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April25.org: What is Hostile Aggressive Parenting?
A general pattern of behaviour, manipulation, actions or decision-making of a person (usually a parent or guardian) that either directly or indirectly; 1) creates undue difficulties or interferences in the relationship of a child with another person (usually a parent or guardian) involved with the parenting and/or rearing of the child and/or, 2) promotes or maintains an unwarranted unfairness or inequality in the parenting arrangements between a child’s parents and/or guardians and/or, 3) promotes ongoing and unnecessary conflict between parents and/or guardians which adversely affects the parenting, well-being and rearing of a child.
Symptoms of Hostile Aggressive syndrome
Taken from SITE: http://www.hostile-aggressive-parenting.com/symptoms_of_HAP.asp
Will badmouth the other parent in front of the children.
Not willing to participate in any reasonable form of written communication.
Will tell the other parent and other third parties to deal only with their lawyer at times of minor conflict.
Will frustrate normal and healthy telephone communication, such as supervising phone talk with kids, etc
Will say that the child does not want to speak to the other parent.
Will not let older children speak for themselves.
Will undermine the other parent's authority
Will tell the child they cannot alter parenting times outlined on the court order because the court doen't allow it.
Will play on the children's feeling of guilt and sympathy.
Will be uncooperative when it comes to working out summer and holiday schedules for children.
Fail to involve the other parent in the choice of daycare providers.
Choose third parties over the other parent to care for the child if they are unavailable.
Deny or delay access to the children by pretending that they are too sick or have too much homework, etc.
Create difficulties for the children to see the other parent on special occasions.
Insist that the children be returned precisely on time while not respecting these same rules themselves.
Unwilling to make arrangements when situations arise which reasonably warrant some flexibility.
Unwilling to any professional involved in helping the parents co-parent the children effectively.
Make claims of bias against any party involved with helping the family.
Take the children to their "own" counsellors/doctors/etc without the knowledge/permission of the other parent.
Unwilling to consider any kind of fair and equal parenting arrangement for the child
Unilaterally make plans for the child on the other parent's access time
Get the child to place blame and guilt on the other parent
Entice or bribe the child to not want to go with the other parent
Not inform the other parent of upcoming school activities, events, or holidays when the child's regular schedule at school may not be applicable
Not inform the other parent in a timely manner when the child has been injured
Not allow the child to have any pictures or memorabilia involving the other parent in the home, including the child's own room.
Discard or sell gifts given by the other parent while they were together
Will refuse to participate in activities at the child's school when the other parent is present
Will object to the other parent (usually the non custodial parent) taking the child to any kind of counselling or other third party professional
Attempt to spread their hate and animosity to the friends and/or extended family of the targeted parent
Claim that there is a potential for conflict with their former spouse to thwart open discussion of the issues
Will threaten the child with loss of their love should the child ever want to live with the other parent or should the child show affection towards the other parent or other parent's extended family
Will coach the child to "spy" on the other parent or pump the child for information
Will make of false claims of parental conflict, while doing nothing to reduce such conflict
Will create conflict with their child just after visits with the other parent and then blame the other parent for being the cause of the conflict with the child
Collaborative Community-Based Support Strategies
Hostile-aggressive parents generally try to keep their pattern of behaviour from being noticed by friends and others in the community such as schools and day care providers. Most of the time HAP parents they know that what they are doing to their children is wrong but do not want to be embarrassed for what they know most people in the community would consider to be bad parenting behaviour. These HAP parents continuously hide the truth behind a wall of deception and over a period of time become quite skilled at deceiving others. Often HAP parents may threaten and intimidate children to remain silent about abuse, causing children to be terrified of saying anything about their abusive parent’s behaviour.Members of the community can play a vital role in eliminating the harm done by hostile-aggressive parents. By learning to identify the presence of HAP and refusing to participate in a hostileaggressive parent’s campaign of abuse against a child, people in the community can help to protect the child and help to make the community a better and more caring place for all to live.
