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Read More: Parental Alienation Syndrome

Please take note that the following should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult with lawyers on these matters. Laws may change and there are different laws applicable in different countries. The following research is added to this book as part of an awareness campaign and not indented by any means as legal advice.

In the 1980’s psychiatrist, Dr Richard Gardner first described and identified the concept of Parental Alienation Syndrome, referring to a practice almost exclusively within the context of divorce proceedings, where one parent embarks on a subtle or overt campaign to alienate a child from the other parent. Eventually the child is indoctrinated to such an extent that the child buys into the denigration campaign, avoids the other parent and perceives or believes the other parent to be bad or dangerous. The campaign has no justification, and the alienating parent has no insight into the extensive damage caused to the child, nor does this parent show any guilt or regrets about the behaviour.

Most common behaviour would be for the alienator to block or frustrate the child’s contact with the other parent. Examples would be organizing family outings, sleep-overs or play dates during the other parent’s weekends, booking expensive luxury holidays for the child during the other parent’s vacation time, not being at home at pick-up time, not telling a child that the other parent had called, not answering phones, claiming the child is sleeping or in the bath, or studying when the parent calls, pulling faces when the other parent calls, not informing the other parent of school functions or plays, etc.

Reasons given for blocking or frustrating access are usually that the child is unsettled or unruly after visits to the other parent, the child is unsafe, the visits disrupts the child’s routine or that the other parent is morally or mentally inferior, whilst the alienator is morally superior. This attitude creates a sense within the child that one parent is better and that the other parent is not equipped to take care of the child. In mild cases the alienator expresses irritation at the inconvenience of the other parent wanting to see the child and in severe cases the alienator expresses: “over my dead body will he / she see the child again.”

Some academic literature on the subject:

Gardner’s (1999) definition

“Parental alienation syndrome (PAS, Gardner, 1985, 1986, 1987a, 1987b, 1989, 1992, 1998) is a disorder that arises almost exclusively in the context of child-custody disputes. In this disorder, one parent (the alienator, the alienating parent, the PAS-inducing parent) induces a program of denigration against the other parent (the alienated parent, the victim, the denigrated parent).”

PAS implies that the child incorporates the thought patterns and behaviour of the alienating parent towards the absent parent.

Ward & Harvey (1993) on PAS

“There is a continuum of alienating parental behaviors which cause harm to children, and all positions on this continuum need be of concern to the professionals and the courts. Some of the behavior is scarcely detectable with the result that attorneys and the court system gloss over the alienation as a “normal” part of the divorce or litigation process. However, such barely evident alienating behavior marks the beginning of an alienation continuum.

The Continuum: Differentiating between “Typical” Divorce and “Alienation”

Alienation occurs when a parent uses the child to meet personal emotional needs, as a vehicle to express or carry his/her own intense emotions or as a pawn to manipulate as a way of inflicting retribution on the other side.

Parental alienation occurs along a broad continuum, based on the level of internal distress of the alienating parent, the vulnerability of the child and the responses of the target parent, as well as on the responses of the external system (family, attorneys, mental health professionals, the legal system). The range may be from children who experience significant discomfort at transition times (mild), through children who feel compelled to keep separate worlds and identities when with each parent (moderate); to children who refuse to have anything to do with the target parent and become obsessed with their hatred (severe).

B. Mild

At this stage, despite the seeming sincerity, the alienating parent’s view of the other parent is compromised, as indicated by behavior. He/she is not aware of the beliefs and feelings that motivate his/her unintentional alienating behavior (internal) or of the effect that statements and behavior can have on the child (interactional).

Because the statements of the alienating parent will not give the lawyers or the courts clues that there is alienation in process, it is important to look at the underlying messages that are given directly to the child. The communications to the child of the regard with which the other parent is held is the key to detecting alienating behavior.

C. Moderate

The alienating parent has some awareness of emotional motivations (fear of loss, rage) and little sense of the value of the target parent. Sometimes, an alienating parent will understand the theoretical importance of the other parent in the life of the child, but believes that in this case, the other parent, due to character deficiencies, cannot be important to the child. Their statements and behaviors are subtle but damaging to the child.

D. Overt

When the alienation is overt, the motivation to alienate, the intense hatred of the other, is blatant. The alienating parent is obsessed and sees the target as noxious to self, the children, and even the world. A history of the marriage reflects nothing but the bad times. The target parent was never worthwhile as a spouse or a parent and is not worthwhile today. Such a parent shows little response to logic and little ability to confront reality.

Many alienating parents at this stage entertain the overt belief that the target parent presents an actual danger of harm to the children. They present this belief as concrete knowledge that if the children spend time with the target parent they will be harmed in some manner.

E. Severe

By the severe stage, the alienating parent no longer needs to be active. In terms of the motivation, the alienating parent holds no value at all for the other parent; the hatred and disdain are overt. The alienating parent will do anything to keep the children away from the target parent.

At this stage the child is enmeshed with the alienating parent and takes on the alienating parent’s desires, emotions and hatreds and verbalizes them to all as his own. The child too believes that the target parent is a villain and the scum of the earth, and sees the history of the target parent and family as all negative. The child is neither able to remember nor express any positive feeling for the target parent.

“Weapons” are the false allegations by the alienating parent of behavior on the part of the target parent inimicable to the welfare of a child. The most commonly used weapons are false allegations of:

  • threats of or actual domestic violence;
  • sexual abuse of the child;
  • physical abuse of the child;
  • emotional abuse of the child;
  • mental illness on the part of the target parent;
  • alcoholism/drug abuse/homosexuality on the part of the target parent; or
  • threats of moving or flight by the alienating parent.

If it is unclear that there is in fact abuse (sexual or physical), then the allegations may have been produced by the intensity of feelings about the divorce, fear of abuse and a misreading of particular situation.

However muddled the waters are, the court must establish a factual basis upon which to proceed legally (either abuse did or did not occur) or the system will be paralyzed to the advantage of the alienating parent. Unless disproven, the allegations will cast a pall of potential harm to the child that no one person, institution or agency will be able to ignore, and an accused will always be treated as guilty unless proven innocent with regards to contact with the children.”

Rand (1997) on “brainwashing”

“Brainwashing” was defined as the interactional process by which the child was persuaded to accept and elaborate on the program. Brainwashing occurs over time and involves repetition of the program, or code words referring to the program, until the subject responds with attitudinal and behavioural compliance. According to Clawar and Rivlin, the influence of a programming parent can be conscious and wilful or unconscious and unintentional. It can be obvious or subtle, with rewards for compliance that were material, social or psychological. Noncompliance may be met with subtle psychological punishment such as withdrawal of love or direct corporal punishment.

Some cases of PAS, especially those with false allegations of abuse, may have important features in common with Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP) in which parents fulfil their needs vicariously by presenting their child as ill. In cases of classical MSP, parents repeatedly take their children to doctors unnecessarily, often painful tests and treatments which the physician is induced to provide, based on the parent’s misrepresentations. “Contemporary type MSP” occurs when a parent fabricates an abuse scenario for the child and welcomes or actively seeks out repeated abuse interviews of the child by police, social workers and therapists.

The concept of contemporary-type MSP elaborates on the idea put forth by Sinanan and Houghton that new types of MSP behaviour will evolve in parallel with the evolution of new medical and social services, eg. the child protection system. MSP parents may change or come up with new “symptoms” for the child as to better elicit the desired response from a particular care provider or an institution offering specialised services. Thus, the same child may be receiving attention simultaneously for fabricated physical symptoms from several medical providers and for fabricated sex abuse from therapists and public agencies who specialise in abuse. Careful evaluation and thorough investigation of sex abuse allegations which turn out to be questionable or false will sometimes bring a parent to the attention of authorities for practicing “classical” as well as “contemporary-type” MSP.”

Warshak (2001) on PAS

“In some cases of moderate PAS, when the parent is more intensively programming the children and there is a high risk of the alienation becoming more severe, Gardner recommends a different legal approach. In such cases he recommends courts consider awarding primary custody to the alienated parent and extremely restricted contact between the alienating parent and child, in order to prevent further indoctrination. Similarly in the most severe cases of PAS (which in Gardner’s experience, comprise about 5 – 10 percent of all PAS cases) Gardner recommends that the court remove the children from the alienating parent.

The importance of separating the child from the alienating parent, ensuring the child’s exposure to the target parent, is consistent with treatment methods for victims of brainwashing, including prisoners of war and members of cults… “One of the most powerful tools the courts have is the threat and implementation of environmental modification. Of the approximately four hundred cases we have seen where the courts increased the contact with the targeted parent… there has been positive change in 90 percent of the relationships between the child and the target parent, including the elimination or reduction of many socio-psychological, educational and physical problems that the child presented prior to the modification.”

