Robert Gougaloff ‘s Parent Alienation Blog

A blog about Parent Alienation

Parent Alienation, Parent Alientation Syndrome, HAP – What are they?

Hi everyone!

This is my first posting on this Blog on Parent Alienation (PA), Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) and Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP).  I decided to start this blog for two reasons: The first one is that my own children have been affected by it and the second one is that there is very little education out there – even in the legal profession.  My hope is therefore that this Blog evolves into a platform for sharing information and resources, for learning and education and for emotional support.

Before I start writing, however I feel that it is necessary to define the above referenced terms, so that you can get a better appreciation of what I am writing about.

Parent Alienation (PA) – is a general term that covers ANY situation in which one or more children can be alienated from a parent.  It can be caused by parental physical abuse, verbal abuse, emotional abuse, mental abuse, sexual abuse, abandonment and neglect.  A child can also be programmed by one parent to be alienated from another.  In relation to custody disputes, it can be defined as a group of behaviors that are damaging to children’s mental and emotional well-being, and can interfere with a relationship of a child and either parent.

Parent Alienation Syndrome (PAS) – is referred to a specific disorder in the child, which is caused by Parent Alienation activities.  A syndrome by definition is a cluster of symptoms appearing together.  These symptoms, although seemingly disparate, warrant being grouped together because of a common etiology or basic underlying cause.  In the case of Parent Alienation Syndrome, this cluster of symptoms usually includes:

·         A continued campaign of denigration against the target parent

·         Weak, frivolous or absurd rationalizations for the rejection of the target parent

·         Lack of ambivalence

·         The independent thinker phenomenon

·         Reflexive support of the alienating parent in the parental conflict

·         Absence of guilt (towards any wrong doing against the target parent)

·         Use of “borrowed scenarios” (usually an adult scenario)

·         Spread of animosity to the extended family and friends of the target parent

These symptoms (usually as a cluster) may be classified as mild, moderate or severe.

Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) – is the more modern and descriptive definition of the elements of Parent Alienation.  It is a very serious form of child abuse and is usually encountered in most high conflict child-custody disputes and is often used as a tool to align the child with one parent during litigation.  HAP is usually expressed by behaviors such as:

·         Criticizing a parent in front of the children and at every opportunity

·         Not answer the phone when the other parent calls

·         Convincing the child that they should change their surname or just changing it without the   child’s knowledge

·         Playing on the children’s feelings of guilt and sympathy

·         Using the child as a weapon against the other parent and family members

·         Ordering or manipulating the child to not answer the phone when it rings

·         Saying that the child does not want to speak to the other parent

·         Undermining the other parent by encouraging the child to defy the other parent

These are just a few examples, but very common ones.  It is always important to remember that children do not posess the genetics to hate or dislike another parent, unless they are being physically abused by that parent on a continuing basis or they are being programmed to do so by the opposing parent.

I hope I was able to stimulate you a little to participate in the discussions.  I will continue to post topics on this blog and I invite everyone to comment on any of the posts.

Robert Gougaloff

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September 1, 2008 - Posted by | General Information | , , , , , ,


  1. I’m very glad to see this blog from Robert. His is a compelling story.

    Someone penned a very short story called “The Seed” and I’d like to share an abbreviated version of it before commenting. Its been around for awhile.

    The Seed

    A successful business man was growing old and knew it was time to choose a successor to take over the business.

    Instead of choosing one of his directors or his children, he decided to do something different. He called all the young executives in his company together.

    He said, “It is time for me to step down and choose the next CEO. I have decided to choose one of you. “The young executives were shocked, but the boss continued.”I am going to give each one of you a SEED today – One very special SEED. I want you to plant the seed, water it, and come back here one year from today with what you have grown from the seed I have given you. I will then judge the plants that you bring, and the one I choose will be the next CEO”

    One man, named Jim, was there that day and he, like the others, received a seed. He went home and excitedly, told his wife the story.

    She helped him get a pot, soil and compost and he planted the seed. Everyday, he would water it and watch to see if it had grown.

