Dear Readers:

When parents are of the belief that they can do whatever they want with their children, I often wonder if they think their children are sofas! No one cares what you do with your sofa, but children; well we are all watching what you do!

A question each parent should try to answer for themselves, at least once yearly, “Is my child a better person because I am his/her parent?” The corollary question then becomes, “What am I teaching my child by my behaviour”?

Three decades in Family Law and I still marvel at how people continue to have children together but fail to realize, or choose not to, that it is the right of the child, not theirs, to have good relationships with both parents, regardless of how the relations between the parents have evolved over time.

So you don’t “love” him/her anymore. So he/she cheated on you, or even hit you. So all those pesky little character traits and habits, that seem “cute” in the beginning, now irritate you beyond belief.

If you have to hear one more slurp, or snore, or pick-up one more carelessly discarded piece of clothing, or beer can, or pay one more exorbitant Visa bill, or listen to one more complaint about how you do something or put up with bossy in-laws, you’ll burst. Most of these “problems” could have been worked out before you got together but hey, why bother? – you were in love!

So who pays the ultimate price for not fixing all these problems? The children of course. Because after all, they are your weapons of choice. With enough time (and suggestions, be they subliminal or overt), you can turn them against the other parent. He/she will see. You’ll make them pay for all the injurious remarks and acts you have had to endure – of course you don’t seem to understand that down the road, more often than not, the children will wise up and turn against you for having deprived them of their other parent.

No, that would never happen you say. Well believe me it does. I have spent days in Courtrooms fighting over custody, access rights, choice of schools and trips, grandparent visitation, University payments, etc…, but it is the custody/access battles which illustrate how treating your children like sofas can truly come back to haunt the vindictive parent. Parents don’t realize that with time often comes changes in the child’s perspective towards them.

The 6 year old, who clung to mom, wants, at age 12, to be with the other parent. Sons graduate from Moms and gravitate to their Dads. Yes, many times this too can be due to pressure from the non custodial parent, or worse, the non custodial parent’s parents, but it can also result from the child’s burgeoning awakening that one parent lied about the other to keep control. That realization causes resentment that is eventually turned against the controlling parent.

Perhaps you even thought you were doing what was best for your child, but usually being deprived of a parent only serves to cause a child psychological problems, and even health problems down the road.

And just because you no longer see eye to eye with your “beloved” does not mean he/she is bad for, or to, the children. Making your child “hate” the other parent is bad for them and you and can lead to feelings of extreme guilt later on.

But most importantly, no one not you, not the other parent and certainly not the Courts can ever make up the time stolen from the child and lost to the non-custodial parent. What can happen however can be so much worse than imagined.

Leave someone with nothing left to loose and you create a very volatile situation, as in that case where the father, seeing no way out, kidnapped his son and the mother didn’t get to see her son again for 6 years! That is a lot of lost time. Was her insistence on eliminating the father’s role in their son’s life worth it? Obviously not. An extreme case perhaps, but a foreseeable one had the mother thought out what she was really trying to accomplish.

So before embarking on a path that may ultimately lead you to a very different end than you envisioned, remember: Your children are not your sofas!