The generation game: grandparenting and parental alienation

My in-laws were not permitted contact with their grandchildren when the grandchildren’s mother became angry or upset.  Whether she was angry or upset at my in-laws, or their son, her way of handling that anger was by keeping her children from their grandparents.  It’s not surprising that those grandchildren decided to behave in the exact same manner when they became parents.

We just read this blog about grandparenting and parental alienation and thought we would share it here.

The generation game: grandparenting and parental alienation.

The Narcissistic Mother

Narcissistic moms blame everyone else for the consequences their own self absorbed choices have caused. It often falls to friends and family members to point out the extreme oddity of the narcissistic mother’s ways and recommend treatment. Even when offered help, a narcissist is more likely to be offended than to seek treatment.

Ironically, though the people around the narcissistic mother can identify the source of their suffering, the narcissist does not believe she is the one who should change.

Therefore, it is unlikely your mother sought treatment for narcissism.  In contrast, she may have put you in treatment with the hope that you would become easier to deal with.

Children and spouses are the ones who often suffer most, not the narcissist themselves, because the narcissist doesn’t feel that their chronically self-absorbed behavior is just that. Quite the opposite, actually. The narcissistic mother feels that everyone else is at fault when things go wrong.

Narcissism, at its extreme, is a mental disorder called Narcissistic Personality Disorder, (NPD), characterized by exaggerated feelings of self-importance, fantasies of success, power, and physical attractiveness that the person may or may not possess, a constant need for attention and admiration, and obsessive self-interest. These are the obvious symptoms that people think of when they think of the term “narcissism.”

There are a cluster of personality disorders, including NPD, that are on the narcissistic spectrum described by the Diagnostic Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV) and they include Borderline Personality Disorder as well as Histrionic Personality Disorder.  [Source: ]


Our alienating parent has, for many years, accused me of certain behavior when she, herself, is actually the person behaving in that manner.  Our alienating parent claims “I have a stalker,” when she spends hour, upon hour, upon hour viewing our various websites. “Some people use genealogical sites to harm others,” when she posts her personal comments, feelings and observations under the names of deceased individuals, even though those deceased individuals have nothing to do with the posted comments. The list goes on and on …..

People have come to us with the theory that, judging by her behavior, our alienating parent suffers from Projection. So we spent some time looking into “Projection.” And here is what we found:

Projection: The act of attributing one’s own feelings or traits to another person and imagining or believing that the other person has those same feelings or traits.

Because people with Personality Disorders have an unstable view of themselves, sometimes they can lose track of where their own identity ends and someone else’s begins. In psychological terms, this is known as an Identity Disturbance. [This is interesting, given our alienating parent’s habit of becoming interested in matters that I am interested in: genealogy, photography, etc.]

[Identity disturbance is a multifaceted construct that distinguishes patients with borderline personality disorder from other patients. Some of its components are related to a history of sexual abuse, whereas others are not. Identity disturbance appears to be characteristic of borderline patients whether or not they have an abuse history.]

As these Identity Disturbances blur the lines between the self and others, sometimes people with Personality Disorders will attribute their own personal and psychological characteristics to others. This practice is known as projection.

In some forms it’s relatively harmless, such as a Personality Disordered person believing their own likes, dislikes, feeling, opinions or beliefs actually belong to another person.

It can however become malignant when it involves attribution of the Personality Disordered individuals own actions, words, blame, fault, hatred, liability or flawed character onto another. This is especially the case when the Projection then becomes justification for some form of punishment or abuse. [Our alienating parent was abused by her own father as a child.]

Projection can either be conscious – where the perpetrator knows they are deliberately deflecting blame or liability onto another person – or subconscious – where the perpetrator is unaware they are distorting or dissociating the facts.

Sometimes it is simply the result of good old fashioned Blaming – where blame or responsibility for a problem is conveniently attributed to another person. Projection can also occur as a result of Dissociation and a departure from reality-based thinking. It’s extremely difficult to prove if a Personality Disordered person believes their own statements of Projection, which also means it is generally an exercise in futility trying to argue the case for your own reality.

The Pawns ….

“The Pawns

Children of Sociopaths have a high probability of becoming The Pawns. Like a game of chess, the Sociopath strategically & methodically uses the innocent child/children for their game of manipulation and control. And too frequently, Parental Alienation happens. Parental Alienation involves destructive actions by an aligned parent to discredit and sabotage the parent in the eyes of the alienated child. The aligned parent will ‘program’ the child/children that the other parent is mean, unloving, uncaring, selfish and worthless. By these repeated words about you and your character, the child/children will believe they will be happier if you are out of their life. As with any manipulation, the child/children may hate the other parent, which in turn leads to mental & emotional problems for the child/children. Some of these children will be scarred for life, and possibly turn on both parents. Some have difficulty trusting and forming loving relationships later on in life.”  [Source: ]

And the saddest part …. the children don’t even realize they’ve been manipulated.