Bone and Walsh (1999) on PAS

A marked deterioration in the relationship between the child and the absent parent. A previously healthy relationship will not rapidly deteriorate. On the contrary children miss the absent parent and usually cannot wait to see him / her. Normal healthy relationships do not erode easily, despite the parent’s absence. A rapid deterioration indicates the alienator has been poisoning the mind of the child against the other parent. Children eventually voice abuse against the estranged parent because they fear the wrath of the alienating parent.

They know they face disapproval or even punishment should they contact, side or even express that they miss or would want to see the estranged parent. The alienating parent usually has a controlling “my way or the highway” attitude. When children misbehave they are accused of being “just as useless as your father / stupid as your mother.” They alienating parent also manipulates the child to feel guilty for leaving “your sick mother at home”, or “remember I love you more”, or “remember I am waiting all weekend for you to return and I know you are going to miss me as much as I miss you”, etc.

Especially young children fear that they will be abandoned by the primary care-giver, if they dare to visit the estranged parent. The alienating parent refuses to attend sport or cultural activities if the other parent is going to be there, the child is not allowed to have photographs of the alienated parent nor to mention the parent’s name or family.

The impact of PAS on the child

Gardner (1999)

“PAS Parents who induce PAS in their children are often oblivious to the psychologically detrimental effects of the progressive attentuation of the child’s bond with the target parent. In extreme cases it appears that the alienating parent would be pleased if the alienated parent were to evaporate from the face of the earth–making sure, beforehand, to bequeath an annuity for the remaining family. Such alienators basically believe that absolutely nothing would be lost to the children under such circumstances.”

Read Richard Gardner’s article on Differentiating between Parental Alienation Syndrome and bona fide abuse neglect in The American Journal of Family Therapy, vol 27,no 2 p 97 – 107, April – June 1999.

Ward & Harvey (1993)

“There are three underlying premises regarding the development of children that underlie this article. First, all litigation concerning children can affect their healthy growth and development negatively. The greater the acrimony and the greater the part that the children need or are asked to play in the litigation, the greater the potential for harm.(2) “[T]he persistent quality of the conflict combined with its enduring nature seriously endangers the mental health of the parents and the psychological development of the children. Under the guise of fighting for the child, the parents may succeed in inflicting severe emotional suffering on the very person whose protection and well-being is the presumed rationale for the battle.” Johnston, J.R. B Campbell, L.E.G., Impasses of Divorce “Forward” by J. Wallerstein, p.ix (1988).

Second, it is psychologically harmful to children to be deprived of a healthy relationship with one parent. There is a substantial body of research that indicates that children need contact with adults of both sexes for balanced development.”(3)

Third, with the exception of abuse, there is no good reason why children should not want to spend some time with each of their parents, and, even with abuse, most children still want to maintain some relationship with the abusive parent. It is the job of the parents, the professionals and the courts to see that such contact is possible under safe circumstances.(4)

Alienating messages and behavior, whether intentional or not, place the child in a severe loyalty bind, a position wherein the child believes she must chose which of her two parents she will “love” more. To have to choose between parents is itself damaging to the child, and, if the end result is the exclusion of a parent from the child’s life, the injury is irreparable.”

Rand (1997)

“Gardner was among the first to recognize that involving a child in false allegations of abuse is a form of abuse in itself and indicative of serious problems somewhere in the divorce family system.

Cartwright poignantly describes the psychological effects on the child of being involved in severe PAS. “The child experiences a great loss, the magnitude of which is akin to the death of a parent, two grandparents, and all the lost parent’s relatives and friends … Moreover… the child is unable to acknowledge the loss, much less mourn it. The child’s good memories of the alienated parent are systematically destroyed and the child misses out on the day-to-day interaction, learning, support and love, which, in an intact family, usually flows between the child and both parents, as well as grandparents and relatives on both sides. The child may encounter insurmountable obstacles if, later in life, he or she seeks to re-establish relations with the lost parent and his family. The lost parent may be unwilling to become reinvolved. The parent or grandparents may have died. Some of these children eventually turn against the alienating parent, and if the target parent is lost to them as a child, the child is left with an unfillable void.”

Johnston (2001)

“Alienated children are likely to be controlling, distrustful and easily disillusioned. They enter into therapy, often reluctantly, with a scripted story and a demand for the therapists’ immediate allegiance to their position. The child’s challenge is “Are you for me, or are you against me?”

The therapist is placed in a bind – the cost of a therapeutic alliance with the child appears to require the sacrifice of his or her therapeutic objectivity. Moreover, the therapist remains on trial – any hint of subsequent disloyalty threatens to precipitate his or her dismissal by the child…A feature of alienated children is their bland, stripped-down and simplistic black/white thinking and poor reality testing.”

Warshak (2003)

“Irrationally alienated children harbor hatred for a parent that is dissociated from their earlier love for that parent. Their internal mental state has a rift that cannot heal until it is acknowledged.

Adults who have truly suffered at the hands of inadequate parents and subsequently resolved their feelings are able to express a wide range of feelings about their parents… this is something a pathologically alienated person is unable to do, and it handicaps them in their most personal relationships.

A man who is out of touch with his loving feelings for his father has more difficulty promoting the highest-quality loving relationship with his own children;

A man who cannot appreciate the importance of his father in his life and of what he loses by not having a father, has more difficulty appreciating his own importance in his children’s lives;

A man who cuts himself off from his own feelings is less sensitive to the feelings of his wife and children;

A man who has no contact with his father and extended family deprives his own children of a grandparent and his wife of the support available through the extended family.

The saddest consequence of divorce poison occurs when a rejected parent or grandparent dies before the child has come to his/her senses, given his/her love, apologized for his/her mistreatment and expressed regret for the lost years. It is at this point that a child is most apt to resent the brainwashing parent whose efforts deprived the child of a relationship that cannot be recaptured.

When alienated children, as adults, eventually realize what they have missed out on and the immense magnitude of the hurt their behaviour has caused their loved ones, they suffer unbearable guilt and sadness. This suffering has a direct effect on their marriage and their children…If children of divorce are more likely to end a marriage rather than work out conflicts, this risk is multiplied for children who have totally rejected a parent.”

Hillaker (2010)

Early identification of a child suffering from PAS can diminish a child’s psychological damage. Early identification will allow a child to recover their true relationship with the targeted parent. There is a point of no return for the child psychologically. Enough psychological damage can be done to the child wherein the child may never recover from the indoctrination of falsehoods and vilification of the targeted parent. Early identification and treatment diminishes the harm caused psychologically to their child and the targeted parent. PAS primarily manifests itself in divorce and family separation cases.

The younger the child, the more severe the psychological damage can be to the child, if PAS is not identified and treated early.

“A secondary syndrome in divorce that has emerged in the last twenty years is Sexual Allegations In Divorce (SAID)… Austin also claims that the false allegations coupled with leading questions or suggestive counselling result in children: developing false memories; being fatherless; becoming depressed; becoming suicidal, losing self-esteem ( … Children who have been subconsciously engaged in SAID and PAS may engage in acting out behaviours in adolescents and early adulthood and have psychological problems for a life time.

Introducing PAS to child is a form of emotional child abuse. Emotional abuse is of course psychological abuse, which can be more damaging than physical abuse. When the child grows up, they may not realize what actually happened, and how PAS affected them and the alienated parent psychologically. The PAS child/adult may have lifelong psychological problems. Children may not be able to outgrow their own pain and the humiliation they experienced as a PAS child. If PAS existed for a long period of time between the PAS child and the alienated parent, the PAS child may experience lifelong psychological problems. PAS children who have experienced PAS more than likely will have relationship problems with other children, significant others, and in their private and professional peer group. The normal bond and psychological attachments between a PAS child and their parent has been altered and possibly destroyed.

The PAS child, now an adult, will have a relationship between the alienating parent and the alienated parent. If that PAS child/adult can recognize previous PAS issues in their prior relationships, it may put them on a recovery path, to discover what actually happened to them in their childhood. Childhood memories of family dynamics, of pre and post family separation can be fluid and disposed of memory errors. Though the child will have varying memories, their true memories may never come out. The only mental health answer is therapy.”

A common criticism against PAS is since it is not categorised in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual (textbook for psychologists and psychiatrists) it does not exist. In 2010 I testified in a court case in South Africa where the Honourable Judge Claasen found that it did exist and after my testimony he ordered that the boy be removed from his mother and placed in the care of his father that very same day.

