Positive, Negative and Partial Reinforcement

Dr. Richard Gardner, who’s largely credited for bringing Parental Alienation to the attention of the legal and psychological community, cataloged alienating behavior in three ways.

1. Positive reinforcement

This strategy involves rewarding the child’s behavior, words or actions when the child “goes along” with the alienation. For instance, let’s say the child says something to the effect of “Mom, I totally agree that dad’s a loser. Last weekend, he barely left the couch; he watched TV almost the entire time I was over there.”

The alienating parent might reward this admission by buying the child ice cream or allowing him or her to use a special toy, or she may just revel in how much of a “loser” the dad is.

2. Negative reinforcement

This is basically the flipside. If the child says or does something out of step with the negative narrative, the alienating parent gets mean, withdraws or chastises the child. For instance, maybe the child says something to the effect of “I don’t know, Mom, the last time I was over Dad’s house, the place was clean, and his new girlfriend, Janine, gave me ice cream.”
The alienating parent might respond by flying into a rage or going on a rant to the effect of: “Janine gave you ice cream? You know how bad sugar is for you! Do you want to become obese and diabetic like your father is?” Or the parent might react passive-aggressively by suddenly ‘getting a headache’ and withdrawing for the evening.

3. Partial reinforcement

This strategy uses a toxic mixture of both positive and negative reinforcement. The alienating parent behaves like Jekyll and Hyde. The child never knows whether “good mom” or “bad mom” will show up. As a result, the child often goes along with the alienation, because of the fear of the outrageous and unpredictable behavior.

For skillful, experienced assistance handling your Parental Alienation case, call the Williams Law Group, LLC immediately at (908) 810-1083.

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