Amy J.L. Baker Ph.D.

Caught Between Parents

Don’t Fear Your Child’s Criticism

Let it be the glue, not the wedge in your relationship.

Posted Jun 20, 2019

Targeted parents often seem reluctant to raise touchy topics with their children, for fear that discussing the issue will make the child realize how upset s/he really is, and that the child’s rejection will strengthen and become more entrenched.

They often fear and resent criticism from their child because it seems to be manufactured by the favored parent as a way to create a wedge between them and the child. I understand the reluctance but have found that—like many aspects of parental alienation—this one is also counterintuitive.

If done with compassion, discussing the sore point, whatever it is, can actually deepen the attachment. It can be the glue that helps to hold the parent and child together rather than a wedge that comes between them.

To be clear, there are situations in which nothing the targeted parent does will make a difference because the favored parent is too powerful, too convincing, too compelling to the child at that moment and no degree of compassion and loving attention from the targeted parent will prevent the child from becoming alienated.

But the better the targeted parent interacts with the child before, during, and after the alienation, the more likely it is the underlying attachment can be preserved. Which brings me back to how the targeted deals with criticism and negativity of the child: Rather than responding with a defensive and angry posture ("How dare you think I did…" "Don’t you know I would never…" "Why are you upset that I did…" "When your other parent did so much worse, if you only knew my side of the story, you would see that you have no right to be upset with me.") the targeted parent should respond with loving compassion (and specific techniques) to allow the child to experience the targeted parent as safe, loving, and available.

The paradox is that even when discussing something negative, the feeling between parent and child can be positive. So you don’t need to fear your child’s criticism. You can use it as an opportunity to connect with your child and deepen the attachment.