The S.A.I.D. (Sexual Allegations In Divorce) Syndrome

Another abhorrence that rises it’s ugly head in divorce cases is when one parent makes false allegations that a child has been sexually abused by the other parent.

Blush & Ross (1986) on said:

“This acronym describes the particular phenomenon which occurs when a sexual abuse allegation develops within a pre- or post divorce context and when a family unit has become dysfunctional as a result of the divorce process.

“it is true that children have imaginations and that they sometimes lie, as do adults, but it is a very uncommon occurrence for a child to fantasize or make up a sexual assault incident… Observe physical and behavioural signs… extreme changes in behaviour such as loss of appetite. Recurrent nightmares… and fear of the dark. Regression to more infantile behaviour such as bedwetting, thumb sucking or excessive crying… Fear of a person or an intense dislike at being left somewhere or with someone. Other behavioural signals such as aggressive or disruptive behaviour, withdrawal, running away or delinquent behaviour, failing in school.

Information source after information source being presented by various social and health organizations take on this common message format. The hazard in these instructional messages is that over generalized statements concerning behavioural signs, which may mean sexual abuse, can just as realistically be symptomatic of any number of other problems occurring in a child’s life. Divorce, peer problems, school related problems, and general developmental processes are all equally competing clinical hypotheses for such behaviours and should be treated as such in investigative stages.”

Typical pattern


The allegation almost always surfaces only after separation and legal action between the parents has begun

There is a history of family dysfunction with resultant unresolved divorce conflict. This usually involves “hidden’ underlying issues both spoken and unspoken

  • There are often unresolved visitation or custody problems
  • There are often unresolved money issues relating to the divorce
  • Personality Profile of the Presenting Parent – Female:
  • The personality pattern of the female parent often tends to be that of a hysterical personality
  • She often presents herself as a fearful person who believes she has been the victim of manipulation, coercion, and physical, social or sexual abuse in the marriage
  • She also tends to see the man as being a source of physical threat, economic punitiveness and retribution, or an individual who simply has not understood the physical safety and psychological needs of the children.
  • She is also often the “justified vindicator”, a hostile, emotionally expansive, vindictive, and dominant female who has directly appealed to “experts” in both the mental and health and/or legal communities. She frequently insists on formal punitive legal measures be taken via prosecution before reasonable proofs have been demonstrated. She will often have concurrent criminal action pending with her domestic legal action.

Another personality pattern which requires clinical consideration is when the reporting adult is possibly psychotic.

Conclusion: Regardless of whether the female pattern has been that of the passive, fearful, apprehensive individual, the “justified vindicator”, or even that of the psychotic, she is emotionally convinced of the “facts” and will not be dissuaded from her perceptions. The intensity with which she relates to the world through her emotions significantly overshadows her use of a rational reasoning or problem solving approach to the situation. This emotional appeal can become convincing and very misleading to the inexperienced and/or “well-intended” professional.

Personality Profile of the Presenting Parent – Male:

  • He is often intellectually rigid, has a high need to be “correct”.
  • He has been hypercritical of the mother throughout the marriage, and verbalizes in a number of “nit-picking” ways the suspicion that she has been a non-vigilant and borderline unfit mother.
  • He typically makes allegations more against the males with whom she has become involved rather than necessarily making direct allegations toward her as the actual perpetrator of the sexual abuse. The male sees her as the person whose passive or silent endorsement of the perpetrator is her contribution to that situation.
  • He also makes statements about the frequency with which she leaves the children unsupervised, in the care of incompetent or inappropriate babysitters, or generally “at risk” in the home.
  • Personality Profile of the Alleged Perpetrator – Male:
  • He is an inadequate personality with marked passive and dependent features.
  • He presents a socially naive perception of the adult world.
  • He initially takes a “caretaker” role toward the female during courtship and the early stages of marriage.
  • He needs to “earn” love by yielding to the wants and demands of the spouse.

Because of these dynamics, it is this type of male who typically finds himself in a relationship with a more dominant female, regardless of whether her dominance is due to emotional hysteria or self-centeredness and vindictiveness.

Personality Profile of the Child:

  • The child has a limited verbal ability with which to articulate their own agenda
  • The child’s immaturity causes him/her to be unable to test and comprehend the reality of the situation in which he/she finds him-/herself, ie the politics of adult divorce
  • The child is often a female under the age of eight who controls the situation. Additionally, this child may show behavioural patterns of verbal exaggerations, excessive willingness to indict, inappropriate affective responses, and inconsistencies in relating the incident (s).
  • The child’s responses appear to be coached or rehearsed
  • The child spontaneously initiates conversation during interview by quoting the same phrases accompanied with the same affect as did the controlling parent who presented the complaint
  • The child uses age-inappropriate verbal descriptions with no demonstrated practical comprehension of what they were saying
  • The child offers a spontaneous and automatic reporting of the act (s) perpetrated upon them in the absence of any direct questions soliciting this specific information
  • The child offers inconsistencies in various aspects of reported incidents. These variances may involve specifics (who, what, where, when); frequency (only once or twice, exaggerated to many times); and subjective perceptual experiences (very frightened, not scared, hurt, not hurt, etc)
  • The child lacks the appearance of a traumatized individual both emotionally and behaviourally.

As children approach adolescence, they develop a more vindictive agenda, and they often speak in absolutes with exaggerated emotional content. The basic agenda is one of not getting their own way, or the other parent has been imposing limits which the adolescent disagrees with.

  • The allegation is first communicated via the custodial parent, usually the mother
  • The mother takes the child to an “expert” for further examination, assessment or treatment
  • The expert then often communicates to a court or other appropriate authorities a concern and/or “confirmation” of apparent sexual abuse, usually identifying the father as the alleged perpetrator

This typically causes the court to react to the “expert’s” information by acting in a predictably responsible manner, eg suspending or terminating visitation, foreclosing on custodial arguments, or in some way limiting the child-parent interaction.

The professional as Potential Victim of S.A.I.D. Syndrome

All too often, the intervening professional sees the case on a preliminary basis in a limited and biased perspective and frequently responds to the presenting parent’s report rather than viewing the situation as part of the family’s marital and divorce conflict.

Too often the therapeutic community accepts this “presenting process” and creates a clinical focus on assumed trauma and thus the need for immediate treatment of the child.

This process of accepting a presenting complaint as valid and truthful without sophisticated inquiry or clinical challenge creates the vulnerable expert opinion.

Once the initial distortions are communicated by an expert and reinforced through further contacts with the child and/or other involved adults, “facts” are created which then shape the outcome of the situation. This can occur to such a degree that the presenting parent, the child, the therapist, social and legal agencies, and any other involved persons accept this “created reality” that has become the truth.

Experience in the field investigation and follow-up of SAID cases reveals that the therapist is reluctant to change his/her perception once their professional opinion has been formulated.

A further concern is that the clinical focus has been so heavily predicated upon the belief that “children do not lie” so as to make any other considerations secondary.

The ignoring of other information is often justified in the name of “saving” the child from permanent traumatic damage.

It is ironic it is that the intervention agent or therapist who misdiagnoses a SAID case literally creates a scenario from which the family may never recover. This damage, once done, will, in our opinion, perpetuate itself throughout the rest of the history of the family. It may only partially be undone through skillful intervention of a qualified family therapist who, under the most difficult of circumstances, may bring the family members together and help them understand the dynamics of how the SAID phenomenon occurred.

Conclusion: A proper investigation/evaluation in which the collection of collateral information, background information, awareness of conflict, unresolved issues in the divorce is of the utmost importance.

Please read more: Blush, GJ & Ross, KL 1986. Sexual allegations in divorce, the SAID syndrome.

Blush, Gordon J & Ross, Karol L (1986), Sexual Allegations in Divorce, The S.A.I.D Syndrome,

Cowling, A, The S.A.I.D. Syndrome, Sexual Allegations in Divorce.

Bone, J.M. & Walsh, M.R. 1999. Parental Alienation Syndrome: How to detect it and what to do about it. The Florida Bar Journal, vol 73, no 3, March 1999, p 44-48.

Gardner, RA 1999. Differentiating between parental alienation syndrome and bona-fide abuse-neglect. The American Journal of Family Therapy, (27)2 p 97 – 107 Identification of Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Sexual Allegations in Divorce (SAID) and Child Custody Evaluations: An investigative Literature Review.

Holman WD, 1998. The Fatherbook: A document for Therapeutic work with father-absent early adolescent boys. Child and Adolescent Social Work Journal (15) 2.

