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Evidence from afar that your child is being brainwashed against you

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.

 

Turning all phones off during the child’s birthdays, for Thanksgiving, Father’s Day, etc.

It’s been a rare holiday or birthday that I’ve been able to speak to my son. And never has my son initiated a call to me for these important dates– even Father’s Day.

Of course we know that kids aren’t generally aware of these dates and to reach out to loved ones, which is why they usually need a parent’s guidance. In a divorce, that means the parent with the child should help the child reach out to the other parent on these special days. However, a parent bent on minimizing or destroying the importance of their ex will place barricades up to keep the child from connecting to the other parent. It’s simply sick.

Recently on a big holiday, my son’s mother conveniently produced cell phone technical issues and the ridiculous “phone was being charged” argument. Nevermind that almost every phone can be used while it’s being charged.

This difficulty and sometimes outright inability for you to get through to your cute loved one(s) is a telltale sign of that parent’s hostility towards the child having a solid relationship with you. These parents brainwash their children on top of the gag on their child’s communications, and end up harming the child considerably.

One way to take the bull by the horns on this is to ask, preferably via text (so that it’s documented), a few days earlier when’s a good time to call on that day. If it becomes a recurring theme, then it’s time to contact your lawyer and consider a strongly worded letter for starters, up to a full blown hearing. Don’t let this parent get away with such awful behavior!

Think about what this teaches the child:

1. Important occasions don’t warrant even minimal telephone contact with the other parent

2. Ignoring the other parent on Father’s/Mother’s Day, a birthday, or Christmas is completely OK

3. Ignoring your siblings, uncles, and other relatives is also completely OK

It’s sad that parents routinely pull this ploy on their kid’s relationship to the other parent. It’s despicable.

Medical child abuse (Münchausen Syndrome by Proxy)

Medical Child Abuse

Most experts in child abuse aware that there’s three forms of abuse:

  • Mental/emotional
  • Physical
  • Sexual

However, what many aren’t aware of is one of the most DEADLY forms of child abuse:

Medical child abuse.

Its most common form, and only formally recognized form of medical abuse, is that of “Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.” MSbP is a very serious — and often deadly– form of abuse whereby the parent, usually a mother, inflicts real or fake injuries and/or symptoms to her own child in order to gain attention or sympathy. (read this article for a primer on MSBP).

It’s deadly in that an estimated 10% of kids whose parent has MSbP dies as a result. In fact, it has been estimated by authorities on the subject that approximately 20% of children who are thought to have died due to SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) actually died from a parent with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy.

In my case, the issue that really stands out is that my son’s mother is never, ever thrilled when batteries of tests come back negative or he recovers from his many “illnesses.” However, when talking about his ailments, many of which are severe, she goes into graphic detail. Yes, we’re talking about a mother that literally gets excited about pulling my son out of school (100 days the past 2.5 years) for medical testing, check-ups, surgeries, etc. However, when away from her, does my son continue to have these supposed illnesses?

Nope. They’re virtually nonexistent when he’s with me, his Daddy.

So when talking about child abuse, it’s important to understand that there are five kinds, not three. And they’re all simply intolerable, as they’re harming the most innocent of us!

  • Mental/emotional
  • Physical
  • Sexual
  • Medical
  • Educational

Münchausen by Proxy Syndrome 101

Munchausen by ProxyWhat is Münchausen by Proxy Syndrome?

Münchausen by Proxy (origin of this name) is a severe form of deliberate child abuse, usually by mothers (over 90% are women according to one study), whereby the mother deliberately attempts to get her own child sick via falsified physical, physiological, and/or mental symptoms. This is done through exaggeration of symptoms, actual inducement of symptoms, or an outright lie about symptoms.

Why mothers will do this:

  1. To gain attention of the doctors and nurses
  2. Attempt to bring the mother closer to the child’s father
  3. They are depressed and insecure
  4. Absentee mother or father in their own childhood
  5. Desire to control their child
  6. Show their indispensability to the child’s welfare
  7. Restore family cohesiveness
  8. Limit or prevent the child from being with the father through onerous doctor visits

Why it’s such such a deadly syndrome:

  1. 9% of the children die
  2. extremely difficult to diagnose
  3. mothers rarely will admit to it and attend psychotherapy
  4. the abusive parent often seems caring, and is often in the medical profession herself

Children with MBPS:

  1. lots of illnesses in a short period of time
  2. frequent visits to doctors, hospitals, and health clinics
  3. illnesses cease to exist when child is away from the mother
  4. child doesn’t respond to treatment
  5. often assists the mother with deceiving the doctors

