This is how you know if your ex is turning your child against you

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This is how you know if your ex is turning your child against you
This is how you know if your ex is turning your child against you

One of the more tricky aspects of parental alienation is how to accurately establish whether there really is alienation, or such intent, on the part of the other parent.

Parent24 spoke to two experts who explained this issue from a psychological and a legal point of view.

Also see below for a list of typical behaviours. 


Joburg-based Counselling Psychologist Ace Chiheya explained to Parent24 that there is usually a continuous pattern of efforts to stop the child’s contact or visit with the targeted parent, as well as efforts to disturb or shorten contacts or visits.

Examples include "baseless recrimination and badmouthing by the alienating parent, with little or no good words about the targeted parent", he said.

Such efforts do not only target the targeted parents, but their family members as well like aunts, uncle, grandparents, he added.  

Because parental alienation is neither a diagnosable psychological condition nor a psychological construct, Chiheya explained, there is no established psychological evaluation or psychometric tool specifically designed to measure parental alienation.

"Nevertheless, there are various methods of evaluation that are used to pick themes that point to parental alienation and these include drawings, clinical interviews, collateral information, family relations tests and so on," he told us. 

Read more in our series: #NoOneWins | Everything you need to know about Parental Alienation 


Advocate Riani Ferreira of Circle Chambers also provided insight, explaining that there are certain clear signs and based on the facts, it can be established that the child was one day still loving the parent and the next day not.

To make a decision, the court will consider the facts.

"Children don’t loose their affinity for a parent overnight," Ferreira says.

If there are no actions that caused the "estrangement" by the rejected parent him or herself, the inference is that the other parent, the defiant parent, is using techniques to alienate, which is a form of child abuse. 

The court will determine when a child has been alienated, based on facts or through the evidence and assistance of a suitably qualified expert. 

Typical signs of alienation 

According to the book Children Who Resist Postseparation Parental Contact, typical behaviour exhibited by the child, or children, in question include the following examples:

Opinion of parents is one sided, all good or all bad, idealizes one parent and devalues the other

Vicious vilification of rejected parent, campaign of hatred

Trivial, false, and irrational reasons to justify hatred

Reactions and perceptions unjustified or disproportionate to parent’s behaviours

Talks openly and without prompting about rejected parent’s perceived shortcomings

Extends hatred to extended family and pets of rejected parent (hatred by association)

No guilt or ambivalence regarding malicious treatment, hatred, etc.

A stronger, but necessarily healthy, psychological bond with alienating parent than with the rejected parent

Ask us! Do you have a legal question you need help with? Share your questions via email at and we may speak to a legal professional on your behalf. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

Typical Behaviours exhibited by favoured (alienating) parent

Insists that the child has the right to make decisions about contact

Rarely talks about the other parent, uninterested in the child’s time with other parent after contact, gives a cold shoulder or silent treatment or is moody after the child expresses dissatisfaction about the contact

No photos of rejected parenting in the home; removes reminders of the other parent

Tells child fun things that were missed during the child’s time with the other parent

Indulges child with material possessions and privileges• Rejected parent is discouraged or refused permission to attend school events and activities

Telephone messages; gifts and mail from other parent to child are destroyed, ignored, or passed on to the child with disdain

 • Does not believe that child has any needs for the relationship with other parent

Exaggerate negative attributes of the other parent and omits anything positive

Projection of own thoughts, feelings, and behaviours onto the other parent

Does not correct the child’s rude, defiant, and/ or omnipotent behaviour directed towards the other parent but would never permit child to do this with others

Convinced of harm when there is no evidence 

False or fabricated allegations of sexual, physical, and /or emotional abuse

Says that the other parent left "us," divorced "us", and does not love "us"

Over-involves child in adult matters and litigation

Relocation for minor reasons and with little concern for the effects on the child

Typical behaviour exhibited by rejected (alienated) parent

Harsh, rigid, and punitive parenting style

Outrage at child’s challenge to his or her authority

Passivity or withdrawal in face of conflict

Immature, self-centred in relation to child

Losses tamper, angry, demanding, intimidating character traits, but not to level of abuse

Counter rejecting behaviour

Lacks empathic connection to child

Inept and unempathetic pursuit of child; pushes calls and letters, unannounced or embarrassing appearances at school or activities

Challenges child’s beliefs or attitudes and tries to convince him or her otherwise

Dismissive of child’s feelings or negative attitudes

Attempt to induce guilt

May use force to reassert parental position

Vents rage, blames alienating parent for brainwashing the child, and takes no responsibility

Read more in our series: #NoOneWins | Everything you need to know about Parental Alienation

Ask us!

Do you have a legal question you need help with? Share your questions via email at and we may speak to a legal professional on your behalf. Anonymous contributions are welcome.

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