Golden State Warriors: Is Jerry West Really That Big Of A Deal?

Jerry West not only knows basketball, being one of the greatest NBA players of all time, but he knows the corporate side of basketball, as well. West was responsible for igniting the Los Angeles Lakers’ three-peat from 2000-02, by acquiring players like Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, as well as hiring Phil Jackson as head coach.

West’s new challenge is to do with the Golden State Warriors what he did with the Lakers, and somewhat with the Memphis Grizzlies.

West was pursued by Warriors’ owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber, and they hired him this past week as an adviser to the Warriors’ executive board.

Who knows how much of a role West will play with the Warriors, but having one of the greatest basketball players of all time is not a bad person to have to advise your team.

Although West does still plan to live in Southern California, he will be working very closely with Warriors’ ownership, as well as, and most importantly, General Manager Larry Riley. West was the former ultra-successful GM with the Lakers, and the hope is he can rub off some wisdom on Riley.

But whether or not West’s role with the Warriors is significant or not, the name is there, and that is what counts right now.

West’s new job with the Warriors helps improve two aspects of Golden State’s mission to be a successful franchise.

1. The New Coach

Jerry West has been around the NBA long enough to know what coaches and players are for real, and which are not. Right off the bat, West will be helping with the hiring of the Warriors’ next head coach.

Warriors’ owner Joe Lacob is not dumb. He knows that with the West part of the Warriors, he will attract high-profile names to this team, whether they are big-name coaches or players.

For now, any coach would like to work with West, as well as an ambitious Warriors ownership that is determined to make this team a success.

West totally changes the image of the Warriors from the Don Nelson/Keith Smart Era to the new and improved Lacob/Guber Era with their eyes set on the playoffs.

Also, West has the first-hand experience with some of these coaches, such as Lakers’ assistant coach Brian Shaw.

Is Shaw for real as a coach?

I’m sure West has already filled the Warriors in on that one.

2. Acquiring Players

West’s name, alone, will draw players to Oakland.

Without West as an adviser, there was no chance at landing a big-name free agent. Now with West, the Warriors suddenly have a shot. Given West’s success both on the court and off, it may entice a player like Dwight Howard, for instance, to come to Oakland and become a part of something very special taking flight.

But most of all, West will be working with GM Larry Riley, arguably the weakest link in the Warriors’ front office. As a former successful GM, West will be sure to have a say in what moves Riley and the Warriors will be making.

Reports are this may even be the start of West becoming the next GM of the Warriors. Keep your fingers crossed on that one.

So not only will West be attracting players to Golden State, but he will have a say in whether or not those players are worth it.

In a history of the Warriors that has seen several talents slip through the cracks and other talents rot in the Warriors’ former corrupt system, it is good to see Lacob and others making moves that everyone agrees makes this franchise better.

A Key West Family Vacation and the Top 15 Things to Do With the Kids in Key West

When people try to tell me that Key West is “just for adults,” I reply with a big fat “wrong.” My grown children and my two grandkids live in Key West and most of what we do for fun is family stuff. My grandchildren were born in Key West, and as I write this, my granddaughter is turning 11 and my grandson is almost 15. So, like many American kids their age, they’re involved with soccer, softball, tennis, music, and theater productions. But they also have the unique opportunities that come with living on a tropical island where they can swim, snorkel the reef, scuba dive, windsurf, go boating in the Gulf of Mexico, or just hang on the beach.

So… as a young grandmother living in Key West, I state from personal experience that there are plenty of amazing things for our kids to do here, and the same opportunities are available to your children on vacation. Here, I’ll give you my personal suggestions on how to plan your Key West family vacation and then offer up some of my ‘Top 15 Favorite Things to do the Kids.’

A Place to Stay with the Family in Key West

The first thing you need to do is choose your lodging. I recommend that you rent a vacation rental house (generally called a villa), preferably with a swimming pool. You’ll have plenty of space and privacy, and with your own kitchen, you’ll spend a lot less than you would on two or three hotel rooms. Think about it…the kitchen alone will save you money on food and you’ll have more cash for family activities.

A house makes it much easier to ‘keep an eye on the children, and the swimming pool can be the focal point for the entire family. But please keep in mind that most swimming pools are not large and do not have diving boards. On the other hand, they generally have decks or patios for sunning and lounging around.

As you choose your villa, keep in mind that most vacation rentals that are licensed to rent for less than a month, are in the Old Town Key West neighborhoods. It’s actually a lot of fun and very convenient to rent a house in the downtown Old Town neighborhoods as it is very easy to walk everywhere. But you can also find great vacation rentals in the more residential White Street Gallery, Beachside, and Truman Annex neighborhoods.

You’ll want to get settled in as smoothly as possible, so it’s a good idea to find out how close your rental is to the closest grocery store. Key West has some great local grocers that take orders by phone or online and delivered right to your door. A few vacation homes are very close to the local grocers, and the island has three large chain supermarkets on North Roosevelt Blvd if you decide to stock up yourself.

Now that we have food and lodging out of the way, let’s get down to planning the fun stuff. And once you get here, there is no doubt you will discover favorites of your own.


Key West Beaches
Going to the beach is one of my very favorite things to do with the kids. When they were really little we would go to Higgs Beach nearly every weekend. Higgs has white sand and the water stays shallow for a long way out making it a great swimming place for the children. There’s a fantastic beach restaurant with a bar, a volleyball net, and there is also a little kid’s playground, ‘Astro City,’ across the street.

