Tag Archives: Child

Tankard Reist, motherhood, and men.

4 Sep

Of course we would all love men to come to their senses and begin to lead decent lives like women have managed to for hundreds of years, but at this point in history there’s no indication they’re collectively deciding to do that.

So writes RMIT academic Dr Caroline Norma on Melinda Tankard Reist’s website, in her post titled “The disparaging and belittling of mothers: on mother shaming in the sexualisation debate.”

Her statement wouldn’t get past me in a first year essay.

If there was ever any doubt that Tankard Reist runs a website that promotes contempt of men, this observation certainly does away with it. You’d have to go a long way to see a more outstanding example of gender bias and bigotry.

Then there’s this: On a daily basis mothers are going about their lives with children’s wellbeing and welfare as their top priority, so we could learn from their example.

Really? My mother didn’t. I’ve heard the stories of many adult children whose mothers didn’t. Some mothers do. Some mothers don’t. Some mothers do sometimes.

And who exactly is this “we” who could learn from a mother’s example?

Here we have yet another George W Bush moment of good versus evil: all good women versus all evil men. All men lead indecent lives while all women are virtuous. Dr Norma reduces humans to one dimensional beings governed entirely by our biology. Penis: bad. Vagina: good, and especially good if you have a child.

If you are a woman and you have a child you have much to teach everyone, just because you have a child. If you’re  man with a child, shut up and learn from a decent woman. Your life isn’t decent and never will be  ‘cos penis.

Are we entering a new era of the glorification of motherhood?

And these are the people we are supposed to take seriously about the “sexualisation” of children.

 

 
 

A voice for the children, by Gerard

2 Jul

Guest post today by the lovely Gerard Oosterman who wonders why children don’t have more say in their future when a family breaks up.

Children should be seen but not heard?

In Australian Family Court disputes it is often the children who miss out on being heard by a Federal Judge or Magistrate. In most cases, even though the judge or magistrate has the power to hear the children, it is rarely exercised. It is usually the Independent Children’s Lawyer who represents the child/children/ (ICL).

In Germany and many other countries, the Family Court Judges always hear the child. There is a growing understanding of the importance of listening to the children involved. It is the child, more than anyone else, who will have to live with what the Court decides.

While Federal Judges and Magistrates can hear the children in Court, a survey has shown most decline the opportunity and rely on the ICL and other ‘experts’ for advice during the procedures. The cases coming before the Family Courts deal with property and access to children. The fact of Court action is generally a sign that the parents haven’t been able to amicably deal with the separation. Access rights to children are often just as heatedly fought over as the division of property.

The Family Court in all cases decides what is ‘best for the children.’ It seems ironic that in Australia the children are not given the opportunity to bring their wishes before the Court, as they are in many European countries that are signatories to the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).

While it is unsatisfactory to say that children should all have the same rights as autonomous adults, including the rights of freedom of expression and the freedom of association and all other rights that adults own, it is equally unsatisfactory and unjust to say that children have no rights of this kind and that their rights in Court matters are irrelevant to the task of adults determining and deciding what is best. This seems to ignore the claim of children to be treated with respect and dignity instead of, as is often the case, fought over as objects

As Australia has been a signatory to the Convention since 1990, how do we explain why children are not heard in front of a Court and allowed to express their wishes?

Often the reason given is the fear of parentification of the child. This term describes a situation in which a role reversal occurs and children assume the role of parent to protect the adult. Asking a child to decide which parent she or he prefers to spend their time with can cause emotional turmoil.

In Family Court cases it is not unusual that one or both parents are deemed to have put the child in this position to try to enhance the prospect of getting more time with the child than the other parent. The child is expected to act as the parent to their own parent and sometimes over other siblings as well. The issue is very complicated because in some cases one of the parents might indeed be totally unsuitable as parent or as the primary caretaker.

However, parentification together with alienation theories about children in relationships remains highly controversial amongst psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists, who claim they are often simplistic or erroneous.

In the Family Courts it is the job of the ICL to sort the wheat from the chaff and investigate to get to the bottom of the issue if ‘parentification’ of the child is occurring. The Court appointed lawyer acting for the child will then call in an ‘expert’ in those matters. Both parents are to meet up with the ‘expert’ who is often a qualified child psychologist or therapist. Anyone who ever had dealings with Courts knows that at every turn huge amounts of money is spent. The ICL with the help of the Expert’s report weigh heavily in the final decision-making by the Judge or Magistrate.

The report by the children’s expert is drawn up as a result of a few hours or a day spent by both the parents and the children with the expert. Sometimes first in each other’s company then separately and then the children on their own. After parents as applicant and respondent  have filed into Courts numerous times for ‘mentioning’ and ‘final hearings’ the case is put and then includes the affidavits, responses and reports by all the parties’ lawyers including the ICL.

But, when all the lengthy proceedings come to an end, there is this glaring omission. The fundamental rights of every person including children to be heard in Court are totally ignored.

The ICL and other child experts cannot help but put in their own submissions and even if based on the best of intentions and the best advice given, it is second-hand and not direct. How is it possible that the ‘best interest of the child’ excludes this fundamental right?

One reason given is the perceived intimidation of the Court system with its tradition of the dreaded three knocks on the door and ‘all rise in Court’, the bowing of all and then the entrance of the black gowned judge or magistrate on the raised podium. The procedures are often seen as unfriendly if not silly as well. Surely the system can change when children are involved and become child friendly. I could ask, why not change it even for adults?

We love adhering to convention, but what about the children?

