I was on Facebook early this morning, around 5am to be exact, when I came across a post that said: “When a narcissist can no longer control you, they will instead try to control how others see you”. In that moment it became abundantly clear to me why some parents begin to attack their partner or ex-partner through their children.
There comes a time in a marriage or after a divorce when the controlling partner suddenly realises that they are no longer able to control their partner or ex-partner. It must be quite a blow to someone who is self-absorbed and controlling when they realise that their partner or ex-partner simply does not care. These people then make a last-ditched effort to attack their exes or to try and “get to them” by changing the opinion that other people have of them.
“It must be quite a blow to someone who is self-absorbed and controlling when they realise that their partner or ex-partner simply does not care.”
A few signs that you or your partner are trying to alienate one another in the eyes of the children:
- Venting to your child about the issues in your failed marriage, especially when you are trying to paint the other parent in a bad light. I’ve often heard a parent defend themselves by saying “but it’s the truth”. To this I would like to respond with two comments:
- There is a huge difference between honesty and integrity.
- A truth told with bad intention is worse than any lie.
- Not letting your child transport their own property between residences. There seems to be a theory that “I bought it for you, so it will stay here!” However, you bought it for them so they get to decide where and when they use or wear it. The gifts you give your children are theirs, you have not loaned it to them with conditions.
- Asking your child to “spy” on their co-parent and report back or perhaps even worse, going onto their phones or one of their profiles to spy on the conversations that they may be having with their other parent or friends.
- Reacting in a way that makes your child feel guilty for enjoying time spent with their co-parent. I have witnessed this over and over when a child returns form a visit and one of the parents then questions and criticises everything about the visit until the child is eventually in tears and threatening never to go back.
- There are other signs like offering your child a choice whether they want to visit the other parent when the visits are court-mandated; forcing your child to choose between both parents; disrupting visitation with the co-parent, or creating tempting alternatives when your child is supposed to be with the co-parent.
Four simple signs you may just be a “Toxic Parent”
- You always put your own feelings before those of your children.
- You try to control your children using guilt.
- You demand the attention of your children.
- They are simply scared of you.
Four simple things you can use to make life just a little bit easier for the children:
- Put yourself in your kids’ shoes. Yes, you are in pain; yes, you are angry, confused and even bitter but try and imagine how the children feel. Not only does your retaliation bring you down to a level you really do not want to stoop to, but it also leaves the children feeling like they are stuck in the middle.
- Just reassure them that you love them! And do it often. Let them come to understand that this is not their fight. It is between the two of you and they have neither caused it.
- Take a deep breath and structure your response really carefully considering all the factors from both sides and then say absolutely nothing! It is hugely empowering and puts you back in control.
- And, finally, don’t ever bring your kids into the fight. It is as simple as that.
There was a time when I was going through a particularly difficult period. I was filled with anger and resentment and a real desire to strike out verbally, when I met with a good friend of mine. He is a rabbi and an extremely learned man and after listening to me, he turned to me and asked:
“Do you play chess?”
“Yes, I do” I replied. “I was quite a player as a schoolboy.”
“Great!” he said. “Then tell me, what is the most important move in chess?”
“Checkmate, of course!”
“The opening move?”
“Setting up the board?”
“Ok, I give up. What is the most important move in chess?”
“The next move!” he replied. “The next move will determine the path of the entire game and you get to make the next move, so choose it wisely and remember it will impact on everything from here on out.”
So, you get to make the next move … choose it carefully!
Mike Said is a marketer, public speaker, committed dad and part-time adrenaline junky, who dedicates his blog to his only daughter, Sasha. When she came into his life 15 years ago, he was going to teach her right from wrong and how to be a good person. He was going to teach her to live her life to the full, to see the fun in all she does, to suck the marrow from the bones of life and to never waste a single second. Little did he realise she would be the one to teach him all these things and more. You can find him at www.daddyblogger.co.za or www.mikesaidwhat.co.za