As the kids got bigger, we starting going to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park Beach. It has fantastic snorkeling and 54 acres of land to explore along with a pre-Civil War Fort. The kids also like to go to all the other Key West beaches depending upon what they want to do.

I have a few absolute favorite activities I love to do with the kids. Because we live on a tropical island, many of them are water-oriented, but there are also many ‘on land’ adventures to choose from.

  • The Key West Butterfly and Nature Conservatory – A magical and breathtaking indoor solarium filled with flying butterflies, birds, tropical plants, streams and waterfalls.
  • Mel Fisher’s Treasure Museum – See artifacts found on the famous shipwreck Atocha and Santa Margarita.
  • Ghost Tours – Night time local tours lead you to ‘haunted houses’ and offer fun lore and ghostly stories.
  • Fort Zachary Taylor State Park – Walk through a pre-Civil War Martello Fort and then go to the beach.
  • Key West Light House Museum – Visit the restored lighthouse & Keepers quarters, and climb the 88 step spiral stairway for an amazing view.
  • East Martello Towers – Walk through this pre-Civil War Martello Fort and grounds. Learn all about Key West history and climb the citadel with 8 foot granite walls for an amazing view of the ocean.
  • Private Charter Boat trips out into the Gulf of Mexico – ‘Back Country.’ These trips can include visiting deserted islands, kayaking, snorkeling, and fly fishing – depending on the charter boat and captain you choose.
  • Sunset sail on the harbor – Choose of the tall wooden ships and feel like a real pirate.
  • Wild Dolphin Watch Tours – Go to where the dolphins are and observe them in their wild natural habitat.
  • Parasailing for the older kids – Exhilarating adventure trip on the water.
  • Glass Bottom Boat Trip – Observe the living coral reefs without getting in the water.
  • Visit Fort Jefferson and The Dry Tortugas – Take a high speed catamaran on the 70 mile boat trip from Key West.
  • Key West Aquarium – See and touch many of the local species found in our waters and learn about the beauty and diversity of inshore and barrier reef ecosystems.
  • Bike Rides – Riding along the south shore along Higgs and Smathers Beach, and riding through Truman Annex and then on to Fort Zachary Taylor is a favorite ride with the younger kids.

Since many of the activities are in or around the water, your children may develop an interest in further learning about and exploring the fragile ecosystem of the world’s oceans. Our children and grandchildren have developed a love for the sea that has led them to surf, sailing, scuba diving, and boating. Exploration of the sea continues to help carry them through the challenging years of adolescence.

So when people suggest to you that Key West is an adult party vacation destination, you can tell them definitively they have been completely misinformed. This island is a wonderful place for families and children to live… and to vacation. The only problem will be finding enough time on your trip to experience everything you want to do.

Annie Oakley, Lillian Smith and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

During the latter part of the 1800s, there may not have been anything quite as popular as reenactments of the wild west and in particular, the performances put on by Buffalo Bill Cody and his Wild West. Cody beyond doubt had a knack for knowing what the public wanted to see. He was also a man who lived the wild west life and had the relationships to recruit the people who could make his dreams and that f the public come to life.

One of the things that made Buffalo Bill’s Wild West different from most any other form of late 1800’s entertainment was the fact that his performers in most instances were not actors. They were the genuine article. At one point in the middle 1880s, Cody persuaded the great Lakota Sioux Chief Sitting Bull to join his traveling show. Although Sitting Bull only toured with the show some four months he was extremely popular and earned about $50 per week. The Sioux chief also made quite a lot of money during this time selling autographs to a fascinated public.

The Amazing Female Sharpshooters

When it came to sharpshooters Cody had little difficulty finding top-notch performers. Buffalo Bill recruited two of the best shots the old west produced. One was Annie Oakley who was raised in Ohio and the other, somewhat less known today, was a woman named Lillian Smith from Southern California. Lillian Smith would go on to perform with several other wild west shows during her career including Mexican Joe’s Wild West, The 101 Ranch Wild West Show, and Pawnee Bill’s Wild West. While each of these performance companies had a good following it was Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West that gained the most worldwide attention.

So what were some of the sharpshooting talents of the little-known Lillian Smith? She could hit a plate thirty times in fifteen seconds. Her act also included breaking ten glass balls on a string and then she shot the strings without missing once. Her act also included shooting at a glass ball thrown in the air and after intentionally missing the first three times, shatter the ball on her fourth shot. Sounds pretty impressive. Lillian also picked up the name “California Girl” which was used extensively during her time with Bill Cody’s show. Later, she would use other stage names.

Because the events happened so long ago there’s a bit of disagreement as to how and when Bill Cody first discovered Lillian Smith. One story is that he saw her at a Los Angeles shooting gallery while on a trip to the city. Another says that he actually discovered her when his Wild West was performing in 1886 in Erastina on Staten Island in New York. Regardless, it’s believed that Lillian, who preferred to perform with two Winchester Rifles, joined the Wild West in 1886 at the age of fifteen. Cody reportedly was fascinated with his new young sharpshooter.

