Common Behaviours

Common behaviours of alienating parents are:


Using the child as ransom to blackmail the other parent: “If I don’t get …, I won’t let you see your child.”


Manipulating the child with three-part messages:

  • “I have to send you to [the other parent’s] house” – I am the only parent who loves you and you need me to feel good about yourself.
  • “If they do anything you don’t like, call me” – The other parent is dangerous and unreliable.
  • “I’ll be looking after Jimmy while his mummy is at work” – You will lose my love to someone else if you have a relationship with the other parent.

Not wanting to talk about the child’s relationship and experiences with the other parent.

Twisting their positive experiences into negative ones: “He took you on a roller coaster? You must have been horribly scared.”

Pressuring the child to stay: “I’ll miss you – it makes me sad when I’m worried about you.”

Indoctrinating the child by the way they refer to the other parent: “Their house.” / “Our home.

Brainwashing the child: “You don’t like being there – you like being here.”

Circulating lies about the other parent to family, friends and neighbours.

Having a secret language or code words with the child to exclude the other parent.

Substituting the adult partner

Involving the child in adult conversations.

Having ‘date nights’ together, i.e. late nights, fast food, and a movie.

Sleeping with the child obsessively/age-inappropriately.

Keeping the child off school unnecessarily.


Changing clothes provided by the other parent, to control the child’s identity/undermine the other parent.

Keeping any newly bought/preferred clothes and sending the child back in old, unwanted clothes.

Dressing the child in inappropriate clothes for a planned activity with the other parent.


Suggesting that teddy bears, dolls, or imaginary friends will keep the child safe during contact with the other parent.

‘Losing’ toys/possessions that the other parent has given the child.

Belittling toys/possessions that the other parent has given the child.


Making false allegations against the other parent to the school in order to manipulate the school into preventing contact.

Withholding school news to prevent involvement/support from the other parent.

Changing contact arrangements at the last minute, ‘forgetting’ arrangements and making other plans, or breaking contact order outright.

Booking holidays that intrude on the other parent’s contact time.

Making arrangements for the child during the other parent’s contact time to control what they do together/disrupt the other parent’s plans.

Getting the child to count the days until he/she ‘comes home’.

Keeping the child talking for long periods on the phone during the other parent’s contact.

Promising rewards for when the child gets home and suggesting the child is ‘missing out’ until he/she returns.

Preparing for litigation

Fabricating a catalogue of domestic or child abuse allegations.

Getting the child to fabricate a secret record of negative things about the other parent.

Taking the child to the doctor and making false allegations against the other parent.

Taking the child to the police station and making false allegations against the other parent.