My kids have been especially difficult lately. The two youngest, who are teenagers, took and wrecked things of mine, have been defiant, rude, offensive, and demanded apologies from me for “not trusting them” and for ruining their lives to such a degree that, according to them, their disrespect of me is natural and logical and I deserve their anger & rudeness.
I did not remember my own advice – to not take it personally, and I made things worse by arguing with them.
I saw that someone had found this blog by entering the search terms “reasoning with an alienated child”. You cannot reason with an alienated child. Maybe someone can – someone unconnected with you – but you can’t. I can’t reason with mine. With me, they are not reasonable or rational. Getting drawn into an argument with them is disastrous. They are not at all interested in my opinion. It just becomes an opportunity to vent anger and criticize me, to repeat, again, all the accusations they have learned from the alienator. Although they live under my roof, they interact with me as little as they can, and see their dad everyday and have those accusations and criticisms reinforced.
I have heard from their teachers and from the parents of some of their friends that my children interact normally with their classmates and other adults, that they are generally reasonable and kind and well-liked, although I know that they have also ended friendships with other kids when my ex had issues with those friends’ parents. I also believe that my ex has undermined some of my children’s activities and relationships with others in order to promote their dependence on and closeness to him, and I know that he has encouraged them to be arrogant, judgmental, rude and even cruel to certain people, including authority figures, their grandparents and other senior citizens.
Sometimes this makes me panic. I know that I have no control over how they behave with others, but in relation to me I find it very hard to know when to draw the line. Am I being a doormat and accepting abuse and creating monsters? Or do I let it go, knowing that it is not their fault, that they are brainwashed, manipulated, & basically forced into acting as if they hate me? I was alienated. I know what it’s like. I’m sure that they are uncomfortable with their horrible behaviour, and work hard to hate me more to justify it. In fact it would give them relief if I lost my temper and was critical and angry back at them.
So here is my advice to myself:
Don’t take it personally. Impose consequences for the bad behaviour (no allowance until the ruined property is replaced or paid for, in one case, no favours extended for a long time in another), but don’t lecture, don’t argue, don’t take the bait, don’t engage.
Take care of myself so that I have the strength to stay calm and firm and loving. Remember that they are not my enemies – they are victims.