Annie Oakley aka Phoebe Ann Mosey along with her husband Frank Butler, also a sharpshooter, joined Buffalo Bill’s Wild West in 1885. Oakley was twenty-six at the time. The combination of both Oakley and the “California Girl” Lillian Smith on the same show bill didn’t work out too well. At least not how Cody would have liked. While both performers were undoubtedly excellent sharpshooters, Lillian was some eleven years Oakley’s junior and promoted herself in that manner. Lillian was also known to be a bit rough talking and manner not as refined as Oakley’s. Lillian Smith had also picked up a husband by the name of Jim Kidd. Kidd was a cowboy and champion roper who also had a reckless demeanor. A collision between the two personalities was inevitable. There were times that words were exchanged between the two and the situation deteriorated. Everything between the two came to a head in 1887 while they were in England for a six-month series of performances in London, Birmingham, and Manchester during the Golden Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s reign.

Trouble During the Tour of England

The most popular story regarding what happened in England had to do with meeting the Royals. Supposedly both female performers gave a lot of attention to Queen Victoria upon their meeting and in response, the Queen had complimented both. When the London newspapers printed a story about the meeting between the three women the press gave the majority of publicity to the “California Girl”. That certainly didn’t help an already fragile relationship. At the same time, it seems that Annie was having a hard time witnessing Cody’s fondness for the “California Girl”. In addition to that, Oakley was also competing against a new teenage sharpshooter in the troupe named Johnny Baker. All in all, Oakley’s as well as her husband’s, relationship with Buffalo Bill Cody was going downhill fast. There were also accusations made that Lillian Smith’s husband, Jim Kidd, wrote a slanderous letter against Oakley’s reputation and name. As a result of all the tension, accusations, and ill-will, Oakley and her husband quit Cody’s Wild West in 1887 after the tour of England.

After Buffalo Bill’s Wild West

The California Girl stayed with Cody for a short while after Oakley’s departure but by 1889 she was gone from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West and Oakley mended the fence with Cody and returned to his organization. The California Girl ended up divorcing Jim Kidd. Lillian went through two other short marriages and then wed a man named Frank Smith, another old Buffalo Bill sharpshooting performer. Lillian eventually moved to Oklahoma in 1907 where she joined up with the popular Miller Brothers 101 Ranch Wild West Show. There she performed under the name of “Princess Wenona”, a fictionalized Sioux princess. During this time she also made appearances with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West. Lillian Smith (The California Girl, Princess Wenona) finally retired from show business in 1920 and passed away ten years later in Ponca City Oklahoma which was also the home of the 101 Ranch Wild West Show.

Annie Oakley went on with an illustrious show business career with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West. In 1901 Oakley was seriously injured in a train wreck while traveling with the Wild West and decided to retire from traveling in 1902. At that point, she entered acting in a stage play called The Western Girl. The play was written for her and she was able to rope and shoot as part of her role. Incredibly, Annie Oakley continued with shooting demonstrations into her 60’s. She also worked for various social causes during this time such as promoting women’s rights. Around 1922 she had intentions of making a show business comeback but it was also at this time that she and her husband were involved in a serious car wreck. What’s amazing is that even after this automobile accident, and because of it, having to wear a steel brace, she performed again in 1924 and again set shooting records. Unfortunately, her health went downhill in 1925 and she passed away a year later in 1926 in Greenville Ohio of pernicious anemia. She was buried in Brock Cemetery in Greenville.

What’s very interesting about this story is that, beyond a doubt, both Annie Oakley and Lillian Smith were excellent sharpshooters. In fact, you might say that they represented the top two female sharpshooters the world has ever known. Which one was better is a question that may not have an answer or the answer is with whomever you might ask. Before Lillian Smith left Buffalo Bill’s show, the flamboyant showman offered a $10,000 prize to anyone who could outshoot Lillian. As it turned out nobody accepted the challenge and that included Annie Oakley. As far as their personal life was concerned, Annie Oakley definitely had the better. Annie Oakley’s marriage to Frank Butler lasted where Lillian went through several relatively short marriages. One remarkable thing is how both women continued to perform in some manner through their later years. Annie Oakley passed away at 66 years of age and Lillian Smith at 59.

Their Place in History

Aside from their personality and age differences when both women performed together in Bill Cody’s Wild West, the greatest difference was how their reputation and fame fared in later years. Annie Oakley not only received better press coverage during the early 1900s, but as years went by after each had passed away, Annie Oakley appears to be the one who caught the public’s lasting fascination. Annie Oakley was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in Fort Worth Texas. There is also the Annie Oakley Center at the Garst Museum in Greenville Ohio. There have also been motion pictures depicting the life of Annie Oakley as well as the stage play, Annie Get Your Gun. There can be very little found today in history books regarding Lillian Smith. I have also not been successful in locating memorials or exhibits concerning her career. The one thing that both of these performers certainly had in common was their unparalleled sharpshooting ability.

Payroll West Virginia, Unique Aspects of West Virginia Payroll Law and Practice

The West Virginia State Agency that oversees the collection and reporting of State income taxes deducted from payroll checks is:

State Tax Department
Capitol Complex, Bldg. 1, W417
Charleston, WV 25305
(304) 558-3333
(800) 982-8297 (in-state)

West Virginia allows you to use the “WV/IT-104, West Virginia’s Employee’s Withholding Exemption Certificate” form to calculate state income tax withholding or federal form W4 if state and federal exemption are the same.

Not all states allow salary reductions made under Section 125 cafeteria plans or 401(k) to be treated in the same manner as the IRS code allows. In West Virginia, cafeteria plans are not taxable for income tax calculation; taxable for unemployment insurance purposes. 401(k) plan deferrals are not taxable for income taxes; taxable for unemployment purposes.

