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The Recovery Expert
with Sharie Stines, Psy.D.

Parental Alienation: What NOT to do if you are the Targeted Parent of a Narcissist

If your ex is trying to alienate your children from you and are succeeding then here are some tips for things NOT to do in order to regain the love and admiration you need from your children:

  1. Beg your child to cooperate with you.
  2. Put yourself on an equal position to your child.
  3. Demonstrate weakness.
  4. Act without compassion.
  5. Exude a lack of confidence.
  6. Spend little time with your children.
  7. Ignore your intuition.
  8. Make every situation a crisis.
  9. Forget you’re in a psychological battle.
  10. Give away your power.

 

Make sure you never give your power away; particularly to your ex or your child. If others give you grief, never “buy in” to it or give up on yourself. Do not be weak and unstable. Try not to cry in front of your children frequently or demonstrate how powerless and weak you think you are. If you do any of these things, then your children might feel more secure around their narcissistic parent because he/she is always so confident and self-assured, while you appear to be a “wreck.” Make sure you never let this happen.

Do not act like a peer to your child. Remind yourself that you are the parent and are the decision maker in the relationship. It is always healthy to teach your child that his or her opinion is valuable, but in the case of parental alienation with a disrespectful child, negotiation needs to be done in such a way that your child knows who’s in charge (and it’s not him/her.) Children feel more secure when their parents set the boundaries.

Realize you are in a psychological battle. Act accordingly. That is to say, before you say anything to your alienating child, think about how the child feels and will feel when you talk. For example, many parents try to convince their child to do something, making statements such as, “It will be so much fun, please come with us.” If you think psychologically, what must your child be feeling after such a statement?  Shall we wager to assume that he/she will feel more valuable than the parent and will act accordingly?

To wage a psychological battle with parental alienation, it is essential that you think psychologically. Ask yourself some key questions. How does what I say and do affect my child? Am I reinforcing poor behavior? How can I help my child feel secure with me? Am I giving the impression that the narcissist has all the power?

Think in terms of relationship energy. Present yourself as the “Alpha” in the relationship. That is to say, demonstrate strength and confidence at all times. Do not let your child see you sweat or know if you ever feel worried about losing him/her. Your child will play off the energy you exude. Make sure your child feels your strength and knows YOU are in charge, not him/her.

Don’t worry about being cruel. Realize that being a strong parent give s your child a sense of security. As long as your child knows you are in charge he/she does not have to manipulate you through life to get his/her way. With security your child can rest assured that everything will be okay because you are making sure of that.

Demonstrate Empathy. Remember, you need to counteract the dysregulation of the other parent. Empathy from you must be mirrored at all times. This is not the same as being a doormat or wimp. This just means you seek to connect with confidence, you look your child in the eyes, you touch him/her with warmth; in essence, you are role-modeling what your child needs to learn and experience.

Reflect.  Do not have a power struggle with someone hell bent on alienating you. Instead, simply reflect what you see.  “I see that you are very angry with me and say that you don’t want to spend time with me.” Keep in mind that reflecting is mirroring. You are acting like a mirror to your child, repeat what you hear your child say.

You can also paraphrase what you hear him/her saying. When your child says, “I hate you!”  “You ruined our family!”  You simply say, “Wow, you are really mad right now,” and “You feel that your family is destroyed, which is really painful.”

Listen (without personalizing.) Practice active listening. Listen more than you talk. Don’t interrupt, disagree, or evaluate.  Try not to spend any time in your head thinking about what you’re going to say next. Simply focus on what the other person is saying.

Wait. Don’t act like you are in a rush to get things “fixed.” Act like you have all the time in the world. Remind yourself, “Easy does it.” Try to not make every interaction an urgent situation.

Remind yourself that you want voluntary agreement. In other words, you don’t want to have to coerce your child into a relationship with you. Let your child make the decision to be in the relationship. You job is to put yourself in his/her place and imagine how he/she feels. Don’t make assumptions, really give it some thought. Then you can figure out how to get your child to have the feelings of wanting to be with you.

You will win your child over by exerting your influence on him/her. This will happen after you practice empathy and active listening.

Don’t be controlling. The goal is to get your child to choose, freely, without you controlling his decisions. This will be difficult because you don’t want them to choose to be disrespectful to you. So you have to figure out how to demand respect and give him/her the freedom to choose to respect you. Remind yourself this is a psychological battle.  That means, if you try to control your child then psychologically he/she will resist and polarize, going further into the trap of the alienating parent.

Hold on to yourself. Make sure you keep yourself in check. Regardless of the grief you get from the other people in your life, hold on to who you are and trust yourself. Remind yourself that you need to stand strong and be stable. Even if you don’t feel like it – pretend. You can act yourself into a healthy emotional state. Remind yourself not to give your power away to any other person, including your child.

Remember that people do that which gives them a reward. Your child is a person and acts on this same principle – as everyone else. Your child is alienating you for a reason. Perhaps he/she feels that he/she will win the love of the narcissist better if he/she rejects you. Or, perhaps you seem weak and he/she doesn’t respect you because you present weakness to him and in the narcissist’s world, strength is of utmost value.

Children tend to gravitate toward strong, confident people. They don’t feel safe around adults who don’t have good boundaries and don’t generate strength. Rebellious kids want adults to prove themselves to be worthy of respecting. Try to get inside your kid’s head and understand what his/her payoff is from alienating you. This information will help you figure out how to win him/her over.

Take the advice of parenting books with caution.  “Typical” parenting books are not considering the dynamics of parental alienation. Read these books and take the information provided with discernment and caution.  Just because something is in writing, does not mean it’s useful or applicable to each individual situation.

 

References:

 

 

Barker, E. (2014). Hostage Negotiation Techniques That Will Get You What You Want. Barking up the Wrong Tree. Retrieved from: http://theweek.com/articles/447394/6-hostage-negotiation-techniques-that-what-want

Childress, C. (2015). An Attachment-Based Model of Parental Alienation: Foundations. Pasadena, CA: Oaksong Press.

Preston, A. (2004). Secrets to becoming the “Alpha Dog” & be your dog’s pack leader. Retrieved from: https://www.foreverhusky.org/images/guides/9AphaDogSecretsSiberian.pdf

Thompson, J. (2015). The 5 Core Skills of Hostage Negotiators. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/beyond-words/201510/the-5-core-skills-hostage-negotiators

 

Parental Alienation: What NOT to do if you are the Targeted Parent of a Narcissist

APA Reference
Stines, S. (2019). Parental Alienation: What NOT to do if you are the Targeted Parent of a Narcissist. Psych Central. Retrieved on March 21, 2019, from https://pro.psychcentral.com/recovery-expert/2019/01/parental-alienation-what-not-to-do-if-you-are-the-targeted-parent-of-a-narcissist/