Monday, August 22, 2011

Dorothy Dix on Parental Alienation - 1919


FULL TEXT: Among my acquaintances is a piteous old man, who is dying of a broken heart because his wife has alienated the affections of his only child from him.

This father belongs in the ranks of those who earn their bread by the sweat of their brows. Life has been hard to him, but the one rose that has bloomed along his arid pathway has seen his little daughter, and he has found no toil too hard to keep her soft and safe, no sacrifices too great to make to give her a fine education.

While the girl was little she was a joy to him as she cuddled in his arms and pressed her rosy little cheek to his worn one, but as she has grown older her mother has weaned her away from her father and taught her to look with contempt upon him, so that now she treats him with coldness and neglect, and pays him not so much attention as she would to a faithful old workhorse.

And it has turned the father’s world to dust and ashes.

One would think that a woman who turns her children against their father and robs him of their love must be a fiend incarnate. She would be if she committed the crime deliberately, but she does it without realizing what a terrible thing she is doing, or how far-reaching and disastrous are its consequences.

For many other women are guilty of this same offense. Occasionally a mother weans her children away from their father through a morbid jealousy. She wants to be all in all to them. She cannot bear for them to love anyone else, not even their father, as well as they love her. She is filled with torturing fear that they may even prefer their father to her, as children often do if left to follow unhampered their own impulses.

So, with set purpose, she sets to work to slay their affection for their father by representing him to them as cold and callous and anxious to thwart them, while she is all indulgence, and tenderness and sympathy. Sometimes a mother will even carry her maternal jealousy to the pitch that makes her stand forever between the children and their father. She will never let him be alone with them for an instant, or give them a chance to get acquainted and be pals.

Generally, however, when a mother alienates her children’s affections from their father she has no real object in view. She is committing one of the greatest wrongs of which any human is capable, and she literally knows not what she does.

When she harps continually to her children on their father’s lack of enterprise, and complains that if he knew how to get along they would be able to live in a fine house and have automobiles, she is merely expressing her own discontent with poverty and envy of the instilling a lack of respect for their  father in her children’s minds, and making them regard him as a failure whose judgment is not worth respecting.

When she criticises their father to the children, and calls their attention to his faults and shortcomings, she is only venting her own temper and nerves. She does not realize that she is pulling down a god from its altar and teaching them to jeer at it, and despise it, instead of worship it.

When she holds their father up to her children as a bugaboo with which to frighten them, when she threatens them with what father will do to them when he comes home, when she holds before the trembling little culprits a picture of father with a whip in his hand until they never think of him except as a cruel despot, she is merely taking what she thinks is the easiest way to control her noisy and mischievous youngsters.

She doesn’t realize that she is building between father and child the icy wall of fear that will last as long as life lasts, and that will prevent the children from, ever having a single throb of warm filial love or a single word of real human companionship for their father.

The women who do these things commit a great crime against their husbands, but they commit an even greater crime against their children for, sooner or later, the time comes when the mother finds that she needs a man’s strong hand over her girls and boys, a man’s wisdom and experience of life in directing them and guiding them, and then she turns to their father for help. But he is powerless. She has undermined his authority. She has alienated their hearts from him. She has taught them to despise his judgment and to have a contempt for him, and so he has less influence with them than the veriest stranger.

Not without reason is the command to “honor thy father” given in the Holy Writ. There is no more steadying and restraining influence on earth than the love, admiration and reverence that a child has for the father to whom it has been taught to look up to all its life, and whom it regards as a fountain of wisdom and a tower of righteousness. Foolish and wicked is the woman who deprives her children of this safeguard in their hour of temptation.

And, aside from the child’s good in this matter, think how cruel and heartless a thing it is to cheat a man out of the love of his children, which is the only possible reward that he can have for all the sacrifices that fatherhood imposes upon him.

We have glorified mother love so greatly that we have forgotten that there is a father love as well and that a man’s lips may be just as hungry for a child’s kisses as a woman’s are.
Also that the father is martyrized on the family altar no less than the mother. For all his life of toil there nothing that the average married man gets hut his board and clothes, and what happiness he finds in his children, and if his wife robs him of that happiness he is left poor indeed.

This is something for women to think over.

[Dorothy Dix, “Teaching Children to Despise Father.” Syndicated (Wheeler Syndicate, Inc.), Sep. 14, 1919, part III, p. 28]

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1 comment:

  1. Bravo! This is an excellent account as relevant today as almost 94 years ago.

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