Divorce and Manipulating Children

Divorcing Parents May Use Pets to Control Children's Decisions
by Honorable Anne Kass. Ann Kass is a District Judge in the Second Judicial District State of New Mexico

Divorcing parents in the throes of a custody dispute can behave in ways that are shockingly cruel. Generally their goal is to control or manipulate the other parent or the children, but that is seldom the main consequence. The most disturbing behaviors I've seen involve parents who use their children's pets to try to get what they want or as retaliation for not having gotten what they wanted.

Numerous parents have bought their child a pet just at the time a custody struggle begins, to influence the children's wishes about where they want to live. Many parents have refused to allow their child to take their pet with them when a change of custody has been ordered by a Court, sometimes to punish the children, sometimes to seduce them back.

I'll never forget one father who purchased his two small daughters kittens. The kittens lived at dad's house. The girls lived at mom's house and visited dad every other weekend. One weekend the father was cited for driving under the influence of alcohol. The girls were with him. The mother asked the court for assistance to keep the children safe. When the matter came to court, the children's lawyer reported that his young clients had begged him to ask the court not to stop the visitation because their dad had told them that if they didn't visit him, their kittens would have to be "put to sleep."

The worst case I ever saw involved a father who was angry at his 7-year-old son for telling the custody evaluator that he wanted to live with his mother. To punish the child the father took the boy and his pet cat for a drive on the freeway where he ejected the cat from the car as the child watched. That child's request that he not have to visit his father was granted.

I understand that Abraham Maslow, a world renowned psychologist who radiated kindness and good will, had experienced his mother killing a litter of kittens as punishment for feeding the kittens after she had told him not to. It's reported that Dr. Maslow never forgave his mother for that act of cruelty which she intended to be a lesson, a form of discipline.

Children love their pets, and pets also help children learn valuable life skills. Pets trust and depend on their young masters which helps children learn to be trustworthy and responsible. Pets learn to obey their young masters which helps children learn to respect authority. On the other hand, from parents who use pets to manipulate or control, children learn not to trust, not to love, not to care and not to respect authority. Moreover, these children frequently assume that a parent who can betray or discard a helpless animal could also betray or discard a helpless child. They learn to fear

As with Dr. Maslow's mother, parents who fail to understand this may well find themselves never forgiven.


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