Mommy…” do you think you’ll have the same feelings towards someone who’s not being labeled your mother?
It’s yet another way of instilling false feelings in children, and it’s abusive.
Eliminate the targeted parent’s last name
Another unfortunate effort by an alienating parent is to eliminate or modify the child’s last name. Of course, we’re talking wiping out or dropping the targeted parent’s last name.
So Elizabeth Tracey Smith, whose father’s last name is Smith, is taught to stop using Smith and substitute the mother’s maiden name, Johnson, instead.
Or John Paul Warren-Stevens, whose mother’s last name is Stevens, is taught to drop Stevens.
Some parents even teach their children that once they’re 18 that they can legally drop the targeted person’s last name.
In my case, my son’s name was modified by the judge to have two last names. When I brought a hearing before the judge showing that my son is being encouraged to not write his last name anywhere (with lots of evidence, including testimony and actual school homework and folders), unfortunately the judge (Judge Gary Coley in Waco, Texas) didn’t care about my concerns and ignored my pleas. So today my son, if his name were George Herbert Walker Bush, has an effective name of George Herbert Walker. My last name,”Bush“, has been eliminated from everything.
How to effectively respond to a de-identification campaign
De-identifying a parent is the cornerstone the parents who are brainwashing their child to get revenge at an ex. If you’re on the receiving end of these techniques, here’s what you need to remember:
1. Do not allow your child to call you by your first name. You don’t allow him or her to use profanity, do you? No difference here. It’s profane to call your own parent by his or her first name.
2. Ensure that your child is using his or her legal last name at school and at sports activities. Speak to the teachers and principal and let them know that you’re concerned that your child is not writing his or her last name correctly.
Do not go heavy on your child with the last tip, as they will just hunker down and resent you further. Use the school to enact the change… not the child.
- “There are subtle ways and overt ways of alienating a child from a parent, but either way it’s evil”
- “I do think that the badmouthing and alienating of a child from a parent is one of the few unforgivable sins. I do think those people will have to answer to God who will say, “You allowed your anger to destroy the relationship of your child to the other parent? Isn’t that why I gave you a conscience?”
- “Badmouthing your ex-spouse rips the child apart”
- “Changing a child last name (away from the father’s) is an act of venom”
- “Alienators think they’re a victim, and when you think you’re a victim, moral rules don’t apply to you”
- “I can’t think of a greater single vehicle to goodness and a better world than if everyone battled their own natures”
- “I don’t understand how any person could humiliate a spouse”
- “A lot of women do a lot of harm because they don’t control their emotions. But in terms of violence, men seem to have a monopoly”
- “Nothing is as contagious as unhappiness”
- “The badmouthing of the other spouse does not come to be good for the badmouther in the long run”
- “If what this woman (view clip) said was said by all Moms and Dads to their children with regard to the other parent, there would be so much more harmony in this country”
- “For many people, there is an additional battle they have to wage– with their natural tendency to be angry. One prevalent example is the angry mother or father who poisons his/her children against the other parent after a divorce, thereby often irreparably damaging both the children and the other parent”
A child in the midst of a brainwashing campaign is learning more than just to despise and think negatively of a parent. He or she is being taught how to hate in general.
If a child is taught to hate or have contempt for his or her own parent, they will start paying attention to the negative aspects rather than the positive. The child won’t notice the good traits or actions of the other parent, but focusses instead on anything that can be framed in a bad light. This is fueled and encouraged by the alienating parent because they do not want to hear the child talk about anything positive about the ex.
Teaching a child to hate is also teaching them how to be a negative person in general. And this takes years of therapy to eventually overcome, if it can be overcome at all.
If a child is taught to despise a parent over perceived personality or parenting “flaws” due to a hostile ex’s brainwashing, this outward hostility doesn’t just stop there. It also moves towards other people the brainwashing parent can’t stand (due mostly to jealousy or fear).
The best example is the targeted parent’s extended family. Not only is the targeted parent badmouthed and maligned, but in most cases so are his or her relatives (and thus the child’s, too). Enlisted in the demonization of the ex and the ex’s family also are any other children the brainwasher might have from another marriage or relationship. The lies never get hoisted only onto the ex’s child or children, they get spread like a manure spreader to every other member of the family tree.
