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Emotions and Using Children as Weapons - Part 1

Parents often do not mean to use children as weapons but do so becasue of their own unresolved emotional history.

Emotions and Using Children as Weapons - Part 1

When we look at the conflicts and intense emotions of people going through divorce or separation it is often the escalation and intensity of challenging or simply "bad" behaviour over children that leaves many people shaking their heads in disbelief. When this then continues for the childhood years of the child we  are left with a very damaging situation to all involved; as the ex-partners don't seem to be able to find the way to move out of entrenched conflict even when all the hard court battles are supposedly over. It is always easier to see what is going on when you view it from the side lines; when you are not emotionally involved and you do have the skills to make an assessment based on knowledge and proven skills. But how can the people involved stop what is happening?

How do we know if we personally have moved to a place of personal development where we are not the problem or a large part of the problem?

For me this means I have reached a place of the "compassionate heart". This means that in all situations where any one is operating from ego, 'personality disorder' often simply meaning exceptionally bad or irrational behaviour; playing games of retaliation, revenge, power struggles, control or attention seeking I am still able to stay centred; without negative emotions and communicate in a constructive manner that over time (sometimes a long time) from a compassionate heart to help move the situation forward.

Add children to the situation and we find that ex-partners who both have intense emotions will either try to protect their children from this emotion; use the intense emotion to manipulate the child as a weapon for revenge or control or a power struggle or simply attention; or simply be oblivious to the needs of their own children because they are so caught up in their own "stuff" they have put blinkers on to the damage they are psychologically doing their child.

In early articles we identified the four main personality patterns people will have when their unresolved ego issues are stimulated through crisis. They are revenge/retaliation; power struggles; control issues; attention seeking issues and any one person can have a combination of these issues in different intensities and at different times of the grief process.

So when parents use children as weapons in their continual conflict with and ex-partner they will revert to behaviours that can be identified from these personality needs and fears.

Why do they do this? They do it because they do not have the personal knowledge or skills to manage the conflict situation in a constructive manner and at the same time at a very deep psychological level are hurt, pained, angry, and fearful.

So basically two things are happening: all their unresolved ego/ personality issues are being triggered will write on projection at a later date) and they have intense emotions.

So how do they use their own children as weapons?

The patterns like all human behaviour are complex but can be understood with some study. Why would you want to know? Because if I come from a compassionate heart and I know what is really going on for the "damaged parent" I may be able to communicate in a manner that will assist that parent move on so my children are able to have a happy home life and not grow up with too many unresolved childhood issues!

Simply put these are some of the patterns to use children as weapons and what you need to do to start to stop them using children as weapons.

We are referring to the "damaged" unresolved issues of these styles not to people who have come from very loving and supportive backgrounds and only come out of the positive of the style. (Everyone will have some issues but they can be minor)

Harmoniser

When you first met they are usually loving, quiet, nurturing, supportive, giving and the perfect mother or father image.

What they can do in crisis?

Passive Aggressive - one moment nice and charming and the next attacking. Often they can be seen as the victim to the intimidating partner.

They can choose revenge/retaliation but will not admit to themselves that this is what they are doing.

How do they use children as weapons?

Because these people are natural nurturers when not in crisis they generally will have very close or co-dependant relationships with their children - they would have done a lot of nurturing of their children and will often see their children as theirs. The children often feel an incredible loyalty to these patents. If it is the mother, a boy may feel they have to protect this person because the child will feel that this parent is more sensitive then the other parent; a girl may feel they need to look after the father. The parent may cry, be remorseful in front of the child; tell the child things about the other parent; explain why they are really trying to protect the child. The close loving nurturing of this parent generally forms close attachments with the child and this loyalty will help in the games being played. The child becomes a weapon because they are trying to make everything OK for this parent and some times they are very subtly convinced by this parent that the only way to do this is to be loyal to them, not see the other parent and look after the parent. Often these children will grow up feeling it is their responsibility to look after this parent because they are not capable of looking after themselves. Add illness (depression; mental disorders; high blood pressure) to this and intensify the problem for the child.

Most of this happens without conscious awareness this is what is happening.

So how does the "balanced" parent help to break the pattern?

Start to come from compassionate heart. (Impossible if your own unresolved issues are in the way)

Make sure you get professional help to move through your emotional issues.

Meet the needs of the ex-partner where you can and it is reasonable - their needs are security and belonging.How can you help this to be achieved for the sake of your child?

Take everything slowly; as they adjust very slowly to change.

If you made the choice to finish the relationship realise it will take them a long time to really accept it is finished. They may try to hang on in any way they can - like through the children.

Don't react to the ex-partners games; observe, stay calm, know your own rights and state them calmly.

Speak to them in a friendly manner; the harsher you are the more likely they will shift to revenge. They have more difficulty being vengeful to people who are nice as it is how they see themselves.