Mothers with MBPS:

  1. Often have the same symptoms as their own child
  2. Were abused themselves as children
  3. Often a bad relationship with the father of the child
  4. Often don’t know how the illness occurred
  5. Excellent manipulators; convincing
  6. Are “helicopter moms;” very controlling
  7. Enjoy the attention they receive from caring for their “injured” child
  8. Often are in the medical field themselves
  9. Are attention seekers

Notes:

  1. common for child to exhibit genuine symptoms
  2. exaggeration of symptoms
  3. often mothers are in the health care field themselves
  4. mother has personality disorders in all cases
  5. mother lashes out at any questioning of her motives or actions
  6. mother is usually the custodial parent and has the time to inflict the harm to the child
  7. constant office or hospital visits
  8. most mothers know what they’re doing, and hide their acts aggressively
  9. mother often is not happy when good news appears
  10. rare
  11. one of the most severe forms of child abuse

Why it’s so hard to stop the harm to the child

  1. Difficult to diagnose or prove
  2. Takes many varied forms
  3. Courts and lawyers know little to nothing about the disorder
  4. Child Protective Services (CPS) knows little to nothing about the disorder

The most important task is to protect children immediately from mothers with Munchausen by Proxy Syndrome. And that has to take place through the courts or Child Protective Services (CPS). Unfortunately, their task is made difficult by the difficulty to prove it, and even if it seems provable with lots of evidence, getting judges and child advocates to understand it.

Sadly, in the meantime the child suffers, and often dies.

Bottom line: the child needs to be removed from the abuse, which means the child must be removed from the abuser– which in most cases is the mother.


[Final comment]

Difference between Munchausen and Munchausen by Proxy:

-Munchausen is faking your own illness
-Munchausen by Proxy is faking illness in your own children

Brainwashing grandmothers

Grandmothers who brainwash childrenA parent bent on destroying their own child’s relationship with the ex often have a family member quite willing to take part in the brainwashing…

The grandmother.

Over the years I’ve heard my son’s grandmother enough times to see first-hand how she’s hurting my son’s relationship with me. And I realize that what I’m hearing is only the tip of the iceberg, sadly.

Just a few weeks ago, during a long vacation, grandma tells my son halfway through (paraphrasing),

You’re on the downhill slide!

Translation: The sadness of having to spend time with the other, “lesser” parent- your father- is getting close to ending! Then you’ll be back with us and away from the monster…

Another thing she said that showed how selfish she was during one summer saying to him on the telephone how many hours until she sees him again (I can’t remember the exact number, but it was in the hundreds). And for about 5 minutes prior to that, she asked him nothing about what he was doing (we were out of the state on a trip to the lake). She went on about all the things he was missing back home! Learning absolutely nothing about her grandson’s exciting trip to a large lake…

In many families, the grandmother is the dominant figure in the entire family tree. Which is perfectly fine. But when the grandmother uses her power to aid (or in my situation, lead) the effort to sabotage her grandson or granddaughter’s relationship with his or her own parent, it’s downright despicable.

[Now, this is not to say that grandfathers don't brainwash children. They can and do. But the reality is that in the vast majority of cases, it's the grandmother who's highly emotionally vested in the grandchildren, and as such if they feel aggrieved by a child's ex-wife or ex-husband, many will go to many lengths to harm that person.]

In the process, of course, hurting not just that ex but a child or children as well.

So, how do you combat a grandmother’s actions that are harming your relationship to you son or daughter?

First, start documenting all comments, texts, voice mail messages, and actions. I use Google Docs for all my notes on the evidence of my son’s brainwashing. Then, once you have this evidence hire a lawyer and see about calling a hearing about this abuse. Now, don’t get your hopes up about the judge taking assertive action. Most family law judges are clueless about PAS*. In my case, the judge to this day has done absolutely nothing to warn the mother despite audio and video evidence, and my testimony on the stand. But you still need to make this effort– wouldn’t you like to know your father or mother held a court hearing over the mental brainwashing that was occurring while you were a child? Show some initiative that sadly too many parents lack.

Secondly, place your child into therapy with a child therapist well versed in *Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS).  This will help your child immensely in the recovery efforts. Having a neutral third party talking to the child about you can do a lot of good.

