Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

Protecting Children From Parental Alienation

The trifecta of values that can help inoculate a child from parental alienation

Posted Apr 26, 2018

In my coaching practice I have the opportunity to speak with hundreds of targeted parents, people who are really in the trenches of alienation, doing what they can to preserve, protect, or repair their relationship with their children. I am often deeply moved by their struggles and their valiant efforts to maintain a loving presence in the face of ongoing denigration, devaluation, and marginalization. Sometimes in my coaching I realize that I am saying the same thing to multiple parents. That usually means that I have stumbled on something that appears to be applicable to a number of targeted parents. Once it comes to my attention that I have found a new and hopefully helpful way to talk about alienation, I will then blog about it with the hope that it will be of interest to readers as well.

The most recent example of this is my conceptualization of three values as being central to the protection of a parent-child relationship. The first of these values is integrity, by which I mean, the child’s ability to know his own thoughts and feelings, to have a boundary between his truth and the distorted version presented by the favored parent.  The second value is compassion, by which I mean the child’s ability to be kind and considerate towards a parent even if the parent has hurt or disappointed him. The third essential value is forgiveness. If a child embraces the value of forgiveness she will be able to accept that the targeted parent is an imperfect human being and is worthy of love and respect nonetheless. If a child embraces these values, it seems to me, it will be harder (if not impossible) for a parent to (1) convince the child of something that is not true, (2) foster a child’s cruel devaluation of that parent, and (3) have the child feel that a parent’s normative flaws are impossible to forgive. That is, a child who embraces these values will be true to himself, respectful and kind to a parent even when the parent frustrates or hurts him, and will accept that the parent is not perfect.

Once we know the essential role of these values in protecting a child from being alienated, the question for targeted parents is how to foster the development of these values in a child. Here are some ideas to get you started. First, if you see your child already exhibiting an expression of one or more of these values, observe it and reflect it back to the child with praise and perhaps some discussion about the child’s thought process. Ideally, the child will own the value as something that is essential to his understanding of who he is. Second, be a role model of the value and speak out loud about the choices you make to reflect that value in your own life. Third, observe and discuss characters in books and movies who do and do not embody these values and how that works for them. I would love to hear from other people about how they have instilled and fostered these values in their child. I will try to blog about these suggestions in the future.