The underlying causes of Hostile–Aggressive Parenting
There are a number of reasons why parents or other family members engage in Hostile-Aggressive Parenting when exercising their parental/guardian authority. It is important for all persons who have to deal with persons exhibiting HAP behaviours so that they can better understand why these persons are behaving in this manner. Some of the main causes, described briefly, are:
Anger and revenge
Anger and revenge and the inability to control it, are the most common underlying causes of Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviour. Usually, when a couple separates, there is a lot of pain and hurt caused by the separation. Unfortunately, many parents are unable to deal with their hurt in a positive way and, instead, focus their emotions in a damaging way towards their former spouse and family. Their anger and need for revenge against the other parent takes control to some extent. In severe cases, these emotions can become the main motivating factors in those persons’ lives. Although anger and revenge are basic human reactions, they can be kept largely under control and their adverse affects on children eliminated if the appropriate intervention strategies are employed through the court process coupled with the proper support from the community.
Jealousy and fear
In some cases, parents may fear that their own relationship with their child is not strong enough and worry that their child may develop a stronger relationship with the other parent. Some parents may fear that they may lose custody of the child to the other parent if the child’s bond with the other parent becomes too strong. As a consequence, the fearful parent may resort to Hostile-Aggressive Parenting in the hope of strengthening their own bond with the child at the expense of the child’s relationship with the other parent. Jealousy and fear are often high up on the list when a parent believes that their child may want to spend more time with the other parent, especially when custody and parenting time is yet to be determined by the court. Some parents may resort to HAP fearing that the court may reduce their involvement with the child or not grant their bid for sole custody of the child.
Power and Control
Some parents simply have a desire for power and control over the child and the child’s other parent and the child literally becomes their tool to accomplish this. Often, this thirst for power and control over the other family situation can last for many years, if not a lifetime. The use of the child as a means to have power and control over the other parent is most common in situations where a child has been placed under the sole custodial power of only one parent or where one parent has a significantly greater period of time with the child. In addition to the money that will often flow to the custodial parent from the non-custodial parent, parents who have custody of children are often able to make further financial demands and accounting of their former partners, year after year. Religious conflicts between parents are also a power and control issue with parents of different religions wanting the child to follow the beliefs of his/her own religion.
Personal financial gain is also another strong motivator to hostile-aggressive parents. Gaining custody and control of the children involved is often desired as a way of increasing one party’s personal financial gain to the disadvantage of the other parent. Hostile-Aggressive Parenting can help achieve this by helping to gain custody and child support for the child. For the parent with custody of the child there are huge rewards – child support payment, income tax credits and other child tax credits. Between child support and the other tax benefits, the amount of money involved is usually amounts to thousands of dollars per year, much of it tax-free.
Mild to severe personality/psychiatric disorders
In a very small number of cases where HAP has been identified, one or a number of recognized personality/psychiatric disorders may be the underlying cause or partially the cause. Although most behaviours are related to the environment that persons are exposed to during their developmental years, some may be attributed to genetic disposition in which case, hostile-aggressive tendencies often appear to be found in previous generations of a family tree. For example, a number of parents who suffer from anxiety or depression come from homes where one or both of the parents may have suffered from anxiety or depression as well. Those who exhibit severe hostile-aggressive-behaviour and who seem unable to change their behaviours often suffer some form of mental or personality disorder which is affecting their ability to deal with day to day matters on a rational level. Hostile- Aggressive Parenting (HAP) can be one of the first signs of a person with a personality/psychiatric disorder.
Schools, child care agencies and their workers
Schools and child care agencies are often on the front line when it comes to dealing with the problems associated with families in conflict as a result of separation and divorce. Many teachers and school officials will undoubtedly have to deal with children from broken homes where parental conflict is high and where HAP is noticeably present. Through their extensive day-to-day involvement with children, teachers and early childhood educators may often be in a position where they are exposed to the behaviour of hostile-aggressive parents or may observe the effects of HAP with children they teach or care for.
Quite often, HAP parents (usually custodial) will attempt to drag the school into the conflict and will attempt to mislead school officials to take sides against the other parent, often against the wishes and preferences of the child. By large, the most common problem that school officials face is the situation where the custodial HAP parent will attempt to have school officials restrict the other parent’s access to the chid while the child is at school. The custodial parent will advise school officials (usually the principal or the child’s teacher) and advise principal and/or staff that they are the custodial parent and that the other parent cannot contact the child except during the other parent’s access time. The most common things that an HAP parent may do to involve school officials in their campaign against the other parent are:
Schools and day care facilities need to have appropriate policies regarding children who are being exposed to abuse by a HAP parent. Schools should also develop protocols when abuse by an HAP parent is suspected.
