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How to Destroy Your Child

I've been practicing family law for three decades now. That is a long time. When I started practicing, the massacre at Tiananmen Square had just happened, the Berlin Wall hadn't yet fallen, and the world didn't yet have the world wide web.

But over these past 30 years, I've been witness to thousands of family law stories. Over time, you see that when a person behaves in a certain way and does certain things, they are likely to behave in a predictable way and do predictable things. Families work the same way. Over time, similar fact patterns yield predictable results. That's part of how a good family law attorney is a good family law attorney. We can't see into the future but we can make fairly reliable predictions based upon past behavior.

One fact pattern that proves almost 100 percent reliable is the way you can destroy your child. If you do this, I can almost guarantee you that you will damage your child to their core. You will have them either on an analyst's couch for years to come (if they're lucky) or behaving in incredibly self destructive ways for decades to come. That might take the form of addictive behavior, physical self harm, criminal conduct or licentious behavior.

I've seen dads do this. I've seen moms do this. It doesn't seem to make much difference which parent does this, either way, the kid is trashed for much of their adulthood.

So, how does one destroy their child?

Disown them.

And like most behavior, disowning them happens on a scale.  The most extreme is to literally disown them; offer to terminate your parental rights. As you progress down the scale, disowning them might be just walking away. I once negotiated a mediation where the father cried buckets of tears over no longer getting to tuck his babies into bed each night. We agreed to a healthy visitation schedule to dampen his concern. The deal concluded, the father got up from the table and walked away. That was the last time the mother or their children ever saw him again.

Moving farther still down the scale, disowning your child might consist of being an extremely part-time parent, engaging in your time on task only half the time available to you, or even less. Or it might be allowing something else to hold their attention so you don't have to. One fellow I know spent 12 hours with his child, only to watch five movies in a row on tv. At least none of them were rated R.

I'm going to sound like a broken record now. The children are half you and half the other parent. They can't help it. That is literally how they are made. If you have little to nothing to do with them, they can't help but hate themselves, distrust themselves and run away from anything approaching closeness in relationships. They will be condemned.

What's the alternative? Invest time.

There is a movement afoot to require joint parenting, true 50/50 custody. The idea is that a bad parent is better than none so allowing one parent to escape with relatively minimal interaction with their child is not in the child's best interest. I don't know that this is universally the answer but it is very good jumping off point for a serious discussion. Still, like the parent who watched five movies in the course of 12 hours, time-in-presence may not equal time-on-task.

So, if you are seeking to destroy your child, disown them. However, if destroying your child is not what your are about in life, not your best concept of parenting, then spend quality time with your children. As much of it as you can.

-Michael Manely 

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