Johnston, JR. 2001. Rethinking parental alienation and redesigning parentchild access services for children who resist or refuse visitation. Administration of Justice Department, San Jose State University.

Rand, DC 1997. The Spectrum of Parental Alienation Syndrome. American Journal of Forensic Psychology. (15) 3

Warshak, RA 2001. Current controversies regarding parental alienation syndrome. American Journal of Forensic Psychology. (19) 3

Warshak, RA 2003. Divorce Poison. New York: Harper

Ward, P & Harvey JC 1993. Family Wars: Alienation of Children. New Hampshire Bar Journal (34)1.

Take me back to Break-Up And Divorce – Suffer the little children


Break-Up And Divorce – Maintenance for children

Maintenance for children

Some women are ignorant of the fact that both parents have a financial responsibility towards the children and they become highly indignant when the court expects them to make a financial contribution. It is not just the father’s baby, when it suits the mother, so to speak.

Some women are quite aware of the fact that they are also expected to pay maintenance for their children and therefore they fight nail and tooth to keep the children with them, so they can live off the maintenance the husbands are paying for the children and they can avoid paying for the children.

These women are usually very reluctant to provide cash slips or receipts for the children’s expenses, because they use the money for their own benefit. Many women buy toilet paper, household detergents, her expensive shampoo, perfume and make-up on the ex-husband’s pharmacy account, which is supposed to be allocated to the children’s medicinal requirements.

“Because he can afford it, I am entitled to it,” they justify their actions! One woman was quite willing to give her children up to the father, provided he claimed no maintenance from her and continued her monthly allowance.


Case Study

One woman and her children moved in with husband no 2, who was quite affluent. Husband no 1 paid maintenance for the children, which she deposited in a separate banking account. Basically husband no 2 covered the children’s live-in expenses, without ever referring to the maintenance.

One day when husband no 2 needed a cash amount for something, the wife offered him the accumulated maintenance. He was indignant. She could not understand why. I explained: “You should have offered him or paid the money over to him from the beginning to cover the children’s costs. He was too much of a hero to ask you for it and silently provided for another man’s children. He is a good provider.

He will do this. Now you want to offer him your first husband’s money, to help him out. Of course he will be offended. Firstly because you kept the money, secondly because you are trying to help him financially which is an insult to him and thirdly the first husband is a nemesis to him.”

The husband explained if she had offered him the maintenance to cover the children’s living expenses from the beginning, he would have appreciated the respect of the gesture, but he would have refused and suggested that she saved the money towards the children’s further education, or pay it to them when they reach 21. By not offering, she denied him the opportunity to be the magnanimous hero. Her offer came too late and too much silent resentment had accumulated, just like the interest on the money.



Break-Up And Divorce – Parenting Plans

Parenting Plans

Divorced parents need a Parenting Plan where such details as the education, religious matters, names, nicknames, maintenance, medical requirements, visitation rights etc. are agreed on by both parents. A registered mediator, lawyer, psychologist or other professional acknowledged by the Act can mediate this. For instance parents can introduce a child to a religion, but it is against the Constitution that any religion be forced on any person.

A Christian mother can take her son to church on her weekend and the Muslim father can take the son to Mosque on his weekend. Neither may prevent the other from exposing the child to a particular religion. The Parenting Plan can decree that children will not refer to stepmothers or stepfathers as Mom and Dad.

The law stipulates that the Best Interest of the Child prevails, and that the Child’s voice be heard. It is required that a person trained to work with children, such as a mediator, psychologist or social worker discuss this Parenting Plan with the child and if the child disagrees with it, the child can actually postpone the act of divorce. Of course the child’s age and developmental phases are taken into consideration – leave that to the experts.

Parenting Plans can be registered with the Family Advocate’s Office, that acts in the Best Interest of the Child. Ultimately the State is the upper custodian of all children in South Africa. Parents have rights and responsibilities. Unmarried fathers have rights and responsibilities too but they have to formally apply at the Children’s Court, if they have not been living with the mother.

Maintenance and their involvement in the child’s life is taken into consideration. If a mother disputes paternity, then a DNA test can be done with a pathologist to determine paternity. All law firms can supply the Family Advocate’s Office number and parents can contact the Institute for Mediators – who are not lawyers, but trained to mediate and registered by the State, as a less expensive option.

Ultimately it is in every person’s best interest if divorces can be conducted in a mature, rational manner. I know this sounds impossible, but eventually people do recover from the emotional hurt and they move on and deep down, no matter their initial justifications or motivations, they will feel ashamed of their selfish, childish behaviour.

Years down the line their adult children will want to know why the parents’ spite was more important to them than their childrens’ best interest at that time. When we have children, it implies that we become parents and parents put their childrens’ best interest first. Grow up.

Read more about: Single Divorced Woman


Break-Up And Divorce – The residue of the anti-hero

Why do ex-wives have such a hold on some men?


Case Study

I observed a man talking to his ex-wife over the phone. The ex-wife was demanding more maintenance for the children. He was getting very impatient with her.

The current wife was listening to the conversation. She tapped the husband on the shoulder. “Tell her she is being unreasonable. We just don’t have the money,” she said. Whereupon the husband promptly waved the wife away with his hand, gave her a dirty look and turned his back on her. The wife retreated to the bedroom and slammed the door. The man now had two women angry at him. So he went out for a beer, or two or three. The wife could not understand why he was nasty towards her.

I explained: Talking to an ex-wife is stressful to a man because he has already been the anti-hero to that woman and men detest being the anti-hero; he wants to compensate for being the anti-hero, not because he wants to please the ex-wife, but because it makes him feel better about himself. Secondly, you were telling him what to do and say, which implies he is an idiot who can’t communicate with his ex.

Thirdly, you were implying that he does not earn enough, so he is a bad provider.

That is a big insult. When the husband arrived home later that night, he was in a fighting mood. The wife looked at him and said: “Do you want to fight or do you want to make love?” (She actually used the F-word). Later when they emerged from the bedroom he sheepishly remarked: “Now I remember why I married this one. She understands me.”


Why do some men go out of their way to please their ex-wives? They seem to jump every time she snaps her fingers? This is a major bone of contention to second wives. The simple reason is because he disappointed that woman – he was the anti-hero. He will do anything to make up for it. He will perpetually try to please her, so he can feel better about himself. It is not about her, it’s about him.

Probably in their marriage she kept raising the bar and for years and years he was conditioned into believing his efforts were just never enough. So he tried harder and harder to make her smile. Eventually he called: “Enough!” and left her, but whenever they make contact, he regresses back into that “I have to try harder” mode. The man should realise that this woman is unhappy in herself.

No matter what he does, he will never satisfy her. He will never be her hero. Let it go. Some dragons will never be slain. At home, in his castle, there may just be another new woman, who does actually appreciate him and he can be the most wonderful hero to her.

When he dances for his ex-wife, he is being the anti-hero for the current wife too. Being the anti-hero to two women – the maths just don’t add up. Do the common sense pragmatic thing and be the hero to the current wife. You will get more sex.

Why do ex-wives make the men’s lives hell? Because they get away with it.


Case Study

I know of one second wife who discovered her husband had actually been to court to fight custody demands and took out another mortgage on the house, without telling her. The guilt of the deception drove him to drink.

He just could not face his current wife. Finally he broke down. He realised heroes don’t lie. His current wife forgave him and they restructured their finances to pay off the outstanding maintenance.

This woman had his back.


Why do some men confess their financial failures to the ex-wife, but the current wife is the last one to find out? Because he has already been the anti-hero to the ex-wife and disappointed her. He can’t afford to be the anti-hero to the

present wife, so he hides these circumstances from her. Will the ex-wife spitefully inform the current wife of their financial predicament? Chances are very good she will. Then he is in deeper trouble and he is the anti-hero to two women.

Again. The maths don’t add up. Rather tell the current wife first. Women appreciate truthfulness. It makes them feel safe.

IT MAKES THEM FEEL SAFE. Remember the part about the woman’s intuition?


Break-Up And Divorce – Mrs vs Mrs

Mrs vs Mrs

I asked a man if it was fair for a second wife to want a new house and not move into the vacated space of the first Mrs. Women can tend to get emotional (illogical?) about this. He answered: “I can understand that she wants her own new house, but if I sell this place now, I lose too much on the bond. It is not a good time to sell.” Men are very aware of the financial knock they took during the divorce.

Remember mostly it is the men who have to pay the women maintenance and not vice versa. Women usually forfeit the maintenance they receive from the first husband, when they marry the second. So divorced men are sensitive to women who make financial demands on them.