In West Virginia supplemental wages are taxed at:
Annual wages under $10,000 3.0%

$10,000-$25,000 4.0%

$25,000-$40,000 4.5%

$40,000-$60,000 6.0%

Over $60,000 6.5%

You may file your West Virginia State W-2s by magnetic media if you choose to.

The West Virginia State Unemployment Insurance Agency is:

Bureau of Employment Programs
112 California Ave.
Charleston, WV 23505-0112
(304) 558-2674

The State of West Virginia’s taxable wage base for unemployment purposes is wages up to $8000.00.

West Virginia has optional reporting of quarterly wages on magnetic media.

Unemployment records must be retained in West Virginia for a minimum period of four years. This information generally includes: name; social security number; dates of hire, rehire, and termination; wages by period; payroll pay periods and pay dates; date and circumstances of termination.

The West Virginia State Agency charged with enforcing the state wage and hour laws is:

Division of Labor
Wage and Hour Section
Capitol Complex
Building 3, Rm. 319
Charleston, WV 25305
(304) 558-7890

The minimum wage in West Virginia is $5.15 per hour.

The general provision in West Virginia concerning paying overtime in a non-FLSA covered employer is one and one-half times the regular rate after 40 hour week.

West Virginia State new hire reporting requirements are that every employer must report every new hire and rehire. The employer must report the federally required elements of:

  • Employee’s name
  • payroll address
  • Employee’s address
  • Employee’s social security number
  • Employer’s name
  • Employers address
  • Employer’s Federal Employer Identification Number (EIN)

This information must be reported within 14 days of the hiring or rehiring.
The information can be sent as a W4 or equivalent by mail, fax, or electronically.
There is a $25.00 penalty for a late report and $500 for conspiracy in West Virginia.

The West Virginia new hire-reporting agency can be reached at 877-625-4669 or 304-346-9513 or on the web at

West Virginia does not allow compulsory direct deposit.

West Virginia requires the following information on an employee’s pay stub: itemized deductions

West Virginia requires that employees be paid no less often than biweekly.

In West Virginia, there are no statutory requirements concerning the lag time between when the services are performed and when the employee must be paid.

West Virginia payroll law requires that involuntarily terminated employees must be paid their final pay within 3 working days; the next regular payday is suspended due to labor dispute or temporarily laid off. Voluntarily terminated employees must be paid their final pay by the next regular payday or by mail if the employee requests it.

Deceased employee’s wages of $800; $1,000 after 120 days after death must be paid to the surviving spouse, adult children, parents, siblings, or person paying funeral expenses (in that order).

Escheat laws in West Virginia require that unclaimed wages be paid over to the state after one year.

The employer is further required in West Virginia to keep a record of the wages abandoned and turned over to the state for a period of 10 years.

West Virginia payroll law mandates no more than 20% of minimum wage may be used as a tip credit.

In West Virginia, the payroll laws covering mandatory rest or meal breaks are only that minors under 16 must have 30 minutes rest after five hours of work and other employees get 20 minutes for 6 hours.

West Virginia statute requires that wage and hour records be kept for a period of not less than two years. These records will normally consist of at least the information required under FLSA.

The West Virginia agency charged with enforcing Child Support Orders and laws is:

Bureau for Child Support Enforcement
Department of Health and Human Resources
Bldg. 6, Rm. 817
State Capitol Complex
Charleston, WV 25321
(304) 558-4665

West Virginia has the following provisions for child support deductions:

  • When to start Withholding? 14 days after receipt of order.
  • When to send Payment? Payday.
  • When to send Termination Notice? “Promptly”
  • Maximum Administrative Fee? $1 per payment.
  • Withholding Limits? 40% of disposable earnings if supporting another spouse or child; 50% if not; amounts go to 45% and 55% if employee is 12 weeks in arrears.

Please note that this article is not updated for changes that can and will happen from time to time.

Charles J. Read, CPA has been in the payroll, accounting, and tax business for 30 years, the last fifteen in private practice. Mr. Read is the author of “How to Start a New Business”.

What Exactly Is a Parenting Coordinator?

What is Parenting Coordination you ask? While it is tempting to give a quick definition based upon the Florida legislative vision of what it is supposed to be, the vitriol which some writers have heaped upon it requires a more in-depth answer.

When I returned to law school in my early forties, I was not going to law school because I didn’t have anything to do at home. At the time, law school was one of the most highly competitive schools a young person could attempt and, it was a nearly impossible task for a change of life with a family and a full set of grown-up responsibilities. I went to law school to study Constitutional and Environmental law. I ended up practicing family, administrative and criminal law.

Family court is an interesting place to practice law. It is the place where the most important people in our lives, the very fabric of who we are, are affected by every decision, every action, and every failure to act. Kindness to your ex can be used against you and an agreement to modify the schedule for a special occasion may become a demand to modify it whenever and wherever it is demanded. It is a place where grandparents can become the enemy, and significant others give world wars an inferiority complex.

Parenting coordination in Florida was proposed several years before its eventual enactment. It was passed by the legislature but vetoed by then-Governor Jeb Bush. He believed the original concept granted too many powers to the parenting coordinator and not enough court supervision. The idea was modified several times, and many reports and committees were working together to try to find a good balance for the parents, the children, the courts, and the overall family structure while still protecting vital individual rights. It was signed into law by Governor Charlie Christ in 2009 and adopted by the Florida Supreme Court in 2010.

