What Are Typical Behaviors Or Attitudes Of An Alienating Parent?

Although very experienced in all aspects of family law, Kelly Peterson also has specific expertise for and specializes in cases involving parental alienation, gatekeeping, and parent time interference.

Alienating, gatekeeping, and interfering parents often engage in or have the following behaviors and attitudes:

  • Badmouth and disparage the other parent– Sometimes this is done in subtle ways, such as reminding the child of something bad the other parent has done, comparing and contrasting the strengths of the alienating parent with the weaknesses of the target parent, etc. It is not uncommon for an alienating parent to subtly disparage the other parent through prayer with the child. For example an alienating parent might pray, “Dear God, please bless the child’s other parent. Please bless that Johnny’s other parent won’t be such an alcoholic anymore.”
  • Cause fear in the child about the other parent – This can be done in numerous ways. A few examples are to inform the child of something horrific the other parent has done, whether it is true or not. Sometimes when the alienating parent ceases such behavior, what the alienating parent has told the child is so horrific that the damage has already been done. The child becomes like a pre-programmed or wind-up toy moving forward along the track of fear and rejection of the non-favored parent. Sometimes a parent does this by repeatedly expressing comfort to the child due to the fact that they “have” to go to the other parent’s home. There are other ways also.
  • Refer to the target parent by their first name
  • Withhold important information from the target parent
  • Fail to properly co-parent with a non-favored parent – For example, they fail to give the other parent significant information regarding the children.
  • Fail to involve the other parent in decision-making
  • Fail to support the other parent’s relationship with the children
  • Fail to communicate with the other parent regarding the children
  • Use the child to communicate with the other parent, instead of communicating directly with their co-parent.
  • Involve the child in parental conflict – putting the child “in the middle” – This might include telling the child such things as “I really wish I could send you to that soccer tournament. Unfortunately, your mom/dad has not paid child support.” Or “Tell your mom not to honk the horn when she comes to pick you up.”
  • Fail to facilitate a relationship between the target parent and other people who have a degree of care over the child such as coaches, teachers, doctors, therapists. etc. The alienating parent might keep the target parent’s name off of medical forms, academic records, or emergency contact forms. Sometimes an alienating parent will go so far as to inform those others involved in the child’s life how awful the non-favored parent is and explain the list of horribles about the non-favored parent.
  • Fail to engage in constructive attempts to resolve disputes with the other parent
  • Fail to comply with court orders regarding the children
  • Overburden the child with adult information – They might discuss litigation or financial problems caused by the other parent with the child.
  • Ask a child to spy on the target parent or interrogate the child about what is going on in the other parent’s home
  • Undermine the authority of the non-favored parent – They might suggest that the other parent is too strict or tell the child that they do not have to listen to the target parent.
  • Force the child to choose who the child wants to live with or which is the favorite parent
  • Withdraw love and affection from the child if the child fails to favor them – It is not unusual for an alienated child to gravitate to the parent they fear or distrust the most. This seems counterintuitive, but if a child feels secure in the love and affection of one parent and feels insecure in the love and affection of the other, very often they wish to please the parent they feel insecure with and take steps to do so. The ultimate show of loyalty to an alienating parent is the rejection of the non-favored parent.
  • Ask the child to keep secrets from the non-favored parent
  • Refer to step-parents as “Mom” or “Dad” in front of the child and suggesting the child do the same
  • Limit, gatekeep, or interfere with contact, parent time and telephone calls/virtual parent time with the target parent

Kelly Peterson – Specialist For Cases Involving Parental Alienation, Gatekeeping, and Parent Time Interference.

For information on how to deal with Typical Behaviors Of An Alienating Parent, an initial consultation is your next best step. Contact Us online or call us to arrange a consultation at (801) 616-3301 today.

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*Child Welfare Law Specialist Nat’l Assoc. of Counsel for Children