Make your home safe and enjoyable for the child. Build a loving relationship with your child where they can be a child and have fun.

Teach your child values in a loving and supportive manner - let them start to work it out for themselves.

Make sure your child does not feel they have to look after you.

Don't judge or criticise the ex-parent to the child.

Gently state your concern for the child's wellbeing, at the bottom line they are nurturers.

Adventurer

When you first meet they are often charming; sociable; exciting; enthusiastic and fun to be with it; this person makes life interesting and vibrant.

What do they do in a crisis?

Can be passive or aggressive but generally done in a very manipulative and sometimes subtle manner - if highly educated can become cynical and sarcastic and very clever with words to make sure they are still the centre of attention and they can be very emotionally manipulative. Females are generally more likely to use emotional drama to get their way and men can use emotional charm or distraction to get their way. Need to realise these are generalisations. Often can have very close relationships with their children built on having fun and breaking routines, boundaries and behaviour expectations. Often like to be seen as the child with the child in some cases.

How do they use children as weapons?

Because these people are the natural entertainers and charmers they often develop a relationship with their children based on having fun and excitement but are not always very responsible when it comes to sensible behaviour management boundaries or limits. So they can manipulate their own children to be seen as the fun and exciting parent who allows the child to have fun and do things that the responsible parent will not allow. They can be very persuasive through their ability to create relationship based on charm. So can use children as weapons by getting the child to see the other parent as the boring, over protective or too harsh parent; causing the parent who is trying to establish routines to be seen as the problem parent who does not know how to relax and enjoy themselves. If they have lots of money it could come out in offering the child continual treats; exciting trips; days out; latest expensive toys etc. they are in effect buying the attention of the child. The child is a weapon because it makes the other parent wrong; not as good; boring; too strict; and the one who stops the child from 'playing'. So one parent often ends up being irresponsible and the other over responsible! The child may end up supporting the breaking of parenting agreements to have fun with the irresponsible and fun parent.

So how does the "balanced" parent help to break the pattern?

Start to come from compassionate heart. (Impossible if your own unresolved issues are in the way)

Make sure you get professional help to move through your emotional issues.

Meet the needs of the ex-partner where you can and it is reasonable - their needs are recognition and change.How can you help this to be achieved for the sake of your child?

This parent really wants attention so they need to be "called" on what they are doing; especially the manipulation. Not easy if you can't do it in away that does not escalate the behaviour.

Difficulty with this parent is that when attention is received from another source they are likely to 'forget' their own child and suddenly become very involved in the other situation. When they see their child again it will be all on at fun level straight away, even if they have simply disappeared from the child for a period of time. They don't really mean to hurt their own child but their own need for attention is so great that they can blow hot and cold as a parent. The use of the child as a weapon is their on and off behaviour. When they are with the child; the child wants them to be with them maybe more then with you. When they are not with the child the responsible parent then has to pick up the pieces of the discarding of attention to the child. This parent will claim you are the problem because they always have fun with them. You need to use what ever practical means you can to encourage this parent to be responsible. Not easy!

Make sure you have fun times with your child in a framework that is responsible so they can see you can have fun and also be responsible.

Help your child understand that the other parent loves them but could always come and go because of whom they are not because of who the child is.

İSAGE

The two other styles will be added hopefully over the next week.
Thanks for the insight Sage and for taking the time to post it. Hopefully the next 2 styles are nicer and I'll fall into one of those descriptions. :)
Thanks Sage, I think we have the evil form of a Harmoniser in our case.

I have seen the child pat the mother at handover and the mother often cries openly in front of the child. She also thinks it is her "duty" to "explain" how the child's father is "lying" about things.

Unfortunately, we are always nice. Always civil. I think this prevents the mother from having the excuse to be vengeful and actually makes the situation worse. Her frustration drives her also.

It will be interesting to see if one of the other traits is going to be her secondary mode and accounts for her reactions out of frustration.

Would you agree that a malformed harmoniser is most likely to do a runner? What with the need to "protect"?

As always, thought provoking.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
Artemis said
Thanks Sage, I think we have the evil form of a Harmoniser in our case.

I have seen the child pat the mother at handover and the mother often cries openly in front of the child. She also thinks it is her "duty" to "explain" how the child's father is "lying" about things.

Unfortunately, we are always nice. Always civil. I think this prevents the mother from having the excuse to be vengeful and actually makes the situation worse. Her frustration drives her also.

It will be interesting to see if one of the other traits is going to be her secondary mode and accounts for her reactions out of frustration.

Would you agree that a malformed harmoniser is most likely to do a runner? What with the need to "protect"?

