Unfortunately, not all children are taught to love and respect each other, their parents, or the new spouse of a parent. Some parents in the midst of a divorce or those that have already divorced will attempt to negatively influence their child’s feelings about the other parent. Children that are targeted for hate by a parent learn more than how to just to judge and despise the other parent, they begin to develop negative feelings about those that are connected to that parent as well. Negative feelings can extend beyond the parent to the parent’s new spouse or partner. The child is now being taught how to hate in general. Once a child is being taught to hate or develop resentment for his or her parent and the parents new spouse they often start paying attention to the negative aspects rather than the positive. The child will not notice or will minimize the parent or step parent’s positive traits but will focus on the traits perceived to be negative. Instead of discouraging the child’s negative feelings about the other parent and his or her spouse some alienating parents will encourage the child’s feelings. Negative feelings are usually fueled and encouraged by the alienating parent because they feel threatened by the child’s feelings for the other parent and his or her new spouse.
Alienating parents often fail to understand once the seeds of hate have been planted a significantly damaged tree will grow. Teaching a child how to hate is teaching a child to be a negative person in general. If a child is taught to hate a parent over perceived personality or parenting “flaws” and his or her step parent due to a hostile ex’s brainwashing, this outward hostility only escalates. Uncorrected hostility builds and intensifies with time making it difficult for a child to make a positive healthy adjustment to their parent’s divorce, separation, or new spouse. Not only is the alienated parent badmouthed and maligned, but in most cases so are his or her relatives (and thus the child’s, too). Children learn by watching and mimicking the behaviors of parents and guardians making it easier for alienating parents to corrupt the views and beliefs of a child. Children develop into adults through a combination of their own inherent nature (DNA) and nurture (parenting), but when they are consistently bombarded by negative feelings of hatred it an extremely difficult and lengthy process to reverse the effects.
Here Are Some Potential Consequences of Teaching a Child to Hate:
- Negative or judgmental personality
- Poor adjustment
- Difficulty trusting others
- Difficulty initiating and maintaining relationships
- Poor relationship quality
- Aggressive/defiant behavior
- Low self-esteem
- Guilt or confusion surrounding negative feelings about the other parent
Every child has the right to have a loving and healthy relationship with both his or her parents. Divorced or otherwise separated parents are expected to encourage and nurture the relationship between the child and the other parent. Alienating parents are typically so consumed by their own feelings that they feel to recognize they are alienating the child in addition to their former partner. Hate, animosity, or resentment are not emotions that comes naturally to children; it has to be taught. A parent that teaches and encourages a child to hate the other parent and his or her new spouse or partner runs the risk of damaging the child both emotionally and psychologically. Unfortunately, with ongoing encouragement and exposure to hate and animosity the negative effects on a child can be lengthy and significant.
Baker, A. (2010). “Adult recall of parental alienation in a community sample: Prevalence and associations with psychological maltreatment.” Journal of Divorce and Remarriage, 51, 16-35