Some of the things that schools and child care agencies and their workers can do to help protect children are as follows:
Extended family, friends & community
Unfortunately, too often, friends and family tend to support those who are part of their family or group of friends without questioning how their support for the parent they know may be affecting the child. This approach can often be wrong and have devastating negative effect on a child. Many times, family members end up supporting the HAP parent without knowing it.
Friends, family and neighbours should be cautious in believing negative comments from one parent about the other, even if it is their own family member who is giving them information. People in the community whose support is being sought by a parent should take the time to make themselves of the issues before providing their blind support. They should be especially cautious when it would appear that their support is sought to support what are considered as Hostile-Aggressive Parenting behaviours by one of the parents such as trying to restrict the child’s access to the other parent. If it would appear that any parent is exhibiting any of the HAP behaviours listed in this document, then extreme caution must be exercised in supporting this parent. People in the community must do what is right for the child and to be careful not to cause further harm to the child by providing support to the HAP parent.
When extended family members and other people in a community refuse to support parents who abuse their children through HAP behaviours, then those parents harming their child by HAP will more than likely change the way they parent their children. The concept that, “it takes a village to raise a child” is still a concept that has worked for many generations in the past and still works today. A community that stands united against Hostile-Aggressive Parenting, will help to send a strong message to parents who may be harming their children that this is not acceptable behaviour. Only when the community stands up can we hope to eliminate this most serious form of child abuse.
Health care professionals
Health care professionals in the community such as doctors and nurses should be very careful that they do get themselves involved in the hostilities in a manner that hurts the child. Hostileaggressive parents will often present themselves quite well to professionals such as doctors, nurses, police officers, etc. and are often masters of deception. HAP parents will often feed misleading and one-sided information to health care professionals for the purpose of extracting opinion or recommendation letters from these professionals which favour the HAP parent’s position in court. Often the HAP parent will use these letters to block the other parent’s access time with the child or use the letters in court against the other parent at some time in the future. In most cases, however, when professionals do look into matters more closely and seek information from the other side before writing such letters, they find that they have been duped by the HAP parent. Under such circumstances, many professionals can find themselves the subject of a disciplinary hearing or civil lawsuit. Any professional who is requesting by a parent to support any action which would be appear to be a hostile-aggressive action or a violation of the child’s rights, should carefully and fully review the circumstances before taking action for one parent. Taking the time to speak to the other parent is usually one of the best things to do to protect both the professional and the child who may be under the control of a HAP parent.
Police and child welfare protection workers
Law enforcement and child welfare protection agencies in the community must also very careful that they do not involve themselves in a manner that end up hurting the child and benefiting the HAP parent. Failure to identify and effectively deal with an HAP parent can have a devastating effect on the child.
HAP parents will often attempt to use the police or child welfare protection agencies as a tool in their campaign to destroy their child’s relationship with the other parent. The most common thing that an HAP parent will do to involve the police or child welfare protection agencies will be to allege that the other parent has assaulted, stalked or threatened them or has physically or sexually assaulted the child. The HAP parent tries to get police to lay charges as once charges are laid, then the court or child welfare protection workers will likely prevent the other parent from having contact with the child. Even if the parent is found innocent, the effect that the HAP parent wanted would have been achieved. HAP parents are masterminds of deception and can often spin a good story when it comes to making false allegations against their former partner. The problem is that with the Zero Tolerance policies in many areas, the false allegations often achieve the desired result of interfering with the child’s relationship with the other parent for a long period of time.
Police and child welfare protection agencies must be very diligent in investigating such allegations and to see if the behaviours of the accuser categorize them as an HAP parent, then police should be very careful to get involved unless there is clear and convincing evidence that would show that the allegations are legitimate. Police and child welfare protection agencies should carefully interview all collateral witnessed and should never lay charges or take a child away from one of the parents based on just the allegations of the accuser. Allegations must be supported by reasonable collateral evidence.
Failure by authorities to properly investigate allegations made by HAP parents will ultimately result in the loss of respect of the authorities by people in the community. Children who have had their relationship damaged by the HAP parent with the help of local authorities will likely grow up with a strong dislike of local authorities. This is not good for these agencies which rely on support from the community. Agencies should encourage the involvement of other family member using “Family Group Conferencing” strategies before using the criminal justice system to intervene in these types of family matters when the risk to a child may be small, however, where serious risk to a child may be a potential possibility, or where a child is expressing fear and anxiety of the HAP parent, authorities must move quickly to remove the child for an interim period of time from the care and control of the HAP parent.