As always, thought provoking.
Thanks Artemis for your comments. When a person comes from the 'negative' of their style they are really dealing with many unresolved shadow issues that means their behaviour is very challenging to those who deal with them. Labelling anyone as evil may not be the most constructive way of viewing the challenge - no matter how terrible we perceive the behaviour to be. Like in behaviour management for a child it is important to separate the person from the behaviour. A person is doing the behaviour but they are not the behaviour; they can change. This may seem confusing but when we can focus on the behaviour and separate it from the person we start to come from the "compasionate heart' for the "damaged' person. Also we start to focus in unemotional manner on strategies to manage the behaviour; same as in behaviour management for children.

Frustration does belong to one of the other styles and it sounds as if it will a combination of two styles. We can look at skills needed once  I have found the time to write the next two styles.

Anyone can do a 'runner'; it comes from how much pressure they feel they are under. Imagined or real. (You sound as if you are handling the situation in a constructive manner but any threat of going for cusody of the children can pressure someone to "run"). Strong Harmonisers do go through a process where they decide to quit or stay. So in a marriage we may see this (in the undeveloped Harmoniser) in the following manner. Partner comes home and finds note; I have left with the children and somtimes the money as well. I have benn unhappy for the lst 10 years and it is over. The other partner may not see it coming.

What you have to be very careful of is not giving energy to creating the situation. What we keep focussing on is what we create - keep thinking she is going to run and more then likely this will happen - focus on her staying and becoming reasonable!!! We often attract what we fear!
Hello Sage.

Please excuse my colourful language. The use of the term evil, does not come across well in typed speech. It is my (obviously failed) attempt at black humour.

I find it very hard to generate any compassion for this woman. Her behaviour is leading her to have minimal custody. I don't believe she will "lose custody", but it will be reduced. Quite frankly it has to be in order to remove the power she has to play games with the child and to stop her forced alignment of the child to her.

In order to deal with the horrible life she has had, she lives in a fantasy world. This is done by lying to others and ultimately herself. Her dysfunctional family is a model for happiness. Any problems within are everyone elses fault.

You have described our ex fairly well, and I believe the frustration descriptor accurate as well. In your earlier post you mentioned depression as being another complication. She has this also.

The ironic thing, is had she agreed to something, anything, in the early days, she would still be calling the shots. Unfortunately, her position of my partner exiting the child's life by force has never changed.

We have told her, every step of the way (even though it potentially weakened our position) what she had to do, how she should behave, what we expected - and not in a superior way, but couched in the child's best interests (that is where we come from).

It is very sad that she can fool professionals (for a time) with her fine words of the child deserving to know it's father, the father needing time with the child, etc. It's all talk. The behaviour never changes. It goes underground or becomes less overt for a time.

I seriously hope, for the child's sake, she does change. This will not happen without a massive wake up call. Maybe reduced time with child is that call.
Everytime we have focussed on positive outcomes, we have been disappointed and less prepared to deal with the reality of the situation.

While I often find what you write challenging, I am grateful nonetheless.

Junior Executive of SRL-Resources

Executive Member of SRL-Resources, the Family Law People on this site (Look for the Avatars). Be mindful what you post in public areas. 
I would think there would be a substantial amount of variations on the base that Sage has written about, a small variation could change the whole approach to dealing with the person concerned.

My personal situation does not have myself being a Harmonizer, bridge, orchestrator or supporter towards my X's position or problems but I do have to find a balance that works between us for the sake of our child.

Many of the things Sage has commented on ( like so many ) I have lived through and stages have been almost text book, almost like she had read the book and was performing technical accuracy. There are of course more situational aspects than has been listed and my child at four years of age was used as a comforter and supporter through black emotional periods. To this I will admit I am no saint and could not help my daughters mother through her extensive emotional problems or influence her to accept responsible behaviour, five years together came to naught in this department and I did not want her to change her personality but just help her through habitual behaviour from her youth, this she requested.

For someone to change their behaviour is a choice they have to make so doing everything the right way and bending over backwards may indeed result in you being shafted, but this is not because you have failed simply put they have.

I think sometimes you have to impress on the things you can negotiate and accept the things that you can't keeping your children in the focus and helping them develop the tools they need to accept both parents but realize and accept a certain amount of confused behaviour from them.

Always enjoy your topic matter Sage but it does raise many questions about why the middle ground is missing if everything is done right.

I can understand in personal terms that a bond to an abusive controlling parent can deny children that become parents the ability to recognize fault and rely on everything and more that you have mentioned above, perhaps it is not their fault they suffered this in their youth but it is their choice to adopt this behavior.

