Dr. Amy Baker On Parental Alienation, PAS, and Helping Your Kids Resist BothWritten by: Rob Print This Article
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Dr. Amy Baker is a researcher studying and reporting on parental alienation and parental alienation syndrome. As she explains, parental alienation refers to the behaviors and tactics used to cause children’s relationship with a parent to suffer. Parental alienation syndrome (PAS) refers to the effects on the child, especially when they become so severe that the child doesn’t want to spend time with a parent and expresses disgust and dislike for that parent without a valid reason.
In her book Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome, she discusses many case studies of parental alienation and presents summaries that show common alienation tactics and the long term damage to the children and the target parent.
The video below features Baker talking with WABC TV host Ken Rosato in 2009. She discusses what motivated her to study parental alienation and some of her findings on common alienating tactics and effects on children.
Target Parents Must Help Children Resist Alienation
Target parents, those being abused along with the children, can help keep their children suffering from parental alienation from succumbing to parental alienation syndrome. These parents need to help teach their children learn critical thinking and differentiate their opinions from those of their parents. They also need to avoid counter-alienation. While it is tempting to bash right back at the parent spreading lies and hate, this both directly hurts the children and also may cause them to further align with the alienating parent.
When the target parent is confronted with misinformation being repeated by the children, something they will often do either to try to get a reaction or because of genuine curiosity, it is important to correct the misinformation. But the focus must remain on correcting the lies, adding accurate context, and getting the children to think for themselves.
For instance, the children’s alienating parent has been telling the children that target parent has never cared about them, tried to kill the alienating parent with a chainsaw, screamed and yelled, and walked out on them. The target parent can correct this misinformation without attacking back.
He or she can talk about the many times they have done activities together, helping the kids fall asleep when they were babies, and so forth. Pulling out some pictures to show the kids of fun times together can help.
He or she can remind the kids that the family has a tree cutting business and then ask them what kind of tools are used for cutting down trees. They may reply “chainsaws” are among them. If not the parent can mention it. To finish this off, the parent can mention that sometimes cutting down trees is much faster and easier using chainsaws than other methods, but chainsaws are not to be used to hurt other people and the parent has never used one that way.
Regarding the screaming and yelling, arguments with the sort of people who are alienators are often infuriating. Many of them were abused as children and have learned very emotionally and verbally abusive communications styles. While the alienating parent may have been doing most of the screaming and yelling, it’s likely that it has been portrayed to the children as being all the fault of the target parent. The target parent can admit that both of them were yelling and screaming at each other and place it in context. “Kids, almost everybody sometimes yells and screams. It doesn’t make it right, but don’t you yell and scream at each other sometimes when you are fighting?” If the target parent has remarried or is in a new relationship and the kids are familiar with this, perhaps the parent can ask them if they have ever heard him or her yelling and screaming at the new partner. Another good question may be “Do you think I yell and scream at you?” For many target parents, the answers to both these questions will be no because they know how to manage their emotions around people who are not being emotionally and verbally abusive as alienators tend to be in many of their relationships.
Finally, as for walking out on the family, the parent can point out that the other parent told the court the same false statements to get him or her kicked out of the house. Even though it is very wrong to do so, courts often treat lies as the truth until they can be proven otherwise and in the meantime treat the people who were lied against very poorly. The parent probably knows a few other people who have had this happen, mentioning this may also help drive home the point.
Note that all of this focus on the facts and full context, not on bashing the alienating parent. Anything the target parent can do to get the kids to recall their own positive memories and their own more accurate recollection of events is helpful. But if the children start to get stressed out by the conversation, then it is better to discontinue it and try again later. Even if the points haven’t been fully made, dwelling on them to the children’s discomfort is not helpful.
Alienating Parents Are Like Cult Leaders
Baker has found that the long-term effects of parental alienation are similar to those of exposure to cults. The alienating parent is effectively a cult leader.
Some target parents find that the alienating parents have previous involvement in cults. Some may have been the cult of their own alienating parents. Others may have been involved in religious cults which use similar strategies of isolating the victims, stripping away their psychological defenses, causing self-doubt, and making them dependent and aligned with the cult leader.
In some cases, alienating parents will work with a cult to brainwash and control their children as part of the parental alienation tactics they employ. Such tactics are often much more effective on children than adults because the children are still psychologically immature and not used to thinking for themselves.
Sadly, religious organizations like churches sometimes allow themselves to be turned into alienation cults. They hear horror stories from the alienating parent and then aligning with that parent and help abuse the children with hateful messages about the target parent. Churches and church members under the influence of alienating parents can become very abusive themselves.
Just as deprogramming a person from a cult is very difficult, so is undoing the effects of parental alienation syndrome.
A much better approach is to do all you can to inoculate your children against brainwashing by teaching them critical thinking and helping them to practice it.
Introducing Others to Parental Alienation
One of the best ways to convey the true destruction that parental alienation causes and how alienators engage in their brainwashing is by passing along a good book on the topic. This helps establish that it is a legitimate problem recognized by experts, it hurts childly badly, and it can grow far worse than what is likely evident in your situation to date. Adult Children of Parental Alienation Syndrome: Breaking the Ties That Bind is an excellent choice. Below is an excerpt from the book that introduces the book by outlining the cases of three alienated children that author Amy Baker interviewed along with introductory observations about parental alienation. It gives a flavor for how she’s approaching her study and shows her writing is engaging and not overly academic. I enjoyed the book myself.
Kate’s angry divorcing mother alienates her from her father, making her question everything he does and believing that he must not love her. Over time Kate figures out her mother is a hateful emotional manipulator and eventually moves in with her father who she appreciates for how he has always loved her and refused to engage in ugly brainwashing.
Larissa’s story involves her alienating mother who remains married to her father despite teaching Larissa to hate him. Like Kate, she eventually figures it out and reduces contact with her mother but maintains contact with her father.
In case you mistakenly believe that only mothers are alienators, Jonah’s case shows otherwise. His divorced alcoholic father teaches him to hate his mother and spy on and verbally and physically abuse her. He ends up totally enmeshed with his abusive father and suffers from having no relationship with his mother.
Amazon Kindle for the Web
A tip for using the Amazon Kindle for the Web reading tool below is to click the full-screen expanding box to the right of the “Aa” settings button to let you see more text at once. That box will expand to full-screen. Click it again to return to the normal view.
Use the arrow buttons to flip pages left or right, or you can use the left and right arrow keys on your keyboard. The viewer may start on the first page of regular content in the book. If so, you can view the publishing credits and table of contents by flipping backwards several pages.
If you’re interested enough to buy it and money is a concern (as it is for many parents suffering the onslaught of alienators who often also financially assault their targets) note that the Kindle edition of the book costs less and you can read it on your computer or phone if you don’t have a dedicated Kindle reader.
|Child Abuse, Children, Divorce, Domestic Violence, Family, Marriage, Parental Alienation, Psychology|