But it doesn’t stop there.
Since most brainwashing parents are very insecure people, they dish out their feelings of disgust towards a lot of people in their lives. And who picks up on these feelings? The child who has to listen to it (the only children who can rise above the badmouthing are teenagers who who are harder to convince, especially over people they have known their entire life).
Over many months and years, a child can’t help but share the brainwashing parent’s beliefs and contempt. It’s hatred that’s been taught to the child, and instilled in their very core (and this isn’t severe child abuse?). You can think of this indoctrination as a hate bootcamp.
What happens next, over time, is these children see other people– not just the parent they’ve been taught is bad– through the abusive parent’s eyes. Labels are quickly thrown on people, and if the parent is a narcissist (view this post on narcissistic parents), watch out. Their kids will also absorb many of their toxic traits.
Don’t underestimate how closely our actions as parents are watched, and eventually mimicked, by our kids. If you tend to yell, they yell. If you beat them with a belt, they’ll lash out physically at others as well. If you lie a lot, don’t expect them to be amazing little truth tellers. So it doesn’t take much effort for a parent who’s hating an ex-wife or ex-husband to get his or her young child to join in fully on the hatred bandwagon.
Kids develop into adults through a combination of their own inherent nature (DNA) and nurture (parenting), but when they’ve been marinating in false feelings of hatred for a decade or more, it’s extremely difficult to reverse even for an experienced therapist. The damage to their psyche is tremendous, and the perpetrators of this abuse are committing an evil act.
Teaching a kid to hate is child abuse, and the only remedy for these young and innocent victims is to remove them from that abusive home. Unfortunately, this is a major uphill battle to undertake, as family courts, CPS, and child therapists today simply don’t understand this form of abuse.
Mental child abuse is the most common form of child abuse in America, and the most difficult to stop” – BrainwashingChildren.com
Many parents faced with an ex who’s assaulting their parent-child relationship feel helpless, and think that taking legal action is too costly. While it can indeed be expensive, it can also end up costing you nothing… and the alternative is simply not acceptable, which is the continued emotional abuse of your child.
If your child is being abused in a campaign of parental alienation, you need to get legal help. Many decrees have standard language addressing badmouthing the other parent or discussing other adult matters, but many do not.
Here’s an example from a Texas decree:
Minimize Exposure to Harmful Parental Conflict
The conservators agree that any discussion regarding the child(ren) will not occur in the presence of the child(ren). The conservators further agree not to discuss any any conflicts that may be occurring between the conservators with the child(ren).
Family courts are aware that many parents will drag their kids through the divorce drama, so most have standard language like the above depending on what county and state you’re in.
If your decree doesn’t have such language, it needs to be inserted. Consult an attorney, who will be able to advise you on how to add this (usually called a “Motion to Modify,” which is a written request to the court to change a prior order regarding custody, child support, etc) to your decree.
But before you take the legal route, consider getting CPS involved first. Although CPS doesn’t deal with many parental alienation cases, you could get a caseworker who does understand this form of abuse (sadly most CPS caseworkers do not). Be prepared from blowback from your ex, but don’t let that stop you from taking every effort to protect your child. I suggest having some audio or video evidence to back up your call to them. Being that abusers frequently abuse on multiple levels (see this post), the caseworker could end up discovering abuse that you were unaware of.
Then, it’s time to find a good attorney. If you’re a father, find a male attorney, and if you’re a mother, find a female attorney. Why? Because sexes tend to side with and have a better understanding of each other.
Call at least five or six attorneys. Since an attorney’s job is to fight for the best interest of children, make sure you mention that your child is being abused. Any good person/attorney is not going to say, “I can’t help you” just because later in the conversation you mention that you don’t have the money immediately available.
There are many options for paying attorneys that you and your attorney can agree to. Don’t be shy in suggesting one or more of these. In most attorneys’ eyes, some money now or over time is better than no money at all.
Here are some ideas and tips:
- Don’t go with big-name law firms. Go with the smaller firms or independent lawyers as their odds of needing you as much as you need them are pretty good
- Dig deep: use your credit card, sell some possessions on eBay or Craigslist, take out a home equity loan, downsize your $30,000 car, borrow money from a friend or relative, etc.
