23 Responses to “Parental Alienation: Programming and Brainwashing”


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  1. Jim

    I think that’s exactly what my last girlfriend did with me. Always with the crap about people she didn’t like. Always on about my inadequacies, always subtly on about how I was a “bad” person. She would also say, “You are my strongest weakness.” As though there is something wrong with me or I’m evil “but” for her grace, she loves me or is just too weak to leave a retched such as myself. Then she put the dagger in deep with a punitive twist. She stepped out, completely justified her move on the count I was all wrong and bad. People do it with people all the time. I’ve done it with people, just in my venting of a particular situation because someone was an asshole or out of line with me. Oh well.

  2. kiwihelen

    Hi Dr T,

    Another great one. With regards to the joint counselling, there are co-parenting in separated family courses which are part of the process which is expected of separating parents in my own country.

    Seems to me, my SO’s STBX slept her way through this class, or used it for extra training on how to do PAS. :-(

    An additional strategy where there is joint custody, is for friends and family of the victimised parent (VP), who are the same gender as the alienating parent (AP), helping highlight the disonance between their AP “reality” and the kids are experiencing, when they are with their VP.

    In my role as a friend of my SO (which is all the kids know me as, since we are doing this as a long distance thing for now), and another female colleague of his, along with the wife of a close male friend, will all say to the kids in our conversations, why we appreciate and value the SO as a person, so the girls get to hear women saying their Dad is kind, organised, sharing, funny, nurturing, smart, etc

    With Eldest (age 13), when her Dad was having a particularly bad weekend, I ended up talking to her about the balance of her needs as a teen vs. their needs as a family. We’ve also talked about the idea of “changing the script” if there are constant battles on the same topic. She is realising that she has choices, and that is terrific to see.

    I am more worried about Youngest (10 years), who is golden child, and is struggling with transition between parental households, going from being babied and permitted all kinds of liberty, to being in a household where she is expected to follow age appropriate behaviour and rules. There is a LOT of anger in her and no chance that Mom would agree to counselling. We just have to keep working with what we have, acknowledging that she has the right to express anger, and trying to channel it into positive outlets.

    Any advice gratefully received!

  3. 3DShooter

    Parental alienation is one of the most hideous conducts that one can experience. I say this as a target parent of over five years – my oldest hasn’t spoken to me in that time (didn’t even get a graduation announcement) and the comments from the younger children make it quite clear what has/is going on. The inability/unwillingness of family law practitioners in addressing this problem has become the root of my hostility towards family law.

    As Dr. T points out asking to give examples is, in my opinion, the best/only weapon you have to counter such circumstances. And it can be very effective as far as it goes.

    A problem left unaddressed in the article is the age of the children as a factor. In my case, anecdotally, it appears that pre-teens and teenagers are far more susceptible to alienation tactics. Unfortunately, they can be bought off with a new Xbox, car or unlimited free time with friends (even when it is dad’s parenting time) – and you will be footing the bill for this conduct with full sanction and complicity of the courts.

    The reality as it exists today, in my corner of the world:

    1) Family law practitioners are reluctant/unwilling to pursue parental alienation even when it is clear and obvious.

    2) Custody evaluators (Dr. T’s fellow practitioners) are inadequately trained to recognize the behavior and would be reluctant to note it as they are ‘servants of the court’ (on your dime of course)

    3) The courts don’t care – ‘best interests of the child’, the court couldn’t give a rat’s backside. The court is there to maximize the Title-IVD funding stream – that is their only interest.

    4) Custody evaluators are protected by ‘shield laws’ which allow their report to be the final word. They cannot be challenged and they cannot be sued for malpractice. To me, this is a potential linchpin, remove the shield laws and start dragging these folks into court and there will be a paradigm shift in their conduct.

    For years, my oldest son and I participated in target archery together – he was one of the top shooters for his age in the state. He no longer participates. And, after years of hearing the question “Where’s [son's name]” I finally stopped going too. If I could find an attorney with a spine I’d go after it in a heartbeat – but it is too late for my oldest son.

    • ChrisH

      This post breaks my heart. I’m going through very similar things now and while I’m generally an optimist, my ex has exceed all expectations of talent and skill to become an absolute master at this game. It’s just heartbreaking.

      • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

        Really sorry this is happening to you and the children, ChrisH. I recommend you start visiting and reading father’s rights websites and learn as much about this condition as you can. I also recommend you look into parallel parenting, that is, if you’re still trying to co-parent with your ex.

  4. David M.

    There are degrees and different types of parental alienation. My ex -started off by saying I could see our daughter and then she would leave the house and not be there. Once I got a court order she was still hostile toward me when I picked up our daughter, but I persevered. Then she moved 200 miles away thinking that would end the relationship with my daughter. The court ordered her to meet me half-way and drive 100 miles. She didn’t like it and continued to be hostile. Then she wouldn’t use my last name with our daughter so I took her to court again. There have been times when my daughter is affectionate and loving with me all weekend and as soon as we get out of the car, at the pick up drop off place, she acts like she doesn’t know me. I know this is so her insecure mother doesn’t get angry with her. It really hurt me in the past but my daughter is becoming stronger and her own person so it doesn’t happen to the degree it did before. $30,000 dollars, 40,000 miles on the car and tons of hostility later I’m still in my daughters life. I’m waiting for the next blindsiding by my daughter’s mom. I feel for anyone who has to go through this. Thanks for the great articles and providing the valuable information you provide. David M.