Florida Statutes: 61.125 states: “The purpose of parenting coordination is to provide a child-focused alternative dispute resolution process whereby a parenting coordinator assists the parents in creating or implementing a parenting plan by facilitating the resolution of disputes between the parents by providing education, making recommendations, and, with the prior approval of the parents and the court, making limited decisions within the scope of the court’s order of referral.” The statute clarifies that where there is a judgment or order in which a parenting plan has been established, that the parents can request, or the court can appoint, a parenting coordinator to assist the parents in resolving disputes concerning that parenting plan.

Okay…in English. If the court orders or adopts a parenting plan, and the parents can’t seem to work together to carry out that plan, the court can appoint a parenting coordinator to help them. The court gives the parenting coordinator the authority to use many different resources to help the parents. The keywords here are “court orders or adopts a parenting plan.”

Parenting is a very hard job. Probably one of the hardest things we do in our lives. When two people are working together to raise children, we have to face the challenges with a united front, or at least try. What happens when we can’t do that? What happens when we decide to split up and try to raise the children together…apart? What happens to the grandparents? Who takes the kids to school? Who goes home from work when the kids get sick? What happens when we meet someone else and they become involved with the children?

All of these questions can lead to stress and tension even in the most amicable breakup. No one starts off believing that they will fight for 18 years over each child. But, sadly, it happens. It happens to good people who mean well, and who are trying to do the best they can, taking care of the children they love. It happens to people who have been ordered by a court to do things with their children that they don’t want to do.

For years, the court system has tried to work with parents to fashion solutions that are in the best interest of the children. The court does the best it can with the information it is given. Unfortunately, that information is limited by time, the quality and/or presence of attorneys, and the individual sitting on the bench. Over the past 30 years, mediation has gone far to assist parents and the courts in reaching more personalized solutions for individual families. For the majority of parents, that system works.

Then there are the parents who cannot work together. Those who return to court again and again and again with disputes about the children, the new significant other, the grandparents, the choice of daycare, when to take vacations, and hundreds of other issues that come up every day. That is where parenting coordination comes in.

Parenting coordination is a child-centered approach, and that means working with the parents to break the patterns, find solutions, and try to enhance communication between two people in a child-centered focus. Modern-day courts are not equipped to quickly resolve issues that come up, and so the battles go on, sometimes for months, and the children and parents get caught in a pattern that just keeps repeating. Keep in mind that while all the fighting is going on, there is a court order. It is not a court “suggestion” and that can create new problems for parents and the children.

In Florida, parenting coordinators must be trained in psychology, psychiatry, or law.* They must be familiar with family dynamics in a family court setting including domestic violence, child abuse issues, and they must be trained in family mediation. They must be able to work with families from all backgrounds. They must have thick skins and they must be willing to creatively use all the tools given to them by the courts and the legislature to help parents find methods, ideas, and programs that put the children’s needs first. They must be able to use their experience and knowledge of the system, the family court process, and real issues dealing with intensely personal situations confronting parents and children. They must be able to think outside the box of traditional remedies that are never going to work for a particular set of people.

Parenting coordination is not for everyone. First, a court must decide that the parents can afford it. Contrary to some articles written on the subject, the rates are often set by the court and it is the court, not the parents, who decide how to divide the costs. Parenting coordination can last for weeks, months, or years depending upon the parent’s ability to comply with the court’s orders. The court can periodically review the process and the parties always have access to their attorney. Traditional court remedies are available to parents, and the parenting coordinator and a judge retains authority over the case at all times. A court order determines what the parenting coordinator can do, and not do, and the legislature has set strict standards that must be followed. Confidentiality is strictly enforced except for specific situations set out in the statute.

Parenting coordination is usually ordered by the court after several disputes, and many appearances, that result in further disputes Parents can also proactively request a parenting coordinator to help them if the conflict in the relationship becomes too difficult, or if they find themselves returning to court many times for issues they just cannot seem to resolve on their own.

Parenting coordination is a process. It is not a mediation, where you go once or twice, sign an agreement, and move forward – but mediation is a tool that can be used. It is not subject to arbitration because a real judge has already heard the issues, several times, and issued an order – although arbitration techniques are tools that can be used. It is not facilitation – although many supporting people such as doctors, extended family, and counselors, can be brought in to brainstorm and develop personalized solutions. It is not psychology – although an understanding of psychology and family dynamics is a critical piece of the puzzle. It is not law – however, the parenting coordinator must have a working knowledge of law and procedure to help the participants comply with the court’s order, or direct them to seek counsel when necessary. Parenting coordinators may not act as judges, or lawyers, or psychologists, or therapists but they must be able to see the whole picture from these perspectives. While doing all this, they must remain neutral and be willing to take the steps necessary for the children, the courts, and the parents to move the process along successfully.

It is not a program for the faint of heart or the rookie. The legislature and the courts have set out stringent, detailed requirements and codes of professional conduct and they are strictly enforced for the protection of parents, and parenting coordinators.

Parenting coordination can be intensely rewarding for all concerned. There is no greater result than finding a path that leads to everyone being able to work together toward successfully raising children, and providing those children loving relationships with both parents wherever possible.