- Suggest bartering if you’ve got some talent, skills, or a product that could help the attorney
- Your attorney should advise you that you’ll be suing the other parent for attorney fees (as he or she is the guilty party, and the reason for the legal action in the first place).
With the divorce rate as high as it is and the amount of parents that are unable to control their emotions, parental alienation is a common problem. And in the mind of a parent who’s capable of abuse, the best way to hurt the other parent is to turn the child against them.
There’s always a way to legally help your child who’s a victim of parental alienation. Lack of money is no excuse for not fighting for your child.
Bonus tip: Remember, if your decree has any wording addressing keeping the child out of conflict, your legal efforts should be an easy fight for your lawyer because he or she would be likely setting up a contempt hearing. Get as much evidence as you can, including therapist notes, audio/video evidence (complying with the law, of course), other witnesses, etc. The more evidence, the better.
What keeps a parent who is capable of damaging a child mentally and emotionally from damaging them physically or sexually as well?
Parents who are mentally abusive lack the ability to control themselves. Which means they’re unable to contain their emotions, which then spills into doing what’s right for their child, which is sheltering them from harm– any harm. A parent who is OK knowing that their child is suffering (especially over lies that the parent creates) is a toxic father or mother, and toxic fathers and mothers are bad people who have few limits on what they’re capable of doing.
What I’ve noticed in my own experiences and in the experiences of blog commenters is that parents who can harm kids on one level frequently harm them on others, too.
These “manure-spreading” parents are capable of damaging kids across the spectrum of child abuse: physically, mentally, sexually, medically, and educationally. To be fair, few toxic parents damage via all of the five categories.
A parent who is physically or sexually abusive is also mentally abusive. Comments are made such as:
“Look what you made me do, don’t tell anyone about this or else…”
“This is your fault because…”
Name calling also goes hand in hand with these forms of abuse.
Here’s the thing: You can’t have a physically or sexually abusive parent who isn’t also mentally abusive. Any attack on a child’s body also is an attack on their mind.
To restate something important, not all parents who are mentally abusive are physically or sexually abusive. However, they have the potential to be, and too frequently are.
Bottom line? Once someone’s an abusive parent in one of the categories, they very often abuse on one or more of the others.
One lie that many brainwashing parents do to their children is making up completely fictitious stories about why the ex did not appear for, or appeared late for, visitation drop-offs or exchanges.
In my case, I told my son and his Mom that I wouldn’t be able to pick him up for consecutive weekends ahead of time. Funny thing is, I actually figured his Mom might bring him to the normal 4pm Friday exchange location anyway. Sure enough: she did. The next time I saw my son, he mentioned that Mom has been taking him on those Fridays to the exchange point in order to wait on me. He said that he was “confused.” Of course he was– confusion between my words of “I won’t be there on these weekends” and Mom’s act driving him there in order to wait on me, knowing full well that I won’t be there.
This is another sad example of parental soul-destruction leveled onto children. To take pleasure in watching your children absorb with heartache the lie that the other parent doesn’t care enough to show is very sick.
Here are some examples of how these mentally abusive parents operate:
You are 5 minutes late.
MEANING GIVEN BY YOUR EX TO YOUR KIDS
You don’t really care that much about seeing them. If you did, you would never show up late.
You need to move the time back 30 minutes due to traffic, work, etc.
MEANING GIVEN BY YOUR EX
Ex shows up at original time and explains how inconsiderate you are to be 30 minutes late.
You let ex know you’ll be out of town for a weekend or month.
MEANING GIVE BY YOUR EX
Ex shows up at your weekends’ normal time and place with your children, and informs your children that their Mommy or Daddy must not love them very much and doesn’t want to see them.
Parents willing to do this are completely OK with seeing their kids suffer. Instead of building the little tikes up with excitement, which is what nurturing parents do, these bad exes would rather plant a mean lie into their kids’ heads in order to poison the relationship to their very own parent.
So it’s important to always talk about any missed or late drop-offs or exchanges with your kids. Mention how you’re sorry you’re a bit late, and the reason. If you’re gone for a weekend or more, let them know ahead of time, and also address it when you see them again. Ask them directly, “You haven’t waited at all where I didn’t show up, have you?”