Losing a parent ……

When a child loses a parent because of a health issue, an automobile accident or some other tragic situation, people offer the child support and sympathy.  They reaffirm for the child how much they were loved by the parent they lost.  They encourage the child to remember the good memories of the lost parent.  People do everything they can to help the child through the pain of losing a parent, and try to help them survive the trauma associated with that loss.

It’s a tragedy for a child to lose a parent, especially when the child is still young.

Can you even imagine a parent who would purposely contrive for the loss of their child’s other parent?  And, instead of grieving with that child, celebrates the child’s loss?

…… I can’t ……

HAP — Hostile Aggressive Parenting

“HAP stands for Hostile Aggressive Parenting and is a severe form of mental and emotional abuse often used in separation and custody cases to align the child or children involved against the other parent. This behavior stems from a bully and often abusive partner who no longer has control over the other person. The child(ren) are often the only weapons they have against their partner and a last ditch effort to regain control over the other person’s life.

Forms of Hostile Aggressive Parenting include:

* Alienating the child from the other parent
* Not involving the other parent in life affecting decisions of the child.
* Limiting contact between the other parent and the child and/or supervising visitations and communications with the child without a court order.
* Creating a hostile environment during visitation and/or trying to control how the other parent spends their time with the child.
* Using threats or enticements to persuade a child to say or write hurtful things to the other parent.
* Making degrading or diminitive comments about the other parent to the children or in front of the child.
* Making false accusations about the other parent.
* Threatening the child or otherwise persuading the child to alledge false accusations.
* Actively trying to denegrate the role of the other parent in the life of the child.

Hostile Aggressive Parenting is often used by parents that have severe control issues, abusive personalities or histories of abuse, codependency, and that view the child as yet another means to control the life and inflict harm on the other parent. They view the child as a possessionrather than as a little human being. The damage this behavior leaves in a child’s emotional and mental growth is staggering.”

[Source: ]

When will the cycle end?

We are in a difficult position:  our alienating parent was a victim of child abuse, at the hands of her own father.  Our hearts, of course, go out to any child who was the victim of child abuse.  But what happens when that victim then becomes an adult, and in turn, abuses her own children, by putting her skewered feelings and thoughts ahead of the interests of her own children?

We’ve seen one domestic relations judge say:  While *** suffered from anxiety and depression, she wasn’t insane; she was arrogant, entitled, abusive, selfish and controlling.  She played the victim at every turn.  When anyone held her accountable for her conduct, she reacted with the ultimate narcissistic act of control, with no concern for the children she professed to love so much.

That describes our alienating parent to a T.

She has sought short-term help for depression.  She’s arrogant, abusive … and definitely selfish.  Her feelings outweighed any thought of what was best for her children.

A victim …  who then went on to make her own children victims.

When will the cycle end?

New Spouses Aren’t Exempt From The High-Conflict Personality

I’m sharing a post from “Keep Your Head Without Losing Your Mind” because it struck so many chords with me, coming into a marriage five years after a high conflict divorce …. and continuing to deal with my husband’s ex and her high-conflict behavior thirty years later. Here is the post: “Weddings are seen as a new beginning.  Re-marriages start with the same hope.  But when a new spouse comes into the aftermath of a high conflict divorce, they face difficulties that other new spouses do not.  The divorce decree isn’t the end for a high conflict couple.  In most divorces, the couple’s anger dissipates over the first few years after the decree.  For an HC couple, the high conflict personality cannot let go.  they continue to attack the target (now ex) spouse. So the new spouse comes into a war zone.  They see their new partner in pain, and want to help.  But there are no guidelines in this relationship.  The HCP will likely strike out at the new spouse, too.  And now drawn into the hostilities.  What are ways to be supportive without raising emotions even higher?

  • Do not bash the HCP ex with your new husband/wife or in front of his children.
  • That said, make sure you have a friend or therapist you can talk to.  You will need to unload your anger, fear, frustration in a safe space.  Where you can say what you need without editing yourself.
  • Be confident in your relationship and your parenting skills.  Do not let the HCP drag you down with their allegations.
  • Likewise, do not get drawn into the fight, as long as the HCP has not placed you directly in the legal battle.
  • Court battles can be expensive.  Work together to create a budget.  It’s very common to end up deeply in debt with legal fights, you do not want to add bankruptcy to the challenges of a new marriage.
  • Be understanding when the children act out.  They feel the stress too and may not have any outlet for their emotions.  Talk with your spouse about appropriate discipline to make sure that you are not seen as too involved.  However, it is also important for the children to understand there are boundaries.
  • Take time for you and your new husband/wife to have private time.  Your relationship needs nurturing, especially in the early years.
  • Set aside “legal free” time.  During these days or weekends, do not talk about any legal matters, do not talk about the ex-spouse.  Enjoy your life.
  • Say I love you, a lot.

Remember, the fight won’t be forever.  When it ends, celebrate and enjoy your new family.