“Why would she mind moving into another woman’s space? If we move into a new house, she would also move into the previous owners’ space, unless we build a brand new house from scratch.” “The thing is,” I explained, “you did not make memories with another woman in that new house.” “Can’t we just repaint this one, then?” he asked. Yes, you can repaint it. At least change the sheets and perhaps the bed.


Case study

One woman told me the ex Mrs had the habit of wandering into the garden, cut the roses and took them home with her, because she (the first Mrs) had planted them.

She did not want the second wife to have the pleasure of the roses!



Case study

Many divorced men just keep the ex on the medical aid because it is convenient.

However when they remarry, we now have two Mrs’ on the medical aid card. Dependent no 1 is the first Mrs, then Dependents numbers 2 and 3 and possibly 4 are the children and Dependent number 5 is the new Mrs. Nothing makes a woman feel as special as being number 5! It may sound illogical, but women are emotional and sensitive about these issues. If men expect women to take on their surnames, at least they can remove the

Nothing makes a woman feel as special as being number 5! It may sound illogical, but women are emotional and sensitive about these issues. If men expect women to take on their surnames, at least they can remove the ex Mrs from the medical aid, Christmas card list, mail box, answering machines, etc. Men usually forget to do this, or they think it is not practical to do it. Please remember where you are getting sex now.


One woman remarked to her husband who was reluctant to make the effort to remove his ex-wife from the lists:

“Your loyalty should lie with the woman who has your back, the one behind whose back you lie at night. Not with the one who stabbed you in the back.”

Exes stirring the pot

Many exes also have perverse fun in setting up their children as spies in the other household or generally just causing mischief.

“You don’t have to listen to her rules, she is not your mother.” “Call me the moment your father’s girlfriend arrives.”

Ex-wives often send their children to the new household with a list of do’s and don’ts for the new wife to comply with. Some of them even colour code and laminate these rules! Alerting the other household of a child’s allergies and medicinal requirements is fine. Prescribing what brand of vitamins the child should take, what washing powder is allowed and a specific brand of peanut butter is not.

One father expected his new wife to wash, iron and fold the child’s clothes and polish the shoes before he took the child home, just to keep the peace with the ex. Children can bring clothes and toys and take them home again, for it provides a sense of continuity to them, but I also advise that children should have their separate sets of clothes and toys at the alternate homes. It solves the complaints about dirty laundry and it gives the child a sense of belonging and not feeling like an alien visitor in the second home.


Case study

One stepmother awoke in the middle of the night to find her 10 year old stepdaughter had cut a lock of her hair for her mother to use as muti. (Muti is traditional medicine, which may be used to cast a spell.) The father thought it was funny.


Some mothers call their children three or four or more times a day when the child is visiting the father. This prevents bonding, is intrusive and it sends the child the message that the child is not safe with the father. It also burdens the child with guilt complexes for leaving the mother or father alone at home.

Calling once a day or once a weekend when they are older is quite sufficient. Children also often exploit situations and call the alternate parent as soon as the parent disciplines them or when they are not getting their way. It is amazing how parents compete to be the most popular parent, instead of just striving to be good parents.


Break-Up And Divorce – Weekend Dads and Stepfathers

Weekend Dads and Stepfathers

We have the brave hero out there on the battlefield and then out of no-where comes that fatal javelin that noone could foresee. The blind spot inflicts a mortal wound. Freud coined the term: the Oedipus complex and his disciples developed the theory of the Electra complex, both based on Greek mythology.

At his birth it was prophesised that Oedipus, the young princeling of Thebes, would one day kill his father, the King. The King ordered the infant to be put to death, but he was secretly placed in foster care. As a young man he returned to Thebes, but on the way he met and killed a man, not knowing it was his father the King.

Oedipus became King of Thebes and unwittingly married the Queen widow, his mother. When he realised this he poked out his own eyes and travelled as a beggar. Freud used this Greek mythology to refer to the Oedipal developmental phase of 4 to 6 years, when boys subconsciously fall in love with the mother and compete with the father.

The flipside is called the Electra complex, when girls subconsciously fall in love with their fathers and compete with their mothers. The grand King of the Achaians, who waged the war against the Trojans, was called Agamemnon.

He sacrificed his youngest daughter Iphigenia to secure favourable winds for the Greek fleet to cross the sea to Troy. Agamemnon’s wife, Clytaemnestra never forgave him. Upon his triumphant return 10 years later to Mycenae, Clytaemnestra killed him. His remaining daughter Electra had waited patiently for her beloved father to return and when her mother killed her father, she mourned him and eventually plotted with her brother Orestes and killed her mother.

If I can single out one obstacle that causes major disputes and even break-ups of second marriages, then it would be THE CHILDREN. Both men and women have total blind spots concerning their children. This is a very difficult and sensitive, and contentious issue to discuss. However, there are solutions and it helps when parents can at least acknowledge that their children are their Achilles’ heel.

Some fathers tend to be of the opinion that since they only see their children on weekends or holidays, the children are exempt from discipline or good manners during these times. The fathers don’t want to spoil this short time with arguments or unpleasantness, so they “let bygones” slip by.

This results in the stepmother having to cope with undisciplined, lazy, disrespectful children. To some fathers it is fine if the children lie on the couch all weekend watching television, or play on their tablets or cell phones, if they never clean up after themselves and these fathers expect their wives to cater, clean up and bite the bullet. Fathers already feel like anti-heroes for abandoning their families and they are often blinded by a sense of guilt. They compensate by turning a blind eye and spoiling their own children rotten.


Case Study

A second wife was despondent with her husband’s children just lying about all weekend, messing in the house, glued to their cell phones and generally getting on her nerves. I suggested that every child should get a chance to organise a family activity for Saturdays. This could be a picnic at the dam, visiting an expo, going fishing, visiting a food or flea market, a museum, volunteering at a welfare organisation, organising a treasure hunt, cleaning up a river, washing dogs at the SPCA, participating in a fun run, or attending a sports function, etc. It need not be an expensive excursion and they can take a packed lunch.

The children can google activities or search newspapers for events. This gets them active and out of the house and there is family interaction. Saturday evenings they can watch television till 10pm and then retire to bed to allow the parents to watch television or better yet, the parents retire to their bedroom, undisturbed by 10pm. Sunday morning the kids and Dad make brunch. The wife can sleep late. (Because she prepared the Saturday lunches.) They all eat together, the kids clean up as much as they can and by 2pm it’s time for the Dad to drive the kids home to their Mom who lives in another town. The wife then restores her home to normal and she has me-time. She can relax in a bubble bath for an hour. Dad comes home by 7pm and his wife is happy to see him and smiles as he enters the door.

This arrangement worked perfectly. It provided time out of the house, family time, father and children bonding time and it gave her space on her own and with her husband. The children looked forward to the activities and weekends at Dad’s became cool. After a few months, she realised she actually liked the children.

On the other hand, since the children are mostly allocated to the mother, the men often find themselves in the roles of stepfathers. Often subconsciously, or sometimes overtly, they miss their own children not living with them and resent their wives’ children occupying that space.

They resent paying for another man’s children, especially if they are taken for granted. They also sometimes resent sharing her time and attention with the children. These same fathers may sometimes completely ignore the wife when his children arrive.


Case Study

A couple arrive home after a night out. Her son left the lights on and she makes a comment about him being inconsiderate again.

“Yes,” adds the husband, “and he left his plate in the lounge.” “You never moan when your kids leave their dirty dishes all over the place,” she snaps.

This is a typical example of blind spotting. She is allowed to criticise her kid, but the moment he does, all hell breaks loose and he has double standards regarding his children.


Parents have different discipline and rearing systems. It can be very confusing for children to switch from one system to another. In their mother’s house they are allowed to take anything from the fridge at anytime, at the Dad’s house, they have to ask the stepmother’s permission. At their mother’s home they have to do chores to earn pocket money, at their Dad’s home they have no chores, and he gives them money when they ask.

In Mom’s house both Mom and stepdad contribute to birthday presents, in Dad’s house he buys gifts for his kids and stepmom buys gifts for her kids, which leads to one set of children having very expensive cell phones and the others have cheapies. The father feels it is his right to spoil his children, and the stepchildren’s own father can buy them expensive cell phones.

The children’s own father feels he is already paying maintenance and they don’t need expensive cell phones. The mother’s heart is breaking because her children are feeling neglected. It’s just not fair.

Even more confusing are different sets of rules for children in the same house. The wife’s children, who live with the stepfather, have a curfew and chores during the week, but when his children come over for the weekend, they can watch television till late and they have no curfew or chores.