You’ve got to be assertive but calm with issues like this involving your brainwashed children. Once your ex pulls this harmful maneuver, you also need to tell your children this:
“Son, if you ever show up and I’m not there at all, know that there’s a misunderstanding or a missed phone call or something. As I would never not pick you up unless it was something big or was a big misunderstanding.”
And if your children have a cellphone, instruct them to text or call you if they are ever waiting and it seems that you won’t show up.
Remember, you need to be assertive in these matters around your kids when they’re in the midst of a brainwashing campaign.
A happy parent is one who nurtures his or her children physically and emotionally. Happy people don’t molest, pass hurt feelings on to, deprive the other parent’s love from, or otherwise hurt their kids. Happy people who go through divorces or break-ups hurt just like anyone else, but they elevate their behaviors to protect their children from the adult pain.
“All abusive parents are unhappy parents, and unhappy parents are feelings-based people who act out on these feelings without regard to whether what they’re saying or doing is right or wrong for their child” – www.brainwashingchildren.com
Look at your own situation of mental abuse or even milder alienation efforts. How happy is the person who’s damaging your child? Are they an overall happy person?
Whenever I think of the environment that my child is in, I think of his home with a big giant neon sign above it flashing, “UNHAPPY – 24 hrs/day.” The nearly decade-long campaign of harming my son’s relationship with me has been so pervasive, how could such behavior come from a normal, happy parent? It can’t.
The unfortunate part is the long-term outlook. Since it’s impossible for you to change the unhappy person’s core, what are the odds of the damage being done to the children who are in their midst stopping? Quite low. The only real way to help the children that live with these negative, unhappy, parents is to have them spend more and more time with the positive, happy parent. It can be a complete change of custody in severe alienation and emotional abuse cases, to granting the “happy” parent a lot of meaningful time in the decree.
When you’re the noncustodial parent, days and weeks go by without you being around your child or children. During this time the custodial parent– your ex– who’s hell-bent on sabotaging your relationship with your child has ample opportunity to do so.
There are some strong signs that appear in most brainwashing households. You can’t be there in person to observe all the things said, the lies told, or the subtle put-downs, so you will have to look elsewhere– to the telephone, cellphone, text messages, and emails.
The openness and normalcy of the electronic communications with your child is in most cases directly related to the level of mental abuse taking place in the other house. Evidence that your child is being coached and lied to include:
- Your child is flat, monotoned, or sad when he or she gets your phone call
- Your ex is often heard speaking to your child in the background (and your child will frequently cover up the phone with his or her hand)
- Your phone calls or texts are not returned
- Cellphones you buy for your kid are rarely used to call you, but used routinely by your ex to contact your child when he or she is with you
- No calls on your birthday or Father’s/Mother’s Day, and rarely or never a card or e-card
- Your child asks you questions inappropriate for their age
- Your child is used as a messenger by your ex
- Your child complains about his or her last visit (usually of trivial things)
- You rarely get a call, email, or text out of the blue from your child
- Your child claims out of the blue that “I don’t want to see you”
- Your child seems unable to echo any “I love you’s”
- Your child echoes the words of your ex (words a child of that age would never use)
- Your child refers to you by your first name, either to you directly or at home while away from you
- Your ex refers to you when speaking to your child in the background by your first name
- Your child will say “Why haven’t you called me” when in fact you’ve tried
- You rarely get an acknowledgement of any cards of presents sent
How to fight this? The short answer is to call your child on a regular basis (once a week, twice a week, etc), and stick to it. Also send texts and emails, even super short ones, when you think of your child. If you’ve been unable to get through to speak to him or her, make sure you let them know that you’re excited to finally reach them. If you’ve left a voicemail, ask them “So did you get my voicemail?” That way, if they didn’t (as is likely), they’ll realize that you did reach out to connect with them. Older kids will even figure out on their own that a parent is withholding messages from them.
The big picture, of course, is to get the child into counseling. Even call Child Protective Services if your child’s emotionally wrecked. Make sure you document everything– to include tape recording phone calls (if legal in your state), logging all the times you’ve tried to reach your child, etc.