One caveat for those reading this article. There has been a great deal of criticism leveled regarding parenting coordination efforts and domestic violence. Domestic violence comes in many forms. It is not always obvious, or physical, and it is not something to take lightly. Parenting coordinators receive training in domestic violence, and for the most part, where domestic violence is a significant factor in the relationship, parenting coordination is not recommended. For a domestic violence case to be recommended to a parenting coordinator the courts are required to make specific findings and obtain informed consent from all parties. There will be other articles on this site dealing with domestic violence, but it should be noted that courts cannot, under most circumstances, refer a case if domestic violence is ongoing.

Lyndy is a regular contributing author, founder, and designer of three websites and she writes dozens of articles. She is new to Ezine but her submissions include articles on books, book reviews, recipes, law, arbitration, mediation, gourmet foods, coffee and chocolate, and politics. She is an attorney in Florida and New York and she is an arbitrator, mediator, and facilitator for the courts and private companies. You can read some of her other articles at Collaborative Solutions, PA.

Lyndy writes the “Aspirations” column for self-help, personal and professional growth, and she interviews and features many prominent authors and motivational authors, and speakers. She is also a main contributing author to the columns “Legal Ease” for law students and professionals and “Board Room” for business, restructuring, and business promotion. Her Collaborative Solutions blog posts feature articles and resources for all types of alternative dispute resolutions including parenting coordination, mediation, facilitation, and arbitration.

Understanding Hostile Aggressive Parenting Behavior Used to Sever the Parent-Child Relationship

When I first married, I didn’t realize there was a 50 percent chance that my marriage would end in divorce. During our marriage, we had a child and again, I didn’t realize that there was a one in six chance my divorce would turn out to be “high conflict,” and that my child would be used by an angry and vindictive ex to avenge the failure of our marriage. Over the years since my divorce, the mother’s behavior has only intensified. Eventually, I came to learn the meaning of terms such as Parental Alienation (PA), Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS), and Hostile Aggressive Parenting (HAP) and experienced how easily the family court system can be manipulated by false allegations.

In 1985, Dr. Richard Garner, a forensic psychiatrist, introduced the concept of PAS in an article, “Recent Trends in Divorce and Custody Litigation,” in which he defined PAS as “a disorder that arises primarily in the context of child-custody disputes. Its primary manifestation is the child’s campaign of denigration against a parent, a campaign that has no justification. It results from the combination of a programming (brainwashing) by the other parent and the child’s own contributions to the vilification of the targeted parent.” Several years later, Ira Daniel Turkat introduced “Divorce-Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.” Behaviors associated with both syndromes are relatively similar, encompassing hostile aggressive parenting behavior in an attempt to alienate the child from the other parent. However, the latter focuses on the mother’s behavior whereas PAS can relate to both the mother and the father. Presently, PA or PAS are the common terms used to define the practice of attempting to alienate a child or children from a parent, regardless of gender.

The American Psychological Association’s (APA) official statement on PAS notes “the lack of data to support so-called parental alienation syndrome and raises concern about the term’s use.” However, the APA states it has “no official position on the purported syndrome.” Advocates against PAS believe it is a form of psychological child abuse, and the APA’s refusal to address PAS leaves “targeted parents” lacking needed resources to fight the problem. At the same time, some discount the validity of PAS and believe it is used as an excuse by abusive parents during custody challenges to explain “the animosity of their child or children toward them.” In certain cases, that may very well be true.

In his article, “New Definition of Parental Alienation: What is the Difference Between Parental Alienation (PA) and Parental Alienation Syndrome (PAS)?” Dr. Douglas Darnall focuses on the behavior and defines “parental alienation (PA), rather than PAS, as any constellation of behaviors, whether conscious or unconscious, that could evoke a disturbance in the relationship between a child and the other parent.” Simply put, PA is teaching the child to hate the other parent, leading to estrangement from the parent. By concentrating on the behavior, Dr. Darnall presents a more pragmatic approach to the acceptance of PA by attorneys, therapists, and family courts.

The tactics or tools that parents use to alienate a child range from simple badmouthing the other parent in front of the child; encouraging others to do likewise until the child is bombarded with negative remarks daily; to reporting accusations of abuse or neglect to child protective services or family court. This behavior is known as Hostile Aggressive Parenting. One tactic that author John T. Steinbeck describes in Brainwashing Children is that some “hostile parents who remarry will have the child or children call the stepfather, ‘daddy,’ as a technique used to devalue the biological parent.” Parental Alienation Syndrome is a condition. Hostile Aggressive Parenting is the behavior.

Hostile aggressive parents are unable to move on. They are stuck in the past and focused on avenging the failure of their marriage and the control they had during the marriage. They manipulate the family court and child protective services in an attempt to continue control over their ex-spouse. They accept no responsibility for their actions, blame everyone, and place themselves above the child’s own interest. The therapist turned family law attorney Bill Eddy notes in his article “Personality Disorders and False Allegations in Family Court” that there is a “prevalence of personality disorders in high conflict divorce and custody cases in which false allegations are used.” The most prevalent of these is Borderline Personality Disorder, followed by Narcissistic Personality, and Anti-Social Personality Disorder. This accounts for the lack of empathy toward the child’s emotional state, and the ability to manipulate family court and child protective services so easily. Parents with anti-social personality disorders will play the “victim.” They are experts at manipulating and lying because they actually believe their lies to justify what they are doing.