Also the stay-in children have to make space for the weekend children in their bedrooms, and the weekend children feel like alien invaders in their father’s house, because they don’t have their own beds and cupboard space. Complicated.

I have designed a discipline system that could work for all in both homes. It provides consistency and everybody knows what is expected of them. It works better if both homes implement the same system for all the children. Some parents absolutely refuse to co-operate with the other parent, insisting they know what is best for their children. If every parent knew what was best for their children all the time, why are there so many children in therapy?

Read more about: Discipline Plan For Children


Break-Up And Divorce – Weekend Dads and Stepfathers (continued)

A new stepfather, who does not have children of his own, now suddenly has to cope with his new wife’s children. Often these children overrule and dominate their mother, due to her guilt feelings, or she lacks the discipline that their father used to implement. Also, divorced mothers often indulge their children because the children become the source of love to her, that her ex-husband used to provide. The new stepfather feels it is his duty asAlso, divorced mothers often indulge their children because the children become the source of love to her, that her ex-husband used to provide. The new stepfather feels it is his duty as man of the house to implement discipline and protect his wife. (After all, he fell in love with her, not her children.) More often than not, the mother puts her children first and secretly resents the new husband’s interference and disciplining her children. She experiences it as personal criticism. A toxic atmosphere gradually permeates the home.

More often than not, the mother puts her children first and secretly resents the new husband’s interference and disciplining her children. She experiences it as personal criticism. A toxic atmosphere gradually permeates the home.

I would advise boyfriends who visit girlfriends with children, not to interfere in the children’s discipline or lack there-of, especially if that boyfriend has no intention of permanently joining the domestic arrangement. It is a potential mine field he should rather avoid. If he interferes and disciplines the children, he is conveying an unspoken message to her that he is taking on the role of stepfather and that he has intentions of permanently joining the family. Decide if you are going to become the stepfather, or just remain the boyfriend, and explain this to the woman involved, so she does not develop expectancies, or resent your interference. Remember the children are her blind spot and she will interpret your discipline as personal criticism.

Decide if you are going to become the stepfather, or just remain the boyfriend, and explain this to the woman involved, so she does not develop expectancies, or resent your interference. Remember the children are her blind spot and she will interpret your discipline as personal criticism.

Some women also expect their boyfriends to regularly treat her children to lunches, movies and gifts, and vacations etc and she may resent him if he does not take out his cheque book readily. Some women expect the boyfriends to bring the children a little gift every time he takes her out, to compensate for the fact that the children are going to be without their mother’s company for a few hours. If he does spoil the children, to score brownie points with her, again she may interpret this as an intention to join the family. The best way to solve this uncomfortable situation is to COMMUNICATE. Tell her that you like buying the children gifts because you happen to like them as individuals and not because you intend becoming their stepfather. Or tell her you are dating her, not her children.

If he does spoil the children, to score brownie points with her, again she may interpret this as an intention to join the family. The best way to solve this uncomfortable situation is to COMMUNICATE. Tell her that you like buying the children gifts because you happen to like them as individuals and not because you intend becoming their stepfather. Or tell her you are dating her, not her children.

Many women state in no uncertain terms that if the man does not accept or entertain her children, then it’s a no-go. “I’m a package deal,” they declare on the first date. Hold your horses, lady, you are casting him in the role of a potential husband. In his mind, he is just dating you, spending time with you and getting to know you. Incorporating your children into his plans is a major responsibility he will only consider when he considers committing to you. Dating is not committing.

Women, more often than men, make the fatal mistake of discussing their love lives, romances and even their sex lives with their children. Many a Hero has had to red-face a teenager who knows the intimate details of his love-making skills (or lack thereof!)


Read More: At Wits’ End About Disobedient Children?

All parents have a responsibility to bring up their children to become law-abiding, contributing and productive citizens of a country.

Parents often make the common mistake of asking a child why he/she has done something wrong and the standard answer is always: “I don’t know.” Parents should rather ask the children what are the consequences of their actions, and if they answer they don’t know, give them one or two hints, and then encourage them to come up with at least one or two consequences themselves.

Children are very impulsive and especially young children do not appreciate the consequences of their actions, as their prefrontal cortex’ have not yet developed to execute this function. They should be taught from a young age that every action has long-term and short-term consequences. For example the long-term consequences of smoking marijuana would be that the guilty person can acquire a criminal record and would therefore never be able to acquire a work or travel visa to another country. Unprotected sex can lead to sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and pregnancy. Encouraging them to consider and verbally express the consequences of actions, will teach them to think twice before they repeat misbehaviour and it will teach them to become responsible adults.

There is a difference between discipline and punishment.

Discipline refers to good manners, maintaining a clean, orderly and hygienic environment, sticking to schedules, etc. and thus teaching the child to acquire self-discipline. Self-discipline is a healthy habit, which makes interpersonal relations during adulthood easier. Parents may indulge children’s bad table manners, tardiness or untidy rooms, but future colleagues, employers, friends, flatmates and life partners will not and this can lead to interpersonal conflict. No-one likes a person who thinks the world owes him/her something and who expects other people to clean up after them or accommodate their bad habits.

Punishment is the consequence of an offence. Just as a country has a judicial system differentiating between civil and criminal offences, so the judicial system within a household should distinguish between these two elements. Children do not like rules at home, nor in school. Explain to them that even as adults we are bound by rules and laws and since there is absolutely no escaping this anywhere on the planet, the sooner we learn to abide, the less trouble we get in and the better we get along with anyone and everything else on this planet. Laws should always be obeyed, but once one becomes an independent adult or a self-employed adult or parent, there are new rules which one can make, but one earns the right to do this, by acquiring self-discipline.

Civil offences in the home may include the following: not putting laundry in the washing basket, leaving dirty cups in the room, leaving clothing or personal items in the living areas, not cleaning the toilet, bath or bathroom, a messy kitchen, swearing or name calling, etc. The consequences of these civil offences are not called punishment, but rather community service, because the child offended towards the rest of the community in the home and should make some kind of retribution towards the community.

Even if you employ a housekeeper or gardener, it is recommended that children also take responsibility for some communal chores around the home such as picking up dog pooh, cleaning the pool, putting out the dustbin, sorting the washing, sweeping the veranda, etc as this would teach them to become responsible adults who care for the community and their environment. Civil offences and community service may for example include:

Criminal offences in the home, on the other hand are more serious and usually pertain to lying, endangering own or someone else’s safety or lives, violent behaviour including rage and tantrums, etc. These offences are punished either by fines, or by being grounded, just as criminals are fined or sent to jail. Punishment must also fit the crime, for example:

There are only three reasons why people lie, namely 1) not to get into trouble, 2) to protect someone else and 3) to get someone else in trouble on purpose. Children often lie simply because they don’t know what the punishment for an offence would be and they fear getting into trouble. This is usually a sign of inconsistent discipline and severe punishment by parents. Once a child knows exactly what the consequences of his/her behaviour will be, they will be more likely to avoid that behaviour, or to take the punishment.

Parents should instil integrity in their children. A person with integrity does not take other people’s money or possessions, does not lie, does not cheat in business or in private affairs, keeps promises, pay their taxes and licences, can admit when they have made a mistake and he/she can forgive. A person with integrity values the life force of people, animals, nature and possessions and treats these with respect. Children learn by example. If you want your child to grow up to become a law abiding, contributing, productive citizen and make adult life more easily for them, then set the example and tell them verbally about integrity.

It is recommended that both parents together make a list of civil and criminal offences first. This will be called the protocol. Then the children are invited to a round table family discussion and requested to come up with suggestions as to community service and punishments. Make sure they understand the principles of civil offences and community service versus serious crimes and punishment and explain the household functions like the state judicial system.

By asking them to come up with suggestions, the children will have a democratic input into the process. If a person feels he/she has made a democratic input, they are more likely to commit to the venture. (It is not now a case of: “When you live under my roof, you abide by my rules” – Now it is a case of: “We all live under this roof, so you have a say in the rules”). Parents of course have the right to veto suggestions, and just as the government has the right to make laws and determine punishment for serious crimes, parents have the right to set punishment for serious offences.

Differentiate between pre-school, primary school and teenagers. The younger the child, the less severe the service or punishment should be. The older children have more severe community services and punishment, but they also have more responsibility, more cell phone or computer privileges and freedom. Children should learn that freedom and responsibility go hand in hand. For instance a grade 10 child may stay out until 10pm, but a grade 12 child until 12pm. Since young children do not go out, they cannot be grounded, but they can be sent to bed early or be barred from watching television in stead.