If your child custody decree doesn’t mention anything about telephonic or electronic access, then consider hiring an attorney who can make a “motion to modify” the decree. Some decrees include specific hours whereby your ex must make your child contactable. That way if your ex doesn’t comply, he or she could face the wrath of a judge.
It’s a very difficult thing to have to suffer through month after month after month, with the only let-off being when you have possession of your child. But hang in there. Keep a steady flow of calls, emails, and texts to your brainwashed child. One day your child will see the “unhappy” parent for who she is, and your consistent actions at reaching out will be rewarded in 95% of cases.
In my study of mental child abuse as well as my own observations regarding my ex, I’ve noticed how prevalent it is that the child abuser is highly narcissistic.
What’s a narcissistic parent? It’s someone who is self-absorbed, authoritarian (watch out for their outbursts), negative, a know-it-all, never culpable or blameworthy for anything, highly critical of others, secretive, cunning and conniving, manipulative, exploitive, stingy, ungrateful, a pathological liar (twists the truth with incredible ease), envious and competitive, deaf to other’s opinions, doesn’t listen (zero empathy), brags and exaggerates, plays favorites (and it’s a rotating favorite list at that), has no boundaries, inept at basic manners, lacks a sense of humor (especially at themselves), and excels at making others feel guilty… He or she is one unhappy person (read this post on Unhappy Parents) who sucks the energy and life out of those around them.
Looking at these traits, how many of them apply to your situation? A narcissistic father or mother will have most of the traits listed.
There’s a simple reason why the more a parent brainwashes his or her own children (or dishes out any other form of abuse), the more narcissistic tendencies they have:
It takes an extremely selfish and sick parent to inflict such harm onto their own child.
Any mature parent can set aside anger or hurt from a divorce and keep their child on neutral ground by refusing to enroll them in the middle of the conflict. But a narcissistic parent will be hell-bent on minimizing or even outright destroying the child’s relationship with the ex and unable to place their child out of the emotional turmoil. They can’t do it. In fact, they will actively bring pain to their own kids. That’s how mentally sick they are.
So how do you counter these parents, and is there hope for changing them? A sobering quote:
“Trying to reform narcissists by reasoning with them or by appealing to their better nature is about as effective as spitting in the ocean.” – Halcyon.com
That has been one of my biggest frustrations with my ex, thinking that reasoning with her and letting her eventually calm down and see for herself that I’m a good Dad would temper her behavior towards our son. But it never happened, and her actions even got worse over time. The sad reality is that you can’t change the narcissist. They don’t have the self-awareness or humility to see that they’re out of control and need help. It’s deeply unfortunate, especially if your ex is the custodial parent and has ample amounts of time to transfer these narcissistic traits onto your child.
The only recourse for you is to be a normal parent, providing needed contrast for your child. It’s very important to insist that any behaviors in him or her that mimic your narcissistic ex are stomped out immediately. So if your child is flippant, rude, and lacking manners– and they will on many levels when they’ve been living with a narcissist– don’t tolerate it.
“The narcissist is governed by his or her feelings, the decent person is governed by his or her obligations” – Dennis Prager
Since a narcissistic parent is governed by his or her feelings, they don’t have the ability to own up to their obligations to shield their child from emotional heartache, adult issues, stories of how bad Mommy or Daddy is, etc. They will actively get the children involved in the conflict. It’s inappropriate, it’s evil, and it’s abusive.
These parents are a vortex of negative energy, and will suck the life out of those around them. Children of narcissists suffer, and they come in two camps: those that are aware of this parent’s bizarre, completely irrational behavior “Yeah, there my Mom/Dad goes again…”, or they’re not and are mentally smothered by the parent. Sadly lots of these children end up inheriting the narcissist’s traits, supporting the findings that many children of narcissistic parents become narcissists themselves.
The reality is this. Once the children become adults, the only way for them to not further suffer under the tyranny of a severely narcissistic parent is to move away from them. Creating physical separation, and thus limiting contact, from a parent might seem like a bad solution. But the alternative is to live a life of suffering. Remember, the narcissist doesn’t change. After all, he or she isn’t the wrongdoer or person with flaws… everyone else is.