Online Seminar on Diagnosis and Treatment

Craig Childress, Psy.D. will be presenting an online seminar through the Masters Lecture Series of California Southern University regarding the Diagnosis and Treatment of an attachment-based model for “parental alienation” on November 21, 2014 from 10:00-12:00 Pacific Standard Time.  Here are the details about Dr. Childress’ seminar:

“This seminar is offered free to the general public and the seminar will be recorded and made available online through California Southern University’s Master Lecture Series for later viewing.

Registration for this online seminar regarding the Diagnosis and Treatment of attachment-based “parental alienation” is at:

This Diagnosis and Treatment seminar is a follow-up to my earlier online seminar regarding the Theoretical Foundations for an attachment-based model of “parental alienation” that I delivered on July 18 through the Masters Lecture Series of California Southern University, and which is currently available at:

My hope is that these two companion seminars will provide foundational information for mental health professionals in understanding, diagnosing, and treating the family dynamics associated with “parental alienation,” so that these seminars can serve as a resource to which targeted parents can refer diagnosing and treating mental health professionals to improve their understanding for the issues involved.

An attachment-based model for the construct of “parental alienation” is based entirely within standard and established psychological principles and constructs.  Within the field of mental health, all of these constructs are fully recognized and fully accepted psychological principles and constructs.

The family systems constructs of the child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through the formation of a cross-generational coalition of the child with one parent against the other parent is an established psychological principle within family systems therapy (Haley, 1977; Munichin, 1974).  Minuchin refers to this cross-generational coalition as a “rigid triangle,” Haley refers to it as a “perverse triangle.”

“The rigid triangle can also take the form of a stable coalition. One of the parents joins the child in a rigidly bounded cross-generational coalition against the other parent.” (Minuchin, 1974, p. 102)

“The people responding to each other in the triangle are not peers, but one of them is of a different generation from the other two… In the process of their interaction together, the person of one generation forms a coalition with the person of the other generation against his peer. By ‘coalition’ is meant a process of joint action which is against the third person… The coalition between the two persons is denied. That is, there is certain behavior which indicates a coalition which, when it is queried, will be denied as a coalition… In essence, the perverse triangle is one in which the separation of generations is breached in a covert way. When this occurs as a repetitive pattern, the system will be pathological.” (Haley, 1977, p. 37)

Narcissistic and borderline personality disorder processes are recognized forms of pathology within the DSM diagnostic system (American Psychiatric Association, 2013) and are fully elaborated and described by preeminent theorists in professional psychology (e.g., Beck, et. al. 2004; Kernberg, 1977; Linehan, 1993; Millon, 2011).

The attachment system is a well-established and accepted psychological construct within professional psychology, with substantial theoretical foundation and research support (Ainsworth, 1989; Bowlby, 1969; 1973; 1980; Bretherton, 1992).

There is nothing new or controversial in any of these psychological principles or constructs.  They are all established and accepted psychological principles and constructs with which all mental health professionals should be familiar as a matter of professional competence, particularly if they are diagnosing and treating issues involving a child’s triangulation into the spousal conflict through a cross-generational coalition of the child with a narcissistic/(borderline) parent that results in the induced suppression of the normal-range functioning of the child’s attachment system.

While targeted parents do not possess the professional background, training, and expertise in professional psychology to explain the application of these established psychological principles and constructs to the mental health professionals involved with their families, I do.

In these two online seminars I explain to other mental health professionals the application of these accepted psychological principles and constructs to the family processes traditionally described as “parental alienation.”  Hopefully this professional-level dialogue can begin to shift the mental health community into greater professional expertise and responsiveness to the needs of targeted parents and their children that will be necessary if we are to resolve the family tragedy of “parental alienation” for all families in all cases.”

Craig Childress, Psy.D.
Clinical Psychologist, PSY 18857

Thanks …. but no thanks

As some of you may recall, I wrote an open letter to my step-daughter, who has been estranged from her father (my husband) for many years.  She is also currently in jail and at her sentencing hearing, she made a comment to the effect that henceforth in her life, she will make the proper decisions in her life.  That comment is what prompted me to write the open letter to her.

The letter was to her — not to her mother.  Yet, I have heard from several different sources that our alienating parent has posted on a genealogy website (of course, because that’s where it belongs right?) that she has responded to my open letter to her daughter through a post on her blog.

We wrote an earlier post about women who suffer from Golden Uterus Complex:
“GU [Golden Uterus] and child are a two-fer. If you want to have your child in your life after you separate or divorce, the GU believes she’s a part of some twisted package deal. A golden uterus doesn’t understand (or refuses to acknowledge) that you can love and have an independent relationship with the children without her in the middle of it. GUs will try to impose themselves into your individual relationships with the children….”

As usual, our alienating parent has to interject herself into any relationship her children might have with their father and step-mother. Her daughter is an adult and can certainly get in touch with me, without posting a reply on her alienating mother’s blog. Especially since she is in jail and it is highly unlikely she has access to her mother’s blog in any event.

Will I go to our alienating parent’s blog and read her response to my letter to my step-daughter? No ….. thanks, but no thanks.