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Symptoms of Hostile Aggressive Parenting
- Symptoms of HAP

- Underlying causes of HAP

- Observable effects from
  exposure to HAP

- Severe HAP

- Addressing & dealing with HAP

- Role of the community

- Sanctions for HAP

- How to help

- HAP documentation (PDF)
Hostile-Aggressive Parenting (HAP) generally can be categorized into three levels, the first being “moderate” (the most common) and the second being “severe” and the third being “critical.” Identifying the behaviours of hostile-aggressive parents is the first step to determining the category and deciding on the necessary corrective actions to be taken.

The majority of hostile-aggressive parents falls into the moderate category. Parents in this category are often able to keep their abusive parenting behaviour from being noticed to any great extent by others or they manage to keep it at a level that others will likely turn a blind eye to it. In the severe category, the abusive parenting is more conspicuous, with others in the community being able to identify many of the symptoms. The risk of harm to a child is greater in the serious category than with the items considered as being moderate. The campaign of a hostile-aggressive parent in the severe category may be almost continual. In the severe category there may be frequent intervention by police and other support agencies as well as open defiance to court custody and access orders. Many of these parents have become quite bold, confident as they are that the system does little to establish consequences for their actions.

In the “critical” category, most people would consider this behaviour highly abnormal and even dangerous to the well-being of a child. Intervention is usually required immediately.

There are a minority of parents, however, whose Hostile-Aggressive Parenting is so chronic and deep-seated that they may be considered fanatical. Often parents in this category may suffer from emotional or psychological disorders. It is in this category that the hostile-aggressive parent’s behaviour towards the friendly parent and the child is likely to be alarming. The hostile parent may utilize a wide variety of hostile and aggressive tactics designed to make life difficult for the friendly parent and to disrupt their child’s relationship with the friendlier parent. The rationalization that the hostile-aggressive parent uses to justify their behaviour becomes more frivolous & absurd as the degree of HAP progresses. The hostile-aggressive parent describes the other parent as all bad and attempts to program his or her hate of the other parent into the child in what is described by health care professionals as “Parental Alienation.”

Symptoms of Mild Hostile Aggressive Parenting

 Will badmouth the other parent in front of the children.
 Not willing to participate in any reasonable form of written communication.
 Will tell the other parent and other third parties to deal only with their lawyer at times of minor conflict.
 Will frustrate normal and healthy telephone communication, such as supervising phone talk with kids, etc

  • When the phone rings, they will pick up the phone but then immediately hang up the phone on the calling party.
  • Will not answer the phone when the other parent calls. Often the child may witness their parent let the phone ring & ring numerous time without picking it up.
  • Turn off their answering machine when they see that it is the other parent who is calling which makes it difficult for the other parent to leave messages.
  • Use the call block feature on the phone so that the other party cannot ring through to their number even though the other parent’s actions would not warrant the blocking of calls.
  • Will hang up the phone immediately at the end of a conversation without giving the other parent a chance to respond. Not return phone messages left by the other parent even when left on an answering machine
  • Force the child to speak to the other parent or family members on speakerphone or listen in on the children’s private conversations. Some HAP parents will force the child to converse with the other parent over a speakerphone or will listen in on the child conversation’s so that they can hear their child’s live telephone conversations with the other parent. HAP parents are literally paranoid about anything that their child may say to the other parent or about what the other parent may say to the child.
  • Will order their child not to answer the phone when it rings, thereby limiting the child’s telephone contacts with the other parent. Many children in this situation are aware that their other parent is trying to call but are often too fearful of the HAP parent to pick up the phone even though they would like to.
  • Will grab and take away the phone from the child in the middle of a conversation with the other parent.
  • Remove phones after use and lock them away in a closet or room so that the child has no access to a phone or install phones high up on a wall, out of the reach for smaller children to be able to answer.
  • Will not let the child use a cell phone that the other parent may have provided to the child in an attempt to help overcome some of the telephone communication difficulties. Sometimes the HAP parent will take the cell phone that was given for the child’s use and use it for their personal use and run up a bill which must be paid by the other parent..
Often the child will observe the telephone manners of HAP parent which sets a bad role model for the child. The Hostile-Aggressive Parent wishes to limit the child’s contact with the other parent and frustrate the other parent. In some cases, HAP parents are trying to get the other parent to do something that they can use as an excuse to call police.