The protocol of offences and related community services and punishments is then printed out. Each member of the household then signs this protocol as a gesture of commitment. A copy is then given to each member and one is placed for instance upon the fridge door, or behind the toilet. Parents must remember to sign this protocol too and if Mom or Dad offends by forgetting a dirty mug in the lounge then they must do the community service in good spirit. Adults are not above the law and must set a good example.

Once the protocol is singed, there is no bargaining about consequences unless there are true mitigating circumstances. Mitigating circumstances may reduce a consequence, but not set it aside and both parents must agree to it. (A cell phone’s flat battery is not a mitigating circumstance for not alerting a parent to whereabouts. Children are not allowed to leave the premises with a flat cell phone battery – it is an offence. Parents can collect all cell phones at 21h00 and charge the phones. No teenager needs a cell phone after 21h00. They have to sleep. A stolen cell phone is mitigating for not being able to alert a parent, but the child should still face the consequences for not taking responsibility to ensure such an expensive item is safe.)

Children may close their bedroom doors and parents should knock and wait for an invite to enter, but children may not lock themselves in their rooms or bathrooms. Privacy is respected – there is no need to enforce it.

Having such a protocol would cut out on parents nagging children to do things. It’s simple: You did something wrong or neglected to do something, you do the community service or take the punishment, as you committed yourself to the protocol. End of discussion.

Remember, children need at least three compliments for each criticism to build their self-esteem and confidence. Show appreciation for good behaviour and comment on it often.

It is also a good idea to reward children now and then for chores completed, but this is ad hoc and they should not expect a reward. As citizens we are all expected to keep our country clean and treat others with respect without reward. Treating them to a family outing over the weekend since everyone has completed their chores without complaining that week, will be a nice surprise. Allow them to vote as to where they would like to go. A drive to the country, tea, a visit to a museum or an expo, the theatre, horse riding excursion, etc are good examples and will promote quality family time. It would be great if each child can invite a friend along.

It is highly advisable that children receive pocket money. This not only teaches them to budget, appreciate the value of possessions and extend the gratification of their needs, but it also provides leverage for parents to fine or withdraw pocket money as punishment.

Children should pay all social expenses out of their pocket money. These include movie tickets, refreshments or meals when they go to malls, presents for friends, make-up, trinkets, costume jewellery, cd’s, etc.

All items relevant to school projects, sports or trips, some social clothing and essential toiletries should be provided by parents.

The estimated amount should encompass spending money for one or two events per weekend for teenagers. This enables them to save up money for expensive “must haves”. Children have a tendency to pay “cash for trash” and waste their money. Restricting pocket money, will eliminate this nasty habit, teach them to budget and consider twice before they just spend. They can also be encouraged to hold jumble sales, garage sales, etc to earn more money and become entrepreneurs. Parents can encourage savings by for instance contributing a quarter or half of each amount saved.

Children should learn to extend the gratification of their needs, for as adults we know we can’t always just get what we want and the world does not revolve around us. Children older than 16 can work over weekends to supplement income, eg at restaurants etc, but not during exam time. As a rule of thumb, it is advisable that children under 15 can go out one weekend night and older than 16 both weekend nights, provided they stick to curfews and the rules. Only one weekend night is advisable for both groups during exam time.

Many children have cell phones, but parents should restrict their cell phone budgets. They may add to it out of their pocket money. They should be punished if they consume the whole budget and do not have air time left for emergency calls to their parents. Their batteries should also be amply charged before they go out, so they have no excuse for not alerting parents to their whereabouts. It is the child’s responsibility to check this and they should face the consequences if they neglect this. Although we should teach our children to respect other people’s privacy, by respecting their privacy, but parents do have the right to monitor computers and cell phone for pornography and paedophiles and their rooms for drugs. Explain to the child why you do this, if you think you have reason. The police may also enter our premises with a search warrant if they suspect us of illegal conduct. Computers and cell phones used for such purposes can be confiscated.

Parents and children should not be friends on Facebook. It is however recommended that an aunt or some other adult keep an eye on the Facebook page of the child. Random checks on the friends on Facebook, in the company of the child – can be done.

If children sleep over or go out with friends for the evening, they should alert their parents if they change location, even if it is just from one restaurant to another in malls. Children and especially girls should not go to toilets alone in malls. Toilets are often located close to exits and parking lots and children can easily be abducted by grown men and kidnapped. They should always move in groups of three or more. Men’s and ladies’ toilets are also unfortunately located adjacent at the end of long corridors. Adult men can easily drag a young child into the men’s toilets and rape him/her. Children should be made aware that alerting parents of whereabouts is a safety precaution that could prevent rape and murder and has nothing to do with not trusting them.

When divorced parents remarry then they should treat all the children in their home the same. All the children should adhere to the protocol of that home, regardless of the discipline in their other home. It would be excellent if divorced parents could agree with their ex-partners on the same protocol and this should be included in the legal parenting plan. If a child is grounded for a month due to a serious misconduct, then the divorced ex-parent should maintain this grounding even if the child is visiting that weekend. Spiting the other parent by allowing the child to go to a party is not beneficial for the child, for it teaches the child to manipulate and cheat.

The sooner a protocol for desired behaviour is administered in the home, the better, but it is never too late to implement one.

Good luck, enjoy the benefits of your desired behaviour protocol and watch your children to grow up into mature, law-abiding, productive adults.

© Dr Micki Pistorius

Take me back to Weekend Dads and Stepfathers


Break-Up And Divorce – Children and the new marriage

Children can be overt or covert saboteurs of their fathers’ new marriage

Often the problem not only lies with the parents having blind spots regarding their children, but also with the children blatantly exploiting the situation.

Children relate to their parents as grown-ups who are obliged to gratify the children’s needs. Children do not consider their parents as autonomous adults who may have their own needs, including their own love lives. Especially young children are very selfish, even narcissistic and we cannot expect anything else from them.

Children are also very materialistic. Children operate from the stance that they own their parents and that they have first right to their parents’ attention. “He was my father first before he became her husband”.

This is not necessarily right or wrong, but the impact it has on second marriages must be taken into consideration and it needs to be managed. Parents need to establish clear boundaries. There is a mother-father parental unit, whose main function centres around the children, but there is also a husband-and-wife unit, which is a completely separate issue and not the concern of the children.

Young children

As children mature, they are supposed to develop an understanding of their parents being adults with their own needs, independent of the needs of the child, though adults do need to consider younger children’s insecurities and developmental limitations and “be the better person”.

Children need to be disciplined and raised to become productive, law abiding citizens, who can function in complicated communities. How can we expect children to respect other people’s rights, if we don’t respect their rights?


Case study

A father gave his 9 year old daughter a gorgeous doll for her birthday. The family moved to a new home and when the little girl came over for the weekend visit, she asked her stepsister where her stepmother had packed the dolls, for she could not find her gorgeous doll. “My mother gave all our dolls to her poor relatives. She said we were getting too old to play with dolls and those girls’ parents could not afford dolls,” the stepsister answered.

The 9 year old girl grew into an adult woman, but whenever she thought about that doll her heart broke and she still experienced the pain of a 9 year old girl who was denied the right of ownership, just because she was a minor. She could not complain to her father about the loss of her doll, for she would sound unsympathetic towards the poor little girls, but the fact that an adult thought she had the right to dispose of that little girl’s prized possession, without even discussing it with the girl, left a deep scar.


Young stepsiblings very often fight and argue, much the same as neighbours’ kids may do. Golden advice to parents would be not to get involved in every fight, not to take sides and let the children sort it out themselves. It teaches them conflict resolution. Unless of course one child is seriously being bullied by another one. House rules should apply to all children and double standards will only be exploited by all children.


By the time children become teenagers or young adults, it is not unreasonable for the new spouse to expect some form of respect and consideration from the stepchildren. However difficult this may be, parents need to overcome their blind spots and address this issue in a mature way.


Case Study

A second wife moved into her new husband’s home. “Please make yourself at home,” he invited. “ It is your home now, so change anything you want and make it comfortable.” The first thing she changed was the lay-out of the kitchen. She moved the

crockery into different cupboards, replaced the worn-out blinds with bright yellow curtains and bought new dish cloths. She was very happy with her new kitchen. Until the first weekend his teenage daughters came over. The girls packed all the crockery back into their original places. “It’s the way our Mom used to have it,” they said.

When the wife brought this under the attention of her husband, his response was: “It’s only crockery, what does it matter where we keep it?” His answer illustrated a typical male pragmatic response. He also did not want to get involved in a catfight. What he did not realise was the subtle underlying nuance of his daughters sending his new wife the message: “You will never be the Queen of this house. We will not allow you.