Not all children can be taught to hate. Some have a very strong bond with the parent. Steinbeck also notes that in certain cases the “alienating parent feels that the other parent has a strong, highly functional relationship with the child or children and is irrationally worried that this positive relationship will somehow affect their relationship with the child.” A child old enough to decide with whom he or she wishes to live with may result in a reversal of financial obligations, as the non-custodial parent is obligated to pay child support and provide medical coverage for the child. HAP may simply be financially motivated. Regardless of the motives, attempting to alienate a child from a parent using hostile aggressive parenting or parental alienation tactics is psychological child abuse.

It is much easier to alienate a child when the child is separated from the parent. False allegations to family court of abuse or neglect will severely limit the relationship between the parent and child and the limited time spent will be under supervision. The Standard Divorce Decree has already reduced the non-custodial parent to a visitor in the child or children’s lives by a visitation schedule of the first, third, and fifth weekends of the month. Now the parent is limited to a “supervised” visitation schedule of three or four hours per month. Supervised visitation programs are just as easily manipulated as family court, e.g., parents simply need to call in at the last minute to seek rescheduling.

A family court will always side with the allegations and the court moves very slowly. Depending on the skill of an attorney, this period of separation could last for months. This gives the “targeting parent” additional time to teach the child to hate the “targeted parent,” as well as draining the “targeted parent’s” financial resources.

An attorney once told me that “the only place people lie more than in family court is at a bar.” Family court is plagued by false allegations simply because they are such an effective tool to quickly sever the parent-child relationship. Family court does not prosecute against false allegations, which is why false allegations have proliferated. Allegations do not need to be specific. Some attorneys advise clients to keep the allegations vague so as not to chance involving investigative agencies such as child protective services, as their reports carry so much weight with the court. An allegation to family court may be as vague as “The father is a danger to the child.” This is enough for the family court to order visitations withheld or supervised, but not specific enough to involve child protective services.

Family court is a guilt-by-accusation system. Once accused, it is the responsibility of the accused to prove the allegations false. The accused parent will most likely be court-ordered to supervised visitations with the child or children, as well as complete a psychological evaluation and meet with mediators and parent coordinators, all at personal cost. He or she also may pay for a forensic investigation, also referred to as a Social Study Evaluation, to prove the allegations false. The accused parent will spend thousands, or perhaps tens of thousands, of dollars proving the accusations false – and in the end, find him/herself financially drained and psychologically exhausted. An accused parent may lose a relationship with the child or children simply because they ran out of money to continue to fight. Unfortunately, this also results in a child losing a loving parent. David Levy, co-founder of the Children’s Rights Council and author of The Best Parent is Both Parents, stated: “President Obama talks a lot about absentee fathers who need to take responsibility. (But) he may not realize that there are millions of parents who want to be involved (in their children’s lives).” Fighting for the “child’s right to both parents” is a costly battle – both financially and psychologically. Many parents simply lose because they ran out of money.

The solution is to define “in the best interest of the child” as “the child’s right to both parents,” and then protect that right. Stop ignoring false allegations. Understandably, allegations need to be investigated; however, if proven false, the parent who made the false allegations should be prosecuted. The order that the par complete a psychological evaluation. Step in to protect the child when you hear your friend or relative making negative remarks about the child’s parent or any other hostile aggressive parenting behavior. Let the child know that both parents love him/her. Encourage those hostile parents to seek therapy to find closure and stop using the child to “get even.” One thing is certain: when a parent is attempting to separate a child from a parent simply to avenge a failed marriage, the child suffers emotional pain. Because this pain was brought on purposely, it is psychological child abuse. If you participate or allow hostile aggressive parenting behavior in an attempt to alienate a child from a parent, you are an accomplice to psychological child abuse. Stand up and protect the child’s right to both parents.

How To Be An Amazing Parent

No matter what your amazing life is right now or will become later you will encounter children. Even though you may decide not to have children yourself, I’m certain you have met children and thought to yourself, how did that happen.

I met a woman who made me smile when she told me, “Patrick I do love children, I just can’t eat a whole one”

Many parents I meet have made the biggest mistake in their lives by placing more importance on the pursuit of money than on their children. Parents work long hours and children suffer. Never put money before children or your spouse, not if you want a loving relationship and an amazing life.

Some people ask how the art of lovemaking can make a child that has turned out to be such a monster. Well instead of you having to go out and purchase a book on parenting, I’ve included how to become an amazing parent here for you.

If you are currently struggling to work out how to love and guide your children, then this chapter will give you the answers. While you are absorbing this I may smash a few myths about parenting along the way. So just read the principles and then you will understand when children become completely lost we can rescue them.

Every day I attend my office I find myself face to face with a parent. 90% of the time it will be a mother. She will explain to me in great detail what she thinks (guesses) is wrong with her child. Then will ask me if I would like to talk to the child to see if I can fix “it”. She then walks outside and brings the child in to sit in my office while she goes outside and waits.

The expectation then of course is that the child who just walked in won’t be the same child when it walks out again. Somehow I am going to “fix” this child because obviously it’s broken. Well at least that’s what the mothers told me, and I have about twenty minutes to accomplish this.

So the first thing I do is remember all my training over all these years and then that little Mexican man named Cesar Millan (the dog whisperer). You can’t imagine this famous television dog trainer training the dog and not the owner can you? Well in my office when it comes to training children, it involves the parents much more than the child. Just like my friend Cesar, he knows that the dog has been trained to behave in a certain way and he needs to retrain the dog owner. I need to retrain the parent as well as the child. That shouldn’t be a surprise at all. Not many parents have been on training programs on how to raise a child.