    After about three weeks, some of the other executives began to talk about their seeds and the plants that were beginning to grow. Jim kept checking his seed, but nothing ever grew. Three weeks, four weeks, five weeks went by, still nothing. By now, others were talking about their
    plants, but Jim didn’t have a plant and he felt like a failure.

    Six months went by–still nothing in Jim’s pot. He just knew he had killed his seed. Everyone else had trees and tall plants, but he had nothing. Jim didn’t say anything to his colleagues, however. He just kept watering and fertilizing the soil – He so wanted the seed to grow.

    A year finally went by and all the young executives of the company brought their plants to the CEO for inspection. Jim told his wife that he wasn’t going to take an empty pot. But she asked him to be honest about what happened. Jim felt sick at his stomach, it was going to be the most embarrassing moment of his life, but he knew his wife was
    right. He took his empty pot to the board room. When Jim arrived, he was amazed at the variety of plants grown by the other executives. They were beautiful–in all shapes and sizes. Jim put his empty pot on the floor and many of his colleagues laughed, a few felt sorry for him!

    When the CEO arrived, he surveyed the room and greeted his young executives. Jim just tried to hide in the back. “My, what great plants, trees, and flowers you have grown,” said the CEO. “Today one of you will be appointed the next CEO!” All of a sudden, the CEO spotted Jim at the back of the room with his empty pot. He ordered the financial director
    to bring him to the front. Jim was terrified. He thought, “The CEO knows I’m a failure! Maybe he will have me fired!”

    When Jim got to the front, the CEO asked him what had happened to his seed – Jim told him the story.

    The CEO asked everyone to sit down except Jim. He looked at Jim, and then announced to the young executives, “Here is your next Chief Executive!

    His name is Jim!” Jim couldn’t believe it. Jim couldn’t even grow his seed. How could he be the new CEO the others said?

    Then the CEO said, “One year ago today, I gave everyone in this room a seed. I told you to take the seed, plant it, water it, and bring it back to me today.

    But I gave you all boiled seeds; they were dead – it was not possible for them to grow. All of you, except Jim, have brought me trees and plants and flowers.

    When you found that the seed would not grow, you substituted another seed for the one I gave you. Jim was the only one with the courage and honesty to bring me a pot with my seed in it. Therefore, he is the one who will be the new Chief Executive!”
    The version of this story that I first read listed some morals:

    Þ If you plant honesty, you will reap trust.

    Þ If you plant goodness, you will reap friends.

    Þ If you plant humility, you will reap greatness.

    Þ If you plant perseverance, you will reap contentment.

    Þ If you plant consideration, you will reap perspective.

    Þ If you plant hard work, you will reap success.

    Þ If you plant forgiveness, you will reap reconciliation.


    I shared this for a few reasons. Yes, its another Washington cutting down the cherry tree story.

    The story reminds me how very valuable honesty is. It also reminds just how easily we can act on impulse rather than choosing that our actions be guided by the Universal Rule…acting as we would have others act, with the same moral code that should nurture our young.

    I have seen first-hand the harm caused by PAS as my children were regularly subjected to deliberate disparagement of me, their custodial father. It has largely if not entirely stopped.

    There should never be another case like that of Dr. Lohstroh, shot dead by his ten year old son.

    The parable above reminds me to see things for what they are. If we invest the time as Robert has to educate ourselves, if we have our antennae high up, observing carefully with a better-trained eye, and IF we can be honest with ourselves, we may, just MAY see what is truly happening.

    THEN we can begin what may be a most daunting task of our lives: 1) containing the harm, 2) reversing as much as possible its awful impact and 3) of helping children find and adapt to a new or improved environment or circumstance.

    I enlisted the help of Breakthrough Parenting Educator, author and dear friend -Dr. Jayne Major, PhD and armed my children with new tools which allowed both them and me as the targeted parent a very welcome measure of normalcy. My children received a healthy, age-appropriate understanding of what happened to them and the ability to both metabolize it, to recognize future alienation attempts and use and articulate their own inner voice to halt future attempts.

