When most of us think of parental alienation, we think of the removal of children from the lives of their fathers, of kids being brainwashed into thinking ill of dad, to disrespect and devalue him, and being slowly poisoned into emotional distance and even hatred.
All of this is true.
However, one of the things about parental alienation that we don’t discuss as often is when children, particularly during adolescence, begin emulating the abusive treatment of the alienating mother toward their father.
Teenagers who treat the father like he is an emotional dumping ground, shoveling out disrespect in the same way modeled by mom, often still maintain the expectations that dad will act as a selfless provider. He is expected to either open up his wallet on demand or drop whatever he is doing in life to attend to desires for which they have not bothered to plan in advance.
Failure to comply often results in more hostility and more demonization. Sadly, alienated fathers often cave in to this kind of abuse and manipulation and are rarely, if ever, rewarded for it. If and when they finally set boundaries, like telling the teen, “I would love to see you, but I have other plans for this evening. How about tomorrow night,” the teen then uses that to justify hurling abuse at dad and as proof that dad is as bad as mom says.
Yes, teenagers can be abusers, just like the crazy ex wife.
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Weeks before we decided to divorce, my oldest daughter dumped on me in an incredibly fierce way in response to me refusing to cave to a minor demand of hers. In the email, she accused me of all sorts of things. My ex had been trying to alienate her since she was 14, telling her things no parent should ever tell a teen, and it appeared to have worked. It was especially devastating since, to be candid, she is my favorite child and we’ve had a special bond since the day she was born (which I know annoyed my ex.)
I wrote a very careful response, thought out response. She didn’t speak to me for a month. Meanwhile, I asked my then wife if she agreed with her daughter. My ex refused to answer, which was one of the most important factors in the divorce for me.
Fast forward. Months after the divorce, my daughter and I had several very long talks, during which I told her the truth about her parents’ marriage. I also warned her about some of her mothers behaviors, such as acting like a three year old. It was the only thing about which my daughter said I was exaggerating.
Five months later, my daughter called me late one night and said, “Dad, I’m sorry. You were right.” As I suspected, without being able to rage at me, my ex had done so to our daughter. (For reasons I don’t understand, my ex hasn’t since raged at our other kids, though I think it’s partly because your youngest was always a mommy’s girl every bit as much as her sister was a daddy’s girl from birth. Although my youngest refuses to talk about our divorce, I strongly suspect she knows far more than she lets on and simply doesn’t want to make enemies of either of us.)
Dr Tara Palmatier says
I’m glad your daughter found her way out of the lies, Jason. I’m sorry she had the ex’s venom directed at her. Eventually, the children of these types will need to make some tough decisions, that is, if they can acknowledge the truth about them. Sometimes the cognitive dissonance and fear is too great.
Dr Tara Palmatier says
Here’s the link to the article I mention in the video about ending a relationship with a family member:
Until a few weeks ago, I spent several years letting my two teenage daughters run all over me – being expected to be around all weekend, not replying to messages, continually changing agreed catch ups. I was spending all the time alone in a tiny apartment waiting for calls that never came and missing on quality time with a new partner who loves me and tolerates my peculiar respectful treatment of a toxic BPD ex spouse and selfish teenagers. The line from my ex has always been ‘you need to be there in case the girls need you in case of emergency etc etc’. For the past month I have turned the phone off and gone away with my partner, who adores me. This is after clearly telling the girls I was away and giving them clear contact details. Then my unpleasant ex tells me the girls had no idea where I was…all lies, and I have put a stop to it. The sad thing is that my ex has convinced my girls never to see me and partner together, so we don’t, very sad but nothing I can do about it.
win eaton says
My oldest daughter, 18, has tried. I just shut her down. It wasn’t easy to start with but I knew I wasn’t going to deal with it. Especially after spending so much time and effort on dealing with the same issue with my ex for so many years before the divorce. My 16 year old who lives with me is fantastic. We effectively communicate, laugh, spend a lot of time together, etc. all the things that make me feel great about being her Dad. She’ s also with me more than 80% of the time so it just reinforces in my mind that being able to provide her with a calm, normal environment has a positive affect on her development.
Over 7 months ago, my eldest daughter of 18 turned on me. My ex and I divorced 3 years ago, after a 20 year marriage that would make hell look like heaven. My eldest was always very close to me–she stood by me during the divorce, and was often the only one who showed me any love during my 20 year nightmare called ‘marriage’. The incident that precipitated her behavior doesn’t in the least explain her refusal to talk to me. The only thing explains her behavior is that my ex has constantly spread lies and misinformation about me. So far, I have refused to say anything negative to our children about their mother. I hope one day she will come around, but losing her was far worse than anything I’ve experienced.