Gerard is an artist, writer and farmer. He blogs at Oosterman Treats Blog

When children become weapons

19 May

Broken heart

As children continue to be murdered by parents caught up in divorce, separation and custody battles, courts and counsellors struggle to establish environments that put the child’s needs first. This can be an impossible task when some parents, blinded by their own emotional turmoil, use their children as heavy ammunition to win a personal battle against a spouse they perceive as the enemy.

Murder is the extreme point on the continuum of co-opting children as weapons. Far more common, though regarded as contentious among some mental health and legal professionals, is a concept known as Parental alienation syndrome. This is a term used to describe a situation in which a child is encouraged to identify with one parent and alienate the other. The child’s behaviour reflects the emotions and perspective of the alienating parent, rather than his or her own feelings. It’s thought to emerge as a consequence of separation and divorce, however it’s apparent in some on-going dysfunctional relationships in which the mother or the father attempts to garner support for his or her position against the other parent from the child. These are general PAS criteria as defined by some psychologists:

Children who succumb to the pressure and ally themselves with one parent against the other often exhibit a set of behaviors that have become known as parental alienation syndrome: 

(1) The first manifestation is a campaign of denigration against the targeted parent. The child becomes obsessed with hatred of the targeted parent (in the absence of actual abuse or neglect that would explain such negative attitudes). 

(2) Weak, frivolous, and absurd rationalizations for the depreciation of the targeted parent. The objections made in the campaign of denigration are often not of the magnitude that would lead a child to hate a parent, such as slurping soup or serving spicy food. 

(3) Lack of ambivalence about the alienating parent. The child expresses no ambivalence about the alienating parent, demonstrating an automatic, reflexive, idealized support of him or her. 

(4) The child strongly asserts that the decision to reject the other parent is her own. This is what is known as the “Independent Thinker” phenomenon. 

(5) Absence of guilt about the treatment of the targeted parent. Alienated children will make statements such as, “He doesn’t deserve to see me.” 

(6) Reflexive support for the alienating parent in the parental conflict. There is no willingness or attempt to be impartial when faced with inter-parental conflicts. 

(7) Use of borrowed scenarios. These children often make accusations towards the targeted parent that utilize phrases and ideas adopted wholesale from the alienating parent. And, finally, 

(8) The hatred of the targeted parent spreads to his or her extended family. Not only is the targeted parent denigrated, despised, and avoided but so too are his/her entire family. Formerly beloved grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins are suddenly avoided and rejected. When children exhibit these 8 behaviors the most likely explanation is the manipulation of the favored parent.

On the other hand, accusations of PAS are seen as frivolous and dishonest by some opponents of the syndrome. Some go so far as to claim that a court’s acceptance of PAS causes children to be exposed to on-going abuse from the so-called “targeted” parent. In reality, they claim, the “alienating” parent has attempted to protect the child from the parent perceived as harmful, and the symptoms of PAS are also consistent with those exhibited by children who are enduring real abuse from the targeted parent.

There is no clinical research into the syndrome, and it remains anecdotal.

I’v seen situations in which children have lost contact with a “targeted” parent, and that parent’s family. I’ve seen situations of dysfunction when the parents don’t separate, but the hostility and hatred of one for the other is conveyed through the indoctrination of the children against one parent. The “target” parent is alienated from his or her offspring within their own household, usually most acutely during the process of an adult dispute. Children take the alienating parent’s part, and when the fight has been temporarily resolved and the parents have made up, they are then permitted to re-engage with the targeted parent. The emotional chaos this causes in the children is enormous and long-lasting.

It’s surprisingly easy to persuade children to take against a parent, particularly when they’ve been taught that the “alienating” parent is the only one who really loves them, and the only one who will look out for them. The target parent is constructed as anything from incompetent and unreliable to dangerous and threatening, while the alienating parent presents as their competent and loving protector.

However, distinguishing between so-called PAS and abuses actually perpetrated by the “target” parent can be difficult. Evidence of abuse can be hard to establish if it isn’t blatant. Too often it comes down to which parent is the most articulate, can tell the most convincing story, and has the best lawyer. Children are collateral damage in such circumstances, as the parental focus makes it “all about me” with scant if any regard for their child’s well being.

I’ve known circumstances in which a “targeted” parent has walked away from his or her family rather than fight the wrath of the “alienating” parent, and continue to live with the acute distress they experience when a child or children turns against them on a regular basis. As well, the targeted parent can feel that his or her continued presence in the family will only serve to confuse and distress their children, and in an effort to prevent their children being further emotionally torn, they give up and leave the alienating parent in total control.

The targeted parent is then described as having abandoned the family, and as confirming the alienating parent’s position that he or she is the only one who really cares about the children. After years of clinical practice there’s no doubt in my mind that these are relatively common practices to varying degrees, between parents caught in conflict and dysfunction.

Parents don’t have ownership over their children. We have a responsibility to do our best for them, but we don’t own their feelings and their hearts and minds. Children are entitled to form and enjoy relationships with their family members, especially both parents. To sever the connection between one part of a child’s family is to do violence to that child’s knowledge of him or herself, and to their sense of belonging. Alienating a child from any family member without good cause is emotional abuse and emotional violence, regardless of whether it is identified as a legitimate mental health syndrome or not.

While the murderous extremes of parental manipulation make headlines, children daily suffer greatly in ways that go unrecognized and unacknowledged. The tragedy is that this suffering has long term consequences, and can be generational. One manipulative parent can tear an entire family apart, leaving children without access to grandparents and extended family members. It’s tough being a kid.

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