    I hope this example gives a measure of solace to someone. We can, by educating ourselves, by imbuing our children with the gift of a healthy moral compass, with carefully considered and properly rendered counseling, with plenty of courage and loving guidance, sometimes save a child who is being manipulated and abused, and let emerge a healthy child who loves and co-exists with both parents in a fairly healthy way again. I’ve seen such reversals happen, right here in my family. If you know its not possible, then please draft a blueprint today for that ideal best result you feel CAN be done.

    Another reason I wanted to share that parable was because it reminds me that the onus is “on us” to tell the truth of what is occurring, even if it is to yourself, and then to take action steps to stop the abuse of our children. Just what those actions are varies as widely as the circumstances.

    I first shared the following thoughts in 2006 with my parent groups. Its a fine line between counseling/helping/preparing/safeguarding/de-programming your child and actually falling into alienating the children from the other parent yourself. We walk that fine line when the children are with us, and must be cognizant and very diligent to filter our words and actions through a finely woven strainer that removes our prejudices,resentments, hatreds- emotions capable of harming children. It is all too easy to counter the alienating parent with our own brand of the same and rationalize it as something done to protect the kids or in reversing damage done. I recommend a standard by which we can hold ourselves to account. If we pride ourselves our children’s keepers, their stewards, and accept the premise that there is at least one seed of good in all persons, then it is only THAT seed we must nurture in the presence of our young. A crop watered with hateful rain is tarnished and barron. One showered with love yields a fertile harvest from which all the world will feast.

    Put plainly: If you don’t have anything positive to say, say nothing at all.

    My very best wishes to any family impacted by PA and I urge them to educate themselves quickly, to have faith, courage, and tenacity as they tackle these challenges each day. I pray that targeted parents and victimized children will come to realize the power they may truly have to influence the outcome, one that begins with their thoughts. My then- 10-year old held up her hand with the power of a traffic cop and found the way, with practice, to say “enough”. Few would argue with this: Our children deserve our best efforts as their stewards. Lets then double our efforts to devote ourselves to their well-being, to uncovering the means to end abuses like PA, outright brainwashing and to quickly focus on nurturing our young back to a healthy life. No easy path.

    Comment by James Schweikert | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’ve been going through this with my son since he was 8 years old and did not have a name to call the abuse that my x-husband was putting me and my son through (PAS). When I took my x-husband to court to violate him on matter, he then counteract my petition and was award physical custody of both my son and autistic daughter. Due to PAS my son has had me arrested in placed in jail the day after a family court hearing with my x-husband, yet, the law guardian who was very bias and sided with his lawyers (good old boy network) he was able to receive joint custody of my children. I often feared that this can happpen to me at the hands of my son, My son is a good child and is always happy when he is around me, however, when he is arround his dad, he becomes a different person, calling me a prosititue, rude disrespectful, physically attacking me etc. I told the law guidian the he needs therapy, although it was part of the custody order, his dad has never taken him for therapy. I indicated this in my viiolation custody petition, however, it was never enforced, instead, my visitations with him were limited no overnights, limited phone calls and I was told by his attorney if I wanted to speak with him I had to purchase him a cellphone myself.. Most recently, I have no contact with him because I’m currently in criminal court facing child abuse charges although Department of Social Services/
    child protective service case against me is unfounded. I fear for my autistic daughter’s safety because she does not talk and entering into puberty. I never know where she is and he is not using PAS with her. I fear for her most of all because like my son, he does not honor the custody petition, I never know where she is or who is around her. What can I do to regain sole custody of my children and I can I prove PAS.

    Comment by alina williams | September 21, 2008 | Reply

  3. The first thing I would do is to keep a diary of every contact with the children. It helps to mermorialize events for later use. PAS is hard to show in court, however, the behaviors of a child (and a good description thereof) can convince judges to side in favor of what is right for the children. One of the things that needs to be done is the children need to be evaluated by a good child psychologist who is trained in such matters. Hopefully, with enough examples of the child’s denigrating behavior towards you, you can file a motion or OSC to get the judge to agree to order an evalutation like that. Judges usually are aware of the fact that children do not posess the genentics to hate another parent, unless they were constantly abused by that parent. Good luck!

    Comment by robertgougaloff | September 21, 2008 | Reply

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