  5. chris117

    Ok, I think I need to play a little devil’s advocate here to show how this can be thrown back at an abuse victim.  This is a real life scenario of a friend of mine although the throw back has not happened yet and pray it doesn’t.  Never the less I can see this happening despite the best intentions.  This is why documenting everything when children are involved is so important at any stage with an abuser.

    The wife is verbally abusive and has a family history of abuse (wife’s mother is a worse abuser than wife).  There are almost daily screaming matches between wife and her mother, and rest of her immediate family.  The child is early school age and is still being taught right and wrong behaviors.  There is a total lack of discipline or morals teaching by the mother and her side of the family.  The abusive side of the family’s stance is that as long as the child is quiet there is no need to watch her/him.

    The child is being taught right and wrong behaviors by the father through good parenting.  As the child begins to put all this information together in her/his mind the truth becomes apparent.  The child realizes that what the mother and grandmother do is wrong and starts to disengage from them.  The child when in their presence and they are screaming hides to get away from it. Or if given the choice often does not want to visit or want to be with them because of the constant screaming that occurs.  The child understands that this is her/his mother and still loves her despite her actions.

    The abusive mother looking for an attack route accuses the father of alienating the child from her and her family.  In reality they did this themselves by being abusive.

  6. 25years

    Great article.Great comments.This is a great way to receive an education about these cluster B’s.

    I am in the beginning stages of escaping the woman that has abused me and my children for all of these years. It is amazing how she started planting those seeds in my children at such an early age. Now all but one of my kids is in their 20’s, she still tells them what a bum I am. Luckily for me, she has spent the last 2 months in behavior centers for what began as a suicide attempt, mingled with health problems from anorexia. Her bad behavior is well documented and my children are getting educated (although they struggle with processing the information and experiences). Even as she was laying in the hospital, looking like “death warmed over”, she was able to find the strength to tell my children what a bad father and husband I was. Of course when I confronted her, it wasn’t her fault, it was mine.(She also claimed amnesia)

    Now her 2 months at a mental hospital are almost over. My biggest regret? That I had learned of this website before last Friday! All the wasted time I’ve spent in long distant couples counseling, oy! I have this urgent need to act, to be more proactive, to spare myself and my children, especially the on left at home, more pain than they’ve already gone through. I highly doubt that she’ll make it that easy.

  7. Henry Hoover

    Is there a term when a parent “self alienates”?

    My NPD STBX has been all but uninvolved in our daughter’s life since I filed for divorce, probably longer, but I was too wrapped up in her to notice.

    I have gone out of my way to get her more involved. I read early on in the divorce process about PA and determined that I was not going to do that to my child.

    But despite my best efforts, I can see my daughter and her mother growing more distant. There is no hostility, just detachment.

    Much the same way it was with our marriage.


  8. exscapegoat

    My mother did things like this a lot when it came to talking about my dad. And it extended far beyond parenting. She tried to make him sound like he was an utter foul up in the military too. But I recently came across his discharge records (he was discharged after an injury). There’s a lot of praise for him and his attitude from his supervising officer.

  9. D

    3 echoes to things others have said above:

    1) 3DShooter remarks that custody evaluators are protected by shield laws and cannot be sued for malpractice – basically this is both true and it’s resulting in horrible miscarriages of justice that are devastating to the lives of men and children and it has to stop – custody evaluations need to be out in the open, the product of committees not one incredibly empowered tyrant, transparent, standardized and subject to review and even lawsuit, otherwise if this is too much, the should be abolished so that judges are forced to do their jobs and actually investigate and think hard about individual cases

    2) Chris117 points out how this can be turned around against you – this is perversely true. Everything can be turned against you. No matter how well armed you are from sites like this, those determined to cling to stereotype and prejudice have already seen it and already have built-in prejudices and defense mechanisms.

    3) Henry Hoover mentions self-alienation. With cluster-Bs, this would seem like a predictable outcome that we should all be prepared for.

    The scary thing is that the prejudice and stereotypes (i.e.: “he is a male and he’s complaining that she’s abusive and violent … does not compute he must just have it in for her”) + self-alienation (i.e.: “I notice the kids hate their mother but seem to love their father) … comes together to yield a perverse conclusion: dad is alienating the children form their loving mother who most be loving because she cried in my office.

  10. george

    You mention, “You also need to get your kids into therapy with a mental health professional who understands the reality of parental alienation and how to combat it.” I agree, but how do you find such a person? My son currently has a court ordered psychologist, but he seems unwilling to do anything, even when the evidence is right in front of him. He’s just Dr. WishyWashy. “Well that could be parental alienation or it could just be …..” He just likes to continue to make up excuses for behaviors. It’s like, “Yes, these 1001 bits of evidence and bad behaviors could be accounted for by 1001 disjoint random unrelated excuses, OR more probably they can be explained by the one theme and documented behaviors which is parental alienation!” I feel like even if I had my ex’s alienation behaviors captured on video, he would still make up some abitrary excuse. Why are these professionals so blind or perhaps so afraid to step up and make the proper evaluation when it’s right in front of their eyes?

  11. ChrisH

    I read this article and I got chills. It’s so very dead-on to my situation it’s startling. I also wonder, as george asks, what’s the best way to find a therapist for the kids who understands and knows how to help us all correct this kind of manipulation?

    • Dr Tara J. Palmatier

      Start making calls to children’s therapists and ask them if they 1) believe PAS is a real phenomenon (many feminized female and male shrinks don’t) and 2) how do they treat it?

      If they say something like, “by letting the alienating, high-conflict parent have primary custody” keep looking. You don’t stop and reverse PAS by giving the alienating parent more time with the kids. You remove the kids from the alienating parent.

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