Power and Control Wheel: Using Children

Making her feel guilty
about the children. Using
the children to relay
messages. Using
visitation to harass her.
Threatening to take the
children away.

Making her feel guilty about the children.  Bubba would make me feel guilty about spending time with the kids, snuggling with them, disciplining them in a way he didn’t understand.  He knew the children were the best way to get to me.   He didn’t see us as a family unit.  Instead, it seemed as if he thought he was in competition with them for my attention.  

On his days off, I would try to plan fun family activities – going to the park, a museum, walking around the mall, or just planning to grill out and have a nice family meal.  He would often get angry and say that he wanted it to be just him and me.  We did try to do date night twice a month but something would come up and we’d be unable to go.  What used to make me angry was that he would say these things right in front of the children.  They knew they weren’t wanted around – that he just wanted to spend time with me instead of them.  They  would ask me why Daddy didn’t like them and didn’t want to spend time with them.  I used to excuse his behavior to the children too.  I didn’t want the children thinking badly about their father so I tried to build him up in their eyes.  I often felt like my family was playing a huge game of tug-of-war and I was the rope. 

Using the children to relay messages.  Bubba does this too.  He does it in an indirect way and never has to say, “Tell your mother….” because he knows we are close and that they’ll share things with me.  This past summer, during visitation, he told the kids that he was going to take me back to court to get out of paying child support since he’d gotten fired from his job.  Of course, the children were going to tell me that because he had them worrying about money because he involves them.  I then had to assure the children that I would take care of them and they were not to worry about money.  

Using visitation to harass her.   All during the process of the divorce, Bubba requested that the children’s Guardian Ad Litem be at every visitation exchange.  I was determined to do them alone to prove to myself that I could – that he didn’t hold that power of fear over me.  But he called her each and every time.  In the GAL’s report, she assigned 50/50 blame for that – as if I’d asked her to be there too.  She said that we needed to learn to work together for the good of the children.  Well, duh, but I wasn’t the one requesting she attend our exchanges.  

We had our first solo exchange 3 days after the divorce.  We met in a neutral location, as always.  I needed Bubba to sign some bank papers pertaining to the children’s accounts.  I handed him the papers, told him what they were, and asked him to sign them.  He did and he took my request as an opening to start in on me.  He informed me that he’d put 30 days’ notice on our marital home and that I either needed to pay my own security deposit or move right away.  He said this right in front of the children.  I didn’t catch myself and said, “How dare you mess with MY home!”  As soon as it was out, I saw the look on Serenity’s face and knew I couldn’t continue with the conversation.  I told him “I won’t discuss this with you now.  Email me, please.” and walked away.   He said, “Fine!  Just walk away like you always do.  That’s real mature!”   He started shouting at the kids, “See, kids!  She’s walking away from me again.  This is all her fault.  She always walks away from me.  Don’t blame me for the divorce.  This is all her fault.”  Serenity later told me that he ranted like that for about three hours.  

Now, our visitation exchanges are conducted in utter silence.  I know that if I ever say hello to him, it would be the opening he needs to start harassing me again.  In fact, at the last one, I didn’t even get out of the car.  If I refuse to even acknowledge his presence, he won’t verbally attack me in front of the kids.  

Threatening to take the children away.  Bubba had never shown much interest in taking care of the children.  When he did, he viewed it as baby-sitting instead of parenting.  Ultimately, I was always responsible for them.  He was always too busy with work, watching t.v., or trying to get me alone to bother much with them.  As soon as I filed for divorce, he started talking about wanting custody.  I was blown away by that.  Why on earth would he want custody after ignoring them and treating them the way he had.  It was simple really.  He knew he could get to me through the children.  The easiest way he saw to stop the divorce and get his life back was to threaten to take the kids away from me.  

I’d been a stay-at-home mom for well over 12 years by the time I filed for divorce.  I’d worked up until Serenity was a pre-schooler but she didn’t have any memories of what life was like with me outside the home.  The boys had never known life where I wasn’t with them all the time.  Bubba understood this and yet he made wild accusations against me and even got my family on his side.  Yes, my family all submitted affidavits about the various reasons they “felt” I should lose custody of my children.  Since I didn’t spend but a few weeks a year with my family, they had their “feelings” and a bunch of conjecture in their affidavits.  Yet, somehow, the GAL gave more credence to what they had to say than what my friends, who saw me multiple times a week, had to say about my parenting.  It made no sense to me.

When we finally reached a settlement (with me retaining custody), we were scheduled to go in front of the judge to sign the papers.  I’d requested a name change at the last minute because I did not want to be stuck with Bubba’s last name after how he treated me.  Three hours before our court hearing my lawyer called me to tell me that Bubba’s lawyer told him about the name change and Bubba decided that if I went through with my name change, he’d throw out the settlement and fight for full custody of the kids.  Even with only three hours left of our marriage, he still had to exert control over what I could or could not do.  Of course, I threw the name change out because my children are what is important to me.   As always, I do what is best for my children.  That is a concept that Bubba will never understand.  

I think another category should be added here:

Using the children as confidants.  Another thing he’ll do to the children is to tell them things and then tell them they aren’t allowed to tell because it is a big secret.  He used this in a big way at the very beginning of the divorce process.  He sat Liam down one day, turned on the water works and told Liam all about how I he was so afraid that in our year of separation I’d find another man and throw him away.  He cried and told Liam how afraid he was to lose me and that he thought I was with another man already.  He’d sworn Liam to secrecy before he told him what was on his mind.  Liam debated for a few days about telling me.  I finally advised him to tell Serenity and they could decide together if it was something I needed to know.  Together they decided to tell me along with some other things they had been keeping secret for about a year.

Bubba talks to the children about money, my supposed affairs, how I try to keep them from him, how I’ve brainwashed them against him, and a whole host of other topics that are no appropriate to speak to children about.

During the divorce, we were both warned to not include the children in adult topics.  I very carefully guarded all talk from them while Bubba shared freely with them.  Of course, he was able to spin it to the GAL that it was actually me talking to them instead of him.  She believed him!  My children were the big losers in this divorce because he gave them too much information – to hurt me and to make me look badly in the eyes of the GAL.




    1. Mud-Slinging at it’s Finest « Hope Wears Heels
    2. The Family « Hope Wears Heels

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