Brainwashing Children In Parental Alienation



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Brainwashing children is a crime executed by a dysfunctional parent willing to strip children  of their self- esteem to accomplish  their own revenge against an ex-lover. Those of us impacted by Parental Alienation know that memories can be changed.  We have seen it happen. We have helplessly watched as our children's self-identity is vengefully pulled from them, twisted, manipulated, and reprogrammed until a new person emerges that is consumed by hate. 

Parents and children are both victims of mind manipulation by an ex-spouse obsessed with revenge and a burning need to assuage their injured ego.  They are motivated by avenging their sense of abandonment and their narcissistic need for adoration.

We have lived with our children and powerlessly experienced the deterioration of our loving bonds.  But, we rarely know why and how hate replaces the familial love that had always defined our relationship.  The complete reversal would seem unimaginable  if we had not suffered the pain of being victimized.  Instinctively, we know that our children have been brainwashed.  But, how? What is the mechanism or combination of mechanisms that enable one parent to accomplish such damage?

My research  combined with my personal experience has convinced me that the process of brainwashing children proceeds in a somewhat different manner than traditional methods exemplified by the model reportedly used on American prisoners during the Korean War.  These traditional methods typically require isolation of the victim combined with real or threatened violence. 

These tactics are typically not used in cults; nor are they commonly used brainwashing children.  Children are inherently more vulnerable to different strategies because the abusive parent is betraying a child  who loves and trusts them. The parental betrayal is a most heinous  form of child abuse. Brainwashing children can be achieved effectively over time without the use of physical forms of coercion and control precisely because the abuse is performed by a trusted parent.

For a more scholarly discussion please refer to these documents:

Brainwashing In Custody Cases  by  Kenneth Byrne
THE SPECTRUM OF PARENTAL ALIENATION SYNDROME        by  the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF FORENSIC PSYCHOLOGY

How Do They Do It?

How do parents actually accomplish brainwashing children?    Perhaps my conclusions are largely drawn from my own personal experiences. But, I have been frustrated in finding answers that address the questions surrounding the actual mechanisms typically employed by an alienator parent .  Are the tactics  conscious, overt, carefully designed attempts to manipulate or are they the result of an automatic response by  individuals with severe personality disorders who unconsciously are reacting to a highly toxic situation that is terribly threatening to their sense of self? 

One thing seems certain--the offending parents seem to be devoid of empathy so they can neither understand nor be concerned about the devastation done to either the ex-spouse or their children.  They use their delusion of love for a child to destroy an ex-lover they have come to hate. 


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Not all children can be turned against a targeted parent no matter how hard the would-be alienator tries. So, what are the dynamics? 

I have tried to identify how several significant circumstances and personality traits intersect to enable the parent actively involved in brainwashing children.  The following are my own observations and conclusions drawn from both extensive research and personal experience. I hope they help others trying to make sense when there really is none.

Programming A Child

  • A child's brain is very malleable and the alienator is both a loved and trusted parent.  So, brainwashing children does not require isolation or violence ( although physical abuse is probably commonly involved. ) Therefore, if the parent displays the right personality traits and disorders it is fairly easy to negatively influence a child.  Some children will respond fairly quickly while for others the process may take years.  Although there may be preexisting issues between the child and targeted parent I am referring to parent-child relationships that, prior to the alienation, were very normal and loving.
  • When one parent attempts to alienate a child from the other parent, they are essentially teaching the child to hate and fear the other parent. Hatred of the targeted parent is the end goal or program. It’s like installing computer software—there are directions, procedures and instructions for how to organize information. For example, the targted parent is late for a scheduled child visitation pick-up. The programming parent comments, “A good parent who really loves his/her children would be on time.” This is a set of instructions that translates to: “Your father/mother is a bad parent who doesn’t love you.” This is a negative interpretation of what is most likely a neutral event, but the set of directions from the offending parent don’t allow for neutral interpretations like heavy traffic, a flat tire or being held up at work.

It Starts With Personality Disorders

  • The process of brainwashing children most often is related to Narcissistic Personality Disorder.  The disorder motivates parents to seek revenge for the collapse of their self constructed world of delusions  with them occupying the center of their universe. They require total loyalty and are terrified of abandonment.  They feel betrayed by their now  hated ex-spouse and become driven by the need to punish them by turning the children's love for the targeted parent to hate.  They lack empathy so feel no guilt or regrets for the ex and are totally unaware of any damage being done to the child. They do not see any wrongdoing on their part because they believe they are entitled to self-aggrandizement at any cost to others.   But, is narcissism alone enough?
  • Narcissism seems to be the prevalent personality disorder present in brainwashing children. And, repeated denigrating statements and accusations made by the alienator against the target undoubtedly has the desired effects.  But, if the alienator also possesses  qualities of Charismatic Authority the problem can be tremendously exacerbated.  The great sociologist, Max Weber, defined it as an intangible personality trait that enables certain people to attract a following of people who consider the charismatic leader to be almost godlike.  An alienator with a narcissistic disorder combined with charismatic authority has the foundation where the alienator can create a Cult Like environment.  My  adult child was alienated by her narcissistic father but even now lives as an extension  of him which can only be explained by saying that he has been able to use a form of charismatic leadership to keep her controlled.