There but for choice walks I.
Aphrodite said
Thanks for the insight Sage and for taking the time to post it. Hopefully the next 2 styles are nicer and I'll fall into one of those descriptions. :)
 Thank you for your comment; I hope to complete the other two styles tomorrow. It is not really about a style being nicer. There are four basic styles and we really are combination of these four styles in terms of needs and concerns.  - if you know this model you can see these disorders as they connect to the styles. No style is better then another; they are simpply different. You can act out behaviours in a style in a manner that is very developed (if you were following the work of Maslow; you may even say 'self actualised'). If you look at personality disorders you will often see approximately 9 disorders and when you really know this material you can see how it fits into styles or combinations of styles. What is really happening when you consider a style is not nice is simply that the person you are dealing with is struggling with many unresolved emotions and issues from the shadow side of their personality.( these can be extreme behaviours!) Also they probably do not have the skills or high self esteem to deal with the crisis they find themsleves in. It is of course always more complex then what we have stated here; but these ideas are foundations for understanding.

Many people will have these styles as their primary style and will come form the positives of the style the majority of the time!
Artemis said
Hello Sage.

Please excuse my colourful language. The use of the term evil, does not come across well in typed speech. It is my (obviously failed) attempt at black humour.

I find it very hard to generate any compassion for this woman. Her behaviour is leading her to have minimal custody. I don't believe she will "lose custody", but it will be reduced. Quite frankly it has to be in order to remove the power she has to play games with the child and to stop her forced alignment of the child to her.

In order to deal with the horrible life she has had, she lives in a fantasy world. This is done by lying to others and ultimately herself. Her dysfunctional family is a model for happiness. Any problems within are everyone elses fault.

You have described our ex fairly well, and I believe the frustration descriptor accurate as well. In your earlier post you mentioned depression as being another complication. She has this also.

The ironic thing, is had she agreed to something, anything, in the early days, she would still be calling the shots. Unfortunately, her position of my partner exiting the child's life by force has never changed.

We have told her, every step of the way (even though it potentially weakened our position) what she had to do, how she should behave, what we expected - and not in a superior way, but couched in the child's best interests (that is where we come from).

It is very sad that she can fool professionals (for a time) with her fine words of the child deserving to know it's father, the father needing time with the child, etc. It's all talk. The behaviour never changes. It goes underground or becomes less overt for a time.

I seriously hope, for the child's sake, she does change. This will not happen without a massive wake up call. Maybe reduced time with child is that call.
Everytime we have focussed on positive outcomes, we have been disappointed and less prepared to deal with the reality of the situation.

While I often find what you write challenging, I am grateful nonetheless.
Sorry I did not answer your post earlier- a week of computer challenges! Thank you for your comments; it is true that sometimes what we read can be challenging. When we have an emotional reaction to written material it means that a belief, value or attitude is being challenged; it simply gives us the opportunity to use the emotion to review something in our life and come to our own decisions about it after recognising why it is important to us. Your situation is challenging and at the same time you are learning new things about yourself and probably new skills to deal with some of the situations you are faced with. The material I present is simpy giving you the opportunity to look at what is happening in a new way; for some people this will be helpful for others it will not be of interest.
D4E said
I would think there would be a substantial amount of variations on the base that Sage has written about, a small variation could change the whole approach to dealing with the person concerned.

My personal situation does not have myself being a Harmonizer, bridge, orchestrator or supporter towards my X's position or problems but I do have to find a balance that works between us for the sake of our child.

Many of the things Sage has commented on ( like so many ) I have lived through and stages have been almost text book, almost like she had read the book and was performing technical accuracy. There are of course more situational aspects than has been listed and my child at four years of age was used as a comforter and supporter through black emotional periods. To this I will admit I am no saint and could not help my daughters mother through her extensive emotional problems or influence her to accept responsible behaviour, five years together came to naught in this department and I did not want her to change her personality but just help her through habitual behaviour from her youth, this she requested.

For someone to change their behaviour is a choice they have to make so doing everything the right way and bending over backwards may indeed result in you being shafted, but this is not because you have failed simply put they have.

I think sometimes you have to impress on the things you can negotiate and accept the things that you can't keeping your children in the focus and helping them develop the tools they need to accept both parents but realize and accept a certain amount of confused behaviour from them.

Always enjoy your topic matter Sage but it does raise many questions about why the middle ground is missing if everything is done right.

I can understand in personal terms that a bond to an abusive controlling parent can deny children that become parents the ability to recognize fault and rely on everything and more that you have mentioned above, perhaps it is not their fault they suffered this in their youth but it is their choice to adopt this behavior.

There but for choice walks I.
 Sorry I am only now answering your post. You often show much wisdom from your posts. You are correct; there are many variations because humans are very different; these foundations simply start to focus you on looking to what is going on in a different way. If I was talking about this topic I would give many different examples and variations. Utimately every adult is responsible for their own life; some take on this responsiblity and change some stay self directed "victims". It is very difficult to be supportive and compassionate when you are being manipulated. The welfare of the child is often the only reason some ex-partners will continue to keep contact and try to improve the situation even when it is hard work because the other person is not changing. These are decisions being made every day by ex-partners to try to improve the personal development of their child.
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