Third, and I’ll write about this soon as a separate topic, enlist the help of a person who your son or daughter really likes or loves. With some well-timed words talking about you (the targeted parent), and sharing their feelings about you, your child will now have in front of them a huge disconnect: between what they’ve been hearing about you by the brainwashing parent and grandparent for years, and what they’re hearing now from this trusted, liked person.

Last, I highly recommend the book Divorce Poison by Dr. Richard Warshak (order here). He just came out with an updated edition, and it’s terrific. It’s essentially the Bible on Brainwashing.

Don’t just think that brainwashing of children is done by parents. It’s done by grandparents too– and this double-barreled assault on the child and his or her relationship to you can be brutally effective in destroying the child’s opinions, attitudes, and feelings…

Brainwashing children: The four levels of abuse

The Four Levels of Brainwashing Children

The Four Levels of Brainwashing Children

Brainwashing children to despise a parent falls into one of four categories of severity:

  1. Glancing insult
  2. Direct attack
  3. Relationship assault
  4. Relationship-ending coaching

Glancing insult
The glancing insult, also called a “drive-by put down,” is a derogatory remark said to the child about a parent. These are off-the-cuff remarks whose purpose is to instill doubt and negative opinions about the target parent.

Examples include:

“She’s picking you up at 6pm, if she’s even on time”
“So your father didn’t seem to care much about what you thought, huh…”
“You know I love you more than anyone else in the world does, don’t you?”

Direct attack
A direct attack is a slew of words plainly at plainly disparaging you, and thus your relationship to your child.

Examples:

“Your father is an inconsiderate jerk”
“If your mother wasn’t such a messed up soul, your time with her would be much more fun”
“Your mother is a terrible mother, that’s for sure. I can’t believe she did that—what a moron”

Relationship attack
When the source parent tries to harm the parent-child relationship by attacking visitations, minimizing telephone and email contact, and insinuating that time spent with the target parent is bad for the child.

Examples of what such parents will do:

Being “unavailable” all week to receive phone calls from the target parent to the child
Not returning any calls, texts, or emails made by the target parent
Telling the child, “You have complete family here with me and your Dad (step-father), yet he’s again ripping you away from us this Christmas”
Telling the child, “You only have 5 days left with her, then you’ll be back and safe with us.”
Withholding letter, postcards, and emails from the child

Relationship-ending coaching
The most deplorable thing a parent can do to their child is the final step, coaching the child on how to completely break off contact with their own parent.

Some of the things the source parent will teach the child include:

  1. That once the child is 18, he/she no longer has to be in contact with the target parent anymore, and is encouraged to do just that
  2. That once the child is 18, if a boy he can change his last name to something different like his step-father’s last name
  3. That once the child is 12, he/she can go in front of a Judge and state how awful the target parent is, and of the desire to move in with the source parent and not be with the targeted parent at all anymore

Wrap-up: Take the high road
You’ll sometimes feel overwhelmed at correcting the brainwashing being inflicted upon your child. A brainwashed child will act in truly heart-wrenching manners, and you’ll often not even recognize him or her anymore.

But hang in there. Read this blog, discuss with other loved ones your frustration, and read the book “Divorce Poison,” take your complaint in front of the Judge in your case, and you and your relationship will be rewarded one day for your refusal to take part in counter-attacking the other parent.

Be a loving parent, don’t discuss the other parent in a negative light—ever—and take the high ground. Lastly, find a good child therapist who does “play therapy” with children, and you’ll be doing the right things to slowly undo the damage done to your child’s mind.

Dr. Phil’s show on Brainwashing of Children

Dr. Phil McGraw

Dr. Phil McGraw

A few months ago I watched with interest an episode of Dr. Phil that dealt with the topic of brainwashing of children by a parent. Dr. Phil summarized the bad parental behavior that hurts children, and I jotted down the main points he made. Here they are:

  • Using child as pawn
  • Talking bad about the other parent
  • Using child to gain information
  • Transferring hurt feelings and frustrations onto the child
  • Treating the child like an adult

All of them are great points. In my case every single one of them are being done. How about you? It’s my guess that a parent that you see deploying at least two of these actions is likely to be doing all five.

Brainwashing Tool #2: Using the child as a spy

 

Using the child as a spy

Using the child as a spy

Parents who are indoctrinating their children to spite the ex will also enlist the child to become a surrogate spy. This can range from simple information about the ex’s new girlfriend, all the details of every breakfast and dinner (“what did you eat? What restaurant did he take you to?”) to doing complete hard drive searches looking for bank info, emails, or incrimining web sites.