 Will say that the child does not want to speak to the other parent.
 Will not let older children speak for themselves.
 Will undermine the other parent's authority
 Will tell the child they cannot alter parenting times outlined on the court order because the court doen't allow it.
 Will play on the children’s feeling of guilt and sympathy.
 Will be uncooperative when it comes to working out summer and holiday schedules for children.
 Fail to involve the other parent in the choice of daycare providers.
 Choose third parties over the other parent to care for the child if they are unavailable.
 Deny or delay access to the children by pretending that they are too sick or have too much homework, etc.
 Create difficulties for the children to see the other parent on special occasions.
 Insist that the children be returned precisely on time while not respecting these same rules themselves.
 Unwilling to make arrangements when situations arise which reasonably warrant some flexibility.
 Unwilling to any professional involved in helping the parents co-parent the children effectively.
 Make claims of bias against any party involved with helping the family.
 Take the children to their “own” counsellors/doctors/etc without the knowledge/permission of the other parent.
 Unwilling to consider any kind of fair and equal parenting arrangement for the child  
 Unilaterally make plans for the child on the other parent’s access time  
 Get the child to place blame and guilt on the other parent  
 Entice or bribe the child to not want to go with the other parent  

Not inform the other parent of upcoming school activities, events, or holidays when the child’s regular schedule at school may not be applicable
 Not inform the other parent in a timely manner when the child has been injured

Not allow the child to have any pictures or memorabilia involving the other parent in the home, including the child’s own room.
 Discard or sell gifts given by the other parent while they were together  
 Will refuse to participate in activities at the child’s school when the other parent is present

Will object to the other parent (usually the non custodial parent) taking the child to any kind of counselling or other third party professional
 Attempt to spread their hate and animosity to the friends and/or extended family of the targeted parent  
 Claim that there is a potential for conflict with their former spouse to thwart open discussion of the issues

Will threaten the child with loss of their love should the child ever want to live with the other parent or should the child show affection towards the other parent or other parent’s extended family
 Will coach the child to “spy” on the other parent or pump the child for information  
 Will make of false claims of parental conflict, while doing nothing to reduce such conflict

Will create conflict with their child just after visits with the other parent and then blame the other parent for being the cause of the conflict with the child

Symptoms of Severe Hostile Aggressive Parenting

 Use excessive physical discipline on their children.  
 Openly violate court orders and agreements, especially in relation to parenting time  
 Tell the child that the other parent is not their biological parent  
 Fabricate false sexual or physical abuse allegations against the other parent involving the children  
 Force their child to see the other parent under supervised access when there really is no need for supervision

Not allow the child to be with or to communicate with the other parent on Father’s Day, Mother’s Day, birthdays and other special occasions

Allege that the non-custodial parent is responsible for the children’s behaviour and emotional problems when the children are with the custodial parent

Instruct the child’s school not to provide information or report cards to the other parent and/or attempt to keep the other parent from attending school activities or events
 Change their child’s surname  
 Get the child to call the other parent by their first name  
 Reject registered mail to them from the other parent

Provide the school with false or misleading information about the other parent to keep the other parent and family uninvolved.

Commit acts of vandalism or carelessness against the property of other family members.

Have fits of intense anger/verbal abuse against the other parent in front of the child and/or other third parties.

May attempt to extort money for additional time with the child.

Continue to physically or emotionally abuse their child even after the abuse has been brought to their attention by third party professionals.

Have their lawyer attempt to intimidate staff at the child’s school.

Avoid acknowledging their own child should the HAP parent accidentally meet the child and the other parent together in public.

Refuse to speak to other children of the relationship who has not sided with them.

Totally severe any relationship between the child and other step parents and extended step parent family.

Obsessively restrict the child’s access to a telephone.

May threaten and/or intimidate their child.

Use underhanded tactics to force the child to recant previous statements.

Interrogate their child after a visit with the other parent

Make the child write a mean spirited letter to the other parent intended to hurt the other parent or to extort something from them. Such letters may include the child telling his/her non-custodial parent that he/she does not want to see them or that they want more money from the non-custodial parent.

Will disrupt their child’s relationship with other children associated with the other parent.

Encourage their child to participate in criminal activities.

Intercept mail intended for the child.

Intercept or destroy E mail messages intended for the child.

Unilaterally withdraw money and close down bank accounts / RESP's which were intended for the child.

Examples of Critical Risk Behaviours/Indicators

The term “Critical Risk Behaviour/Indicator” refers to any behaviour or action of a parent or guardian which would be considered as so potentially damaging or neglectful to a child’s physical or emotional well-being as to warrant immediate intervention and removal of the child from the care of the parent at the very least on an interim basis. Under many child welfare protection laws, most of these behaviours would be considered as meeting the threshold for child abuse, neglect or maltreatment.

In most cases, the presence of any Critical HAP Behaviours/Indicators listed here will warrant immediate intervention and removal of the parent’s custody rights and comprehensive review of the child’s time with the HAP parent.

Parent plans to abduct or abduct the children and go into hiding.

Parent rejected all efforts to correct HAP behaviours.

Threats to kill or harm child.

May attempt suicide while caring for the child.

Attempted to extort or to blackmail another parent.

Attempt murder or physical injury

Child is physically or sexually assaulted by a parent’s partner.

Expose the child to excesses of alcohol and drugs.

Fail to obtain necessary medical treatment for the child

Escalating involvement in a religious organization