Our father will always take our side against you. You will always be the outsider.” Men then wonder why they end up outside the wife’s bed?


The above scenario can also happen in a home where daughters turn on the biological mother, because an Electra complex situation exists.

Many second wives are side-lined and actually excluded in such a manner. They are subtly reduced to second hand occupants in what is supposed to be their own new homes. They are barely tolerated and treated by the children with disdain as the woman their father sleeps with, not as the woman of the house.

Quite often men are also treated as an intruder and not as the head of the household, or even an equal adult decision maker and recognised disciplinarian. When parents condone this attitude in their children, to reduce the new partner to a subservient role and where it is acceptable for the kids to rule, then those parents should perhaps postpone getting married until the children have left home.

Parents should gratify their children’s needs to the best of their abilities, and give them lots and lots of attention and affection. That is wonderful and loving, but to allow the children to rule the roost and oust the new spouse is actually detrimental to those children. These children grow up thinking everybody should dance to their tunes, and they develop major adjustment problems later in their own relationships and at places of employment, when their partners and colleagues do not consider it so cute.


Case Study

Two teenage daughters wandered into the stepmother’s bathroom and promptly used her expensive make-up without her permission. When she complained, the father took them to the shops and bought them their own expensive make-up. He thought he was solving the problem pragmatically.

What he did not realise, is he was rewarding his children for using someone else’s property without permission. He could have bought them the make-up after they had apologised.


It is not only the stepmother who is side-lined, but also the stepfather, who often experiences a total lack of respect.Heroes need to be appreciated and respected for being the providers, especially when they are providing for other men’s children.


Case Study

One man complained when he arrives home every day after a long day’s labour, he always has to get out of his car and remove his stepson’s bicycle from the driveway, to gain access to the garage. When he walks into the home his wife is cooking – she does not even turn to greet him properly.

He can’t sit in the lounge and watch the news or enjoy a drink because his stepdaughter is lying on the couch watching soaps and his stepson is in his study, playing games on his computer. Neither of the children greet him properly either. He came home one day and drove over the bicycle with his 4×4, unplugged the television and kept his study door locked. His wife complained he was being unreasonable.


One father expected his new wife to fetch his teenage boy from a private school hostel every Friday afternoon.

She did this without complaint and took him shopping to fill the house with snacks that he liked to eat during the weekend. The boy complained bitterly when the couple went out over the weekend since he demanded his father’s attention and claimed they could go out during the week when he was in the hostel.

He had no consideration for the fact that his father worked during the week, that he may be exhausted earning a living to pay for the boy’s tuition fees and that he would also just like to relax over the weekend with his wife. The father complied with the son’s wishes to avoid a tantrum. Men detest it when women tell them what to do, but often they allow their children to rule the roost.

Young adults

One would expect young adult children to have developed insight into their parents’ adaptation to second marriages and to exhibit less self-centred immature behaviour.


Case Study

A man’s 18 year old daughter comes to visit for a vacation. Every evening she sits next to her Dad on the couch, watching television, while the second wife cooks.

They all eat on trays in front of the television. Everyone takes their own tray back to the kitchen. Whilst the wife unpacks the trays, the young lady rushes back to the lounge and plonks herself next to her father again, swinging her legs over his lap. He naturally puts his arm around his daughter. After cleaning up the kitchen the wife enters the lounge. She would now like to relax and have time with her husband, whom she has not seen all day. There is another woman in her place next to her husband.

Must she now sit on one of the chairs? If she retreats to the bedroom to read a book, she is accused of being unsociable. If she complains that the daughter is not helping with dinner or cleaning up afterwards, his defence is that the daughter is on vacation. If the wife complains that the daughter is sitting on her place, the husband accuses her of being jealous of his child. So his wife, who is supposed to be his metaphorical queen, is expected to serve the little princess.

The little princess is usurping the queen’s throne. Does he really wonder why he is not getting sex? It is fine for the daughter to cuddle next to her Dad, but as soon as the wife enters, either the daughter should move of her own accord, or the father can shoo her off gently to make space for his wife. In case this sounds unfair, how would the father feel if his wife’s teenage son is forever sitting on her lap? How would he feel if the only time he gets to be with his wife is when she gets into bed at night, and then she is tired.



Case Study

One man had two grown daughters. Wherever he went, each daughter would grab a hand and the second wife would have to trail behind them. Even when they travelled abroad, the daughters would sit next to the father on the plane.

When they had dinner in a restaurant, the daughters sat on each side of him. When the father held his wife’s hand in public, the daughters would walk right up to him, throw their arms around his neck and kiss him on the mouth.

His wife grew grumpy when the daughters argued who should sit in the front seat of the car next to the Dad. I kid you not! This woman had virtually no private space of her own, not even in her bedroom and she had no personal access to her husband. She could not wait for him, dressed in sexy lingerie in bed at night, for the girls would lie on the parents’ bed watching television, waiting for the father to get home.

The husband seemed oblivious that his wife was being ousted and alienated by his daughters. He thought she was just jealous. What is the purpose of being married to a man if a wife has to queue to cuddle him and to compete for a scrap of recognition and attention?


One would think this situation would improve when these daughters got married. At least they were out of the home, but the moment they visited, they abandoned their husbands and still sat on their father’s lap.

It is cute when a five year old sits on her father’s lap. It is not so cute when she is 25. Eventually this man saw the light and set the boundaries. Else he would have grown old a very lonely man.

Not only the girls, but also the boys make it very difficult for their parents to get on with their lives.


Case Study

Another young prince was a third year student. He did not want to live in a dormitory nor did he want to move into a commune, because he did not want to share a bathroom with other students. So he stayed with his father and stepmother. He paid no rent, had a television and wi-fi in his room, the housekeeper attended to his laundry and ironed his clothes.

He had a brand new car and his Dad paid for a tank of petrol every so often. He was still a dependent on his Dad’s medical aid and his Dad paid for his studies, and books. He also paid him an allowance each month and the prince supplemented this by acting as a mentor to first year students. He spent his money socialising with his friends.

He often criticised his stepmother’s housekeeping skills and one day they had a big blow-up due to the fact that his stepmother refused him permission to invite six friends to sleep over one night when they all had too much to drink. “There are enough spare bedrooms in my father’s house,” he complained. What he did not consider was that the housekeeper would have to wash six sets of bed linen the next day, fit them all in on the washing line and iron 12 sheets and 12 pillow cases as well as six duvet covers.

The stepmother felt this was too much work to disrupt her household just to indulge the prince and his drunken entourage. The prince called her wicked.



Case Study

Another student princess was only prepared to move out if her father provided her with a fully furnished flat, close to the university. She had already hand picked the leather couches, washing machine and tumble dryer.

Heaven forbid to suggest a laundrette, and she refused to return home every weekend with her dirty laundry for her stepmother to wash, for that would defy the purpose of living on her own, independently! I wondered if she had ever washed a sheet in her life or sewed on a button? Imagine the lucky young man who just can’t wait to marry her? Or the lazy bum, who happens to be in-between jobs and who cannot be a waiter because it interferes with his artistic creativity, who moves in with her for free?



Break-Up And Divorce – The children are growing up

Sometimes parents have problems coming to terms with their children growing up

A particularly explosive situation is when teenage stepsiblings fall in love with another. What happens when her 17 year old son falls in love with his 15 year old daughter and they all sleep under one roof over weekends? Many parents are often oblivious to this quite common occurrence.

Parents are entitled to their values and every person has the right to set rules in their own homes, but children over the age of legal consent need no-one’s permission to have sex.

Once they turn twenty one, one can ask them to respect rules out of to consideration, but they are adults and one can no longer prevent them. New rules, new boundaries and reciprocal respect are terms to be renegotiated when adult children live with their parents.

Case Study

A 25 year old young man enjoyed the privilege of still living in the same house as his parents. His girlfriend often slept over.

His mother complained to me she could not understand why the kids kept their bedroom door locked. In the morning she wanted to open the door to let the dog out, but it would be locked. “They are probably having sex,” I remarked. Her jaw dropped and her eyes grew large. She was stunned. She never considered that her son was a man, who actually had sex.


Adult children failing to launch often place severe stress on their parents’ finances. Developmental phases continue far beyond teenage years. Parents in their 50s are concerned about their retirement funds and basically deserve the peace of mind that they can reap the rewards of 30 to 40 years’ of hard work.

Young adult children failing year after year of university or young adults who do not search for and find employment are exploiting their parents’ goodwill and blind spots. Grow up. Get a job.