The Bigger The Lie The More It Is Believed

  • There is the saying that the bigger the lie one tells and the more often it is told the better the odds that it will be believed.  So it is with brainwashing children. Alienator parents are motivated by an opportunity to destroy the other parent by intentionally  depriving the target of the children's love and affection. So, they initiate a campaign of verbal denigration of the target.  They may use outrageous lies or they may magnify an existing conflict between the child and the target but the denigration is so constant that the child whose brain is so susceptible to manipulation begins to believe the  invective.  They are most damaged because  what the child really wants and needs is a continued warm and loving relationship with each parent.  Since the alienator cannot allow this the child's perception of reality is repeatedly pummeled until it is turned upside down and inside out.
  • In Parental Alienation the goal of the alienator is not simply to change the views and attitudes of the child toward the targeted parent but to get the child to actively participate in the denigration. Thus, even if the narcissistic alienator is successful in winning the agreement and support of the child it is not enough.  The alienator does not WIN  until the child actually turns against the targeted parent and overtly exhibits hateful behavior and verbal abuse.  Perhaps this is where an alenator's psychopathic and anti-social disorders play an influential role.
  • However, many experts argue that the effects of brainwashing children are most often short-term. The victim's old identity is not in fact eradicated by the process, but instead is repressed, and once the "new identity" stops being reinforced the person's old attitudes and beliefs re-emerge.  However, if the behavior is allowed to develop unchecked over sufficient time  this can be all but erased by the alienating parent.
  • After her graduation from college my relationship with my daughter began to improve.  Unfortunately, she had massive college loans so had to return to her father's house.  Our relation immediately reverted and today it is worse than ever.

Remember!! The Child Is A Victim

  • It is very easy to forget the true circumstances and blame your child.  Your frustration, anger, and sorrow is unfathomable. People who have never experienced their own child denigrating them with terrible verbal abuse cannot even imagine the pain.  And,  to think that these abusive human beings were the babies that changed our lives so profoundly when they were born.  They are the beautiful creatures we swore to care for and protect at all costs.  Don't they know that most mothers and fathers would die to protect them?  And, as a result of one parent's abuse we are forced to absorb abuse beyond anything we could have thought we could endure.  Brainwashing children with the intent to alienate them is a terrible form of child abuse.
  • When it gets so bad try to remember that the child is also a victim and not an instigator.  Their needs and desires for a loving relationship with both parents is under unrelenting attack.  Their emotional survival may depend on the child acquiescing and accepting  the targeted parent as being devoid of any positive characteristics.  They have been manipulated into a complete overhaul of their perception of reality.  Unfortunately, children caught in the cross-fire of warring parents inevitably end up with a significant degree of psychological disturbance, not the least of which is a distortion in basic reality testing about the world around them.
  • Unfortunately, alienated children tend to become very troubled adults.  Intervention is necessary but our social support structures at this time are not equipped to intervene adequately.  We need to continue educating those who can influence change.  Most importantly,  we must demand that therapists and social workers be taught to recognize and appropriately intervene in Parental Alienation.

What About Professionals?

A logical question we all have is if the psychotic personalty traits of an alienating parent seem so obvious then why don't child advocates, psychologists, and legal professionals intervene.  The answer is both complex and unsatisfactory.  For more information please click on the link and read the pages listed below.  Also, read this article published in the American Journal Of Forensic Psychology on brainwashing children.

For more information refer to the Page of Resources



Table of Contents

Alienator Personality Types And Parental Alienation
Alienator Personality Types Perpetrate Parental Alienation
Personality Disorders And Parental Alienation
Personality Disorders Play A Significant Role In Parent Alienation
Convergent Emotional Disorders
The convergence Of Emotional Disorders Can Be The Key To Parental Alienation
Family Dynamics' Significance In Alienation
Family Dynamics And Individual Personalities Are Significant Factors In Parental Alienation
Child Advocacy Is Failing Families Battling Against Parental Alienation
Child Advocacy is Is Failing Families Battling Against Parental Alienation
Therapeutic Intervention In Parental Alienation
Early Therapeutic Intervention May Prevent Parent Alienation
Parental Alienation Destroyed My Family
A Carefully Executed Plan Of Parental Alienation Destroyed My Family
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