PAS, counter-parenting & the malicious in-law

One of the common tactics of resident parents who set out to alienate the non-resident parent is counter-parenting,

This is typified by constantly contradicting or deliberately doing the opposite to the other parent. It undermines them and plays a percentages game with the childrens’ psychology. It is based on the following logic “I spend most time with them as they live with me and depend on me so I don’t have to compromise on anything and they will come round to my way of thinking or will have to deal with the consequences.”

Examples of counter-parenting range from the petty, like fashion choices “Why would he make you wear that? It’s not what we girls like, is it?”  Or “Those trousers? You wouldn’t want to end up like him would you?”. Through to more complex scenarios involving values, ethics and morals, like religious choices, choices of and at school and questions of right and wrong in relationships, etc.

The consequences for the child of the parents contradicting each other in this arena should be obvious and can lead to some extreme developmental dilemmas in later life.

Counter-parenting is clearly a tactical ploy to constantly undermine the stability of the child’s relationship with the other parent in a very practical sense. It causes anxiety, insecurity and is a form of bullying and abuse.

More explicit examples of this include agreeing to the child accepting invitations to stay with friends during scheduled time with the other parent, consciously scheduling special events when they should be with the other parent and not managing any genuine clashes as adults between the adults, but leaving it to the children to resolve.

Over time, little issues grow into a pressure cooker of uncertainty and insecurity as the non-resident parent can’t plan and the child becomes nervous of every event or date. It becomes stressful for all but the resident parent, in fact who, after all, will be taking the children to school on Monday as usual, tucking them into bed 10 nights out of 12 come what may and has no real negotiating to manage if they create the problem. It’s deliberate and it’s spiteful.

Many of us, even in stable marriages, encounter a taste of counter-parenting when unexpectedly having to manage our children’s relationships with their grand parents, especially if they see them a lot. Inevitably, some differences between generations manifest themselves at some stage whether it’s about birthing plans, development goals or setting boundaries for younger children.

Where there are healthy relationships, we tend to take responsibility for our own parents and quietly sort these differences out between us, especially if the previous generation are mature and wise, as they should be. The aim of parenting, after all, is to raise children who are the sum of the learnings of the adults, plus some. But we all know someone who struggles with say an over-bearing in-law, who has unresolved issues with herself and her relationship with son/daughter and needs to impose and dominate in order to validate themselves in some way. These issues are accentuated when a grand child comes along as suddenly their fragile self esteem screams “this is your time, this is the one thing you can really do better than them”.

A large number of our members have reported how modern parenting practices that see dads playing a much more hands on role in the home and especially with their children, have jarred with their  in laws in particular.

“It is not uncommon for people who exhibit alienating traits to care more about the needs of their own parents than their child’s. It’s as if they have returned with a child trophy for their parents, as a form of personal validation.” 

Some may have talked a good game about wishing their “Bernard” or “Brian” had been more involved when their kids were babies. Yet they just can’t resist elbowing their way in when grand children arrive often coming between their sons in law and their grand children and undermining their own daughters, however unwittingly. And they certainly get involved should problems lead to divorce, venting all that pent-up fury from their own years of frustration. They also have to avoid any blame, come what may.

To quote one of our family law friends “It is not uncommon for people who exhibit alienating traits to care more about the needs of their own parents than their child’s. It’s as if they have returned with a child trophy for their parents, as a form of personal validation. But they are fated to repeat all the same patterns of their youth and look how that story ended.”

So just how much of a link is there between the selfishness of people like this and the patterns of deliberate parental alienation we are witnessing, especially where there is conscious counter-parenting?

And how significant a role are former mothers/parents-in-law playing in reinforcing their parenting models at the expense of all else, dominating their daughters and now grand children, oblivious to the long term costs?

Alternatively, are there actually examples people would like to discuss where in-laws have tried all along to do what’s right and are actively trying to resolve the alienation tactics of their own daughter or son?

As ever, the goal is to share learnings with the aim of ending parent alienation for good. So we are very interested to hear your comments, views and experiences in the comments below or in the Facebook group.

Please Note: We will gladly refer readers to true professionals who add value, deliver results and operate in line with our core principles. 

We are also more than happy to feature quality content by writers; any wish to remain anonymous will be respected.

So if you align with our vision and ethos, have someone to recommend, are someone we would recommend or have something to say on the subject of shared parenting and parent equality in either a personal or professional capacity and would like a platform to have your say or contribute in some way to our cause, please contact us.


The Peace Not Pas Team


6 thoughts on “PAS, counter-parenting & the malicious in-law

  1. What is becoming more obvious when reading about PA is it isnt something lonely or isolating. It is only isolating for the patent , cut off from the child they helped to create, both physically and mentally. The non resident parent is being abused not only by the parent with care ( hate that phrase! So untrue !),but also by their parents, other professionals, the goverment thru child maintenace services etc. Is it any wonder that so many absent (again another hateful phrase) parents are made to feel by these people that they are in the wrong. We only choose to not be with the other parent, for whatever reason. Why is it that relationships tend to be the only contract not often open to a review while the ” contract ” is still live ? It is the government enforcing a broken system that desperately needs overhauling, that these self absorbed, self obessed people are twisting to suit their own revengeful purposes. Children are their weapons, professional services are their shields and domination is their goal. We must rise to prevent this goal. They cannot be allowed to suceed

    Liked by 1 person

  2. If we applied something as simple as the gender discrimination legislation used at work to Family Law, imagine the consequences? But no, we apply 1950s principles of primary carer vs primary income generator and primary aggressor vs primary nurturer instead. Yet we are dealing with a far more malevolent former partner now, with a twisted moral compass. Then the “boomer” grand parents pile in with their entrenched sexism based on a world of index-linked pensions and 25% employment for women and men doing nothing around the house! The non-resident parent, excluded from the home he/she probably bought or at least invested everything into, now has no home, no empowerment, waves of negativity and assault by a system in which they have no rights, it seems AND they are still supposed to be the cash cow for the whole chain while dealing with the emotional and psychological impact of complete annihilation of all they held dear. Hm!


  3. Great and very accurate comment from Nick Woodall on Twitter:

    Replying to @Daddyduwsf

    More often than not, what looks like “conflict” is actually the hostility of the aligned parent and the desperation of the rejected patent.

    Liked by 1 person

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