Methods of Emotional Manipulation: Understanding Parental Alienation using Behaviorism
Methods of Emotional Manipulation: Understanding Parental Alienation using Behaviorism: Pigeonholed: by Monika L. Logan
This article is not intended for advice or any form of therapy
Parental alienation is an insidious plan. The plan is not necessarily well-thought out. An un-happy ex-spouse does not jot down verbal snares for future use. On the contrary, the plan is primal. The plan is one that feeds and fills a wounded adult. Sorry to say but the plan works.
Psychology terms may benefit when it come to understanding Parental Alienation (PA). The first term is positive reinforcement. Positive reinforcement works. Parents use positive reinforcement to increase the frequency of desired behaviors. The reinforcement may be gifts, stickers, recognition, or accolades. In cases of PA, the manipulative parent may buy the child a toy each time the kid reports happenings during the other parent’s visitation time. The kid will learn to report the events of the other parent’s life. A manipulative parent will use this as part of his or her plan. So, when asked, does (dad or mom) say bad things? The child’s answer is no.
The second term is known as negative reinforcement. This method works by compliance and exhaustion. Let’s say a kid calls the non-custodial parent every night before bed. However, the parent feels threatened and rants about 30 minutes before the call is made. The out of control parent cannot tolerate frustration. Consequently, they resort to a nightly ritual of yelling, screaming and the use of derogatory terms .The parent may additionally threaten the kid. Obviously the kid would like to avoid the aversive conditions. One can conclude that the kid will stop calling. In this case, the kid desires the parent to cease child-like tantrums.
The third is partial reinforcement. If positive reinforcement is consistent, the behavior and subsequent rewards will remain. On the contrary, partial reinforcement is unpredictable. This may be maddening for parents that demand loyalty. It is akin to a drug user needing a fix. Let’s say a parent bought a new video game every time the child reported (mom or dads) new dating status. But wait, the child is getting older. The kid has a new set of friends and moved into adolescence. At times the kid will report events and other times they will not. The parent cannot predict if they get to know the happenings of his or her ex-spouses life. Out of desperation and the requirement for an emotional fix, the parent behaves in a compulsive manner. The parent wants to get back on track with a steady stream of reports from parental spying. The parent craves consistency.
Next is punishment the difference is in the timing. In negative reinforcement dad (or mom) starts yelling before the kid leaves for the weekend or vacation. Punishment can manifest in many forms. The worst may sound something like this, “if you go visit on Wednesday night, then we are moving five states away.” Punishment is a consequence of a behavior that the favored parent refuses to tolerate. In PA the word behavior should be replaced with love. That is, the favored parent cannot have the kid loving the other parent. Consequently, the kid will become fearful and may refuse to go. They reason, at their young age, that it is better to refuse visitation than to move five states away. Fear itself becomes reinforcing.
Last but not least: traumatic learning. In this case the kid will adopt a response style of fear and avoidance. There are many methods the parent may employ. Regardless of the means, it is enough to scare the kid for life. It may alienate the child or lead to a severed relationship. As just one example, the kid that arrives home happy from a weekend at dads may not be met with a pleasant smile. Instead, the child may come home to a parent screaming what a sorry no good nothing of a parent the child’s father has been. Worse yet, the parent rant, raves, and sobs. They will not stop; the parent goes on ranting about adult matters, such as affairs, and personal faults. The outcome is an alienated child. Parental Alienation is frequently associated with a plan. While the plan may not always have a lot of forethought, it provides covert gains. The gains are a quick fix to deep-rooted issues, pigeonholing kids into a life without one parent.