Recently I came upon a blog post by “Jennifer” who rightfully complained that parents or separated or divorced partners will frequently use children as pawns in their covert wars with one another.  She wrote:

Some parents get blinded by their own emotions and stuff going on in their lives that they fail to see the affects, hurt and damage caused by their actions. One of such examples is a parent who use and manipulate their children to get their own way against the other parent.

In my opinion, anyone who uses innocent children in that way is a coward.

So what do you do if you find yourself in the position of having your partner or your ex use and manipulate your children to get back at you or get their own way?

Well, first and foremost be clear and acknowledge that this has nothing to do with your child (children) and that it is you that your partner or ex is really attempting to get back at or hurt in some way. Also, be clear that your son/daughter is NOT responsible for being used in this way.

Jennifer is right on about how damaging it is to abuse children in this way.  However, she makes two assumptions frequently made by individuals overly steeped in traditional psychology frameworks.  First, she assumes that the warring parties are “blinded” by their emotions (i.e. aren’t really aware of what they’re doing); and second, she holds the opinion that people do these things out of cowardice (i.e. out of fear to more openly and directly reveal their agendas). 


While such assumptions can be to some extent true when dealing with neurotic parents or ex-partners, if either or both parties is character disturbed, they know full well what they’re doing, they simply don’t care enough to restrain themselves because all that matters to them is that they have their way.  Further, if character disturbance is involved, these kinds of actions aren’t the result of cowardice but rather the steely determination to have one’s way, regardless of the cost and the recognition of the fact that one of the easiest ways to thwart resistance from your partner is to cloak your self-serving agenda under the guise of serving the interest of the child. 


Jennifer’s advice, however, is well stated.  Children should know that they are not responsible for the dynamics that fuel wars between their parents.  Their parents must own their own issues and not use their children as pawns in their war games.  You can view her entire post at:


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5 Responses to Using Children to Hurt an Ex

  1. Jan
    Jan 19, 2011

    So what can be done when the courts will not listen, and the children continue to be caught in the middle. Father accusing siblings in the other household of abuse. The other children are beginning to resent my grandaughter. My grandaughter is being manipulated, and is only 5, and this started when she was just a baby and the father and mother split up. The accusations are always unfounded, and never proven of course, but it goes on and on and on and on. The father doesn’t care, I don’t know if he is a delusional person or just mean. Doesn’t matter. What can we do to stop this behavior by the father, which is making life hell for everyone.

  2. Matthew Hooper
    May 12, 2014

    What can be done to give father equal rights so mother don’t use children as bargaining tools to get what they want.

  3. Tundra Woman
    May 13, 2014

    Matthew, That’s a common challenge with many, many variables in my experience. Please take a look at/peruse through Dr. Tara Parmatier’s (or Dr.T’s) site deals with these issues as well as many others men commonly face regarding their child(ren) subsequent to the demise of their relationship with their mother. You’ll find a great deal of information there regarding PAS (Parental Alienation Syndrome) and strategies for Dads who are dealing with this situation.
    Women who engage in using their children as Tools for manipulation are engaging in *abuse.* It appears they may be (undxd.) Cluster Bs (Borderline, Narcissistic, Histrionic, Antisocial) Personality Disorders or “High Conflict Personalities” who are able to manipulate the legal system (as well as PAS) to effectively ensure the fathers are no longer (or very minimally) involved in their child(ren)’s lives. A book that comes to mind immediately and which you may find useful is “Divorce Poison” (can’t recall the author, but it’s been frequently recommended) and also offers strategies for counteracting the effects of PAS.
    Good luck and best wishes-I’m sure this is heartbreaking for you and your children.

  4. brittany
    Feb 06, 2015

    Its not just mothers doing this my ex has domicile custody and he and his current wife has violatrd every custody order I’ve had and alinated my children from me and the courts won’t do anything they do whatever they want to do and all tjat happens is I spend money trying to resolve the issues and the coirts scold them and that’s all

    • Puddle
      Feb 06, 2015

      Brittany, How frustrating and sad. It seems like there is an endless parade of craziness in the legal arena. Like to actually receive justice from the courts of justice is the acceptation to the rule. maybe the book that Tundra Woman recommended to “Mathew” above could be some help to you as well. Good luck to you and please don’t give up.

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