Vindictive ex’s would love to be able to rummage through your home to get interesting details on your life, including any and all “dirt.” They’re still very angry from the divorce or separation. But since they can’t break into your house without risking jail time, they recruit your child to act as a spy on their behalf.

This is very damaging to the child, for a number of reasons. First, it makes the child believe that the parent and their house can’t be a normal environment. There must be something wrong with it if one parent needs all the details of what’s happening there. Second, it teaches that it’s OK to be sneaky and spy on somebody. Remember, kids model their parents’ behaviors. So a continuance brain bath in spying around a parent’s house for information to share with the other parent is very damaging to the child long term.

Finally, by aligning the child in this manner, the vindictive ex slowly tears down the bond that exists between the other parent and the child. This intentional act of abuse on the child is terrible– it creates conflict and discomfort in a relationship where little to none even existed!

Parents that do this are terrible parents. Period.

When you catch your child reporting everything back to the other parent (I discovered mine through child therapist progress notes), it’s time to let the child know that you understand they want to “help Mom/Dad, but reporting back everything you do in such detail isn’t fun for them, it upsets the other parent, and it makes you work too hard, having to carry around a mental note pad every day.” Or words to that effect.

Don’t embarrass or punish the child, or the behavior will continue and get even worse. Point it out without pointing a hard finger, explain why it’s not a fun or positive thing to do, and then drop it.

When your ex places your child into counseling after every visit

Because time with you is damaging, of course!

Because time with you is damaging, of course!

I’m experiencing in my case severe programming in a desperate attempt to sever my son’s relationship with me. One of the things my son’s mother does is place him into counseling after every father-son time we have. That’s right, usually the very next Monday or Tuesday after the Sunday evening exchange he is placed into child therapy. This has been going on for many months now.

It’s very frustrating to see my 9-year-old son go from a highly enjoyable visit with me (my tactics in fighting back the brainwashing are slowly working, thank God), to being dropped into counseling.

I set myself an appointment with the child therapist a day after my son was placed there, and the therapist said there were no issues in my son’s nearly 3 weeks with me.

So why was he brought in? Counselor couldn’t answer.

I believe that his mother thinks that time with me is harmful to him, that my being in his life is harmful to him, and that the way to “recover” from the awfulness of spending time with a (unwilling to be acknowledged by her) loving father is to get help from a therapist.

Unfortunately in my case the therapist is completely clueless to the brainwashing mother is doing– so clueless that he denies any active brainwashing is going on! Just some “influencing” in my son’s mind. By whom? I ask? “Perhaps a parent”… Please… This after the countless stories I’ve told him and the video and audio tape showing my son’s anguish. It’s a “he said; she said” thing according to him.

When an ex places your child in counseling after nearly every visit with you, what message is that sending the child? That being with you is not a normal, OK thing. That obviously something not good or harmful certainly happened to the child during that time.

It’s sick.

If this happens to you, you need to be assertive in standing up to the child therapist on what exactly it is he or she is treating. See what codes are being documented on the billing to the insurance company. Sit in on sessions like I have, and take good notes. There are many incompetent child therapists out there.

In my case, the therapist didn’t have much to say, and even prevented me from seeing the progress notes when I asked to see them– he needed to see legal proof of my rights to see them. Can you imagine any divorce decree where a parent is specifically denied access to medical records? Amazing.

My battle is just beginning with that incompetent child therapist. Never assume that a therapist knows what he/she is doing and isn’t aligning with one parent over the other. Get your own trusted child therapist always.

Brainwashing technique #4: Transferring hurt feelings and frustrations onto a child

Brainwashing childrenBrainwashing a child usually begins as frustrations, hurt, and contempt towards you by your ex. He or she feels betrayed, wronged, is quite bitter about the separation or divorce, and believes the child needs to know about these strong feelings.

Here, emotion trumps logic and good parenting. A parent makes a decision to bring the child into the separation/divorce mix, and from there the trend is rarely good—- in fact, the trend is usually towards more and more badmouthing the other parent. No matter how frustrated a parent becomes, getting the child to align against the other parent is terribly wrong. A mature parent would instead deal with the ex, and keep the child out of it.

This good parent would think, “Well, one day the child will see their parent for who he/she is, and I’m not going to be the one to slant my kid in one direction. It’s not right for me to do so, and it could even backfire one day.”

People involved in separations and divorces WILL have negative feelings towards the other parent, but it’s time for parents to act like adults and stop putting children in the crossfire. Getting a child to dislike or outright despise the other parent isn’t just wrong—it’s child abuse.