In the following examples, I am talking about children from the age of 8 years upwards. With the young ones ranging from 8 to 15, I can still get away with the trusted story of the bank building. This is where I tell the children that no matter what they want in life, whether it’s right now, at the weekend, or next year, the only way the parents will say yes is if they have built enough good bankable currency to get a yes.

The Amazing Bank Technique

Here’s how easy and profound it is. Children as we would agree need both discipline and praise. By the way, I use praise 90% of the time, it’s easier to look for and works 100% more for the child. Most parents I meet never understand praise and what it does for the child. They are too busy looking and expecting all the wrong things to happen. Yet again as I have been saying throughout this book, it is a trick of the mind, this time by the parent.

I first set up the child to understand that they need to do things around the house for free. This means jobs, any jobs they can handle. This teaches a child to contribute to the family and the household. Then once the chores are done I want the child to look for ways to build a bank of currency by way of more jobs but this time they will use the extra jobs they do as currency.

Here’s how it works:

I was asked to help a 14-year-old girl who didn’t get this at all. She wanted no part of my plan at all, until I said, “I’m the only person on earth who can get your parents off your back”. This got her attention. From there I explained how she would need to work very hard to reinstate herself in the family so she could be trusted by both parents again.

She had a history of running out of school, not doing homework, having bad grades, and using bad language. All of which remember had been trained. I managed to find the missing part of this little girl’s puzzle by listening to her, something she told me her parents never did. She would tell me that every time she attempted to tell her parents how she felt, they simply shouted at her and told her to go to her room.

So now motivated and looking forward to the next two weeks of hard work and looking for opportunities to do even more tasks for her parents this young child left happy. I didn’t say a word to the mother.

Two weeks later the mother arrived back with her daughter and began to tell me how much the child had changed. The mother went on to tell me that her daughter had begun to work around the house, was being nice to her brother and sister, and staying at school. When it was the daughter’s turn to come in she was angry and upset. She told me she had done all I had suggested but that her parents had not said well done or anything.

This is typical of many parents who don’t even know how to give praise, let alone see times when the child needs praise. I spent the most time with the mother explaining my idea of her daughter building a bank of jobs and good behavior in exchange for special treats like having a friend over to stay the night. The mother went away and began to praise her child even more. They were both very happy the last time they came in all because we retrained both of them to look at life differently.

Change What Doesn’t Work

Jack was an 8-year-old boy out of control (mother’s description) who attended my practice for anger issues. The story was that the mother had lost control and Jack was winning and loving every minute of it. When I asked the mother if Jack misbehaved in front of his dad, the answer was no.

This is a very popular situation and often can cause big trouble in the marriage or partnership. The child’s view of his father is very different from the view he has of his mother.

Little Jack had his mother running scared, the mother forgot who was the adult. She spent most of her day running after him, literally. If she was trying to get him to school on time he would be too quick for her and run around the house with her chasing and yelling at him.

However, if dad was home little Jack was an angel. Do you get what’s happening in this household? Yes, Jack is in charge and mum is not.

My work had to begin with mum. I found out that mum did most of the parenting while dad was at work. However dad was fed up with mum because she couldn’t control the child, so the parents were in crisis.

The simple difference here was one parent represented fear to young Jack while the other parent didn’t. The dad would just have to look at the child and Jack did what he was told. Mum however had to scream, chase, and often smack Jack to get him to behave.

Of course like all mums do she would attempt to sit Jack down and talk to him about why he should have behaved. This technique of talking to a young child using adult language like the word respect does not work. She did this all the time and all the time it didn’t work, she kept doing it.

Please remember this as long as you live your amazing life. When it comes to children and behavior fear is a greater motivator than pain.

The dad produced fear in Jack and the mother produced pain. In screaming, chasing, and smacking Jack all mum produced was short-term pain that only slowed Jack down.

It also trained Jack to never look for any other attention other than pain. He became used to the smacks and the screams.

I always ask every parent this question. “Did you treat your parents with this much disrespect when you were that age”?

Don’t allow your child to be disrespectful

It still amazes me that while a mother is in the midst of telling me how disgustingly rude and disrespectful her child is she still doesn’t get it. I have interrupted literally thousands of parents and asked that question and the parent will almost always say, “No way”. When I ask the parent why they didn’t abuse their own parents they normally tell me they were TOO AFRAID. So of course I can’t help myself and I just have to ask the obvious question. So WHY do you continue to let the little child do it then?

The most common answer I hear is! “I don’t know why”.

The real answer was they became afraid themselves as parents. That’s why they teach bad manners to their children. The parents become so afraid that in their mind it would be easier to let the child misbehave than have to tackle it head-on.

A child needs your love, yes, but you need to train that child. The problem is it’s the other way around.

Let me explain…

I had two parents of a wild 15-year-old girl arrive at my office in tears. Monica by their account was without a doubt totally in control of both parents. She had obviously had similar training at an early age just like young Jack. Both parents had run out of ideas. Here is what they had told me they had done so far to change the girl’s behavior.

1 Taken away her mobile phone

Why does a 15-year-old child need a mobile phone I hear you say to yourself?

2 Grounded her, which means not going out other than school

3 Stopped her from going on the computer and internet

So that was it, that was all they had done and they sat in my office, the mother with tears rolling down her cheeks and the father the same. I had them understand that here they were sat in my office with the weight of the world on their shoulders and their daughter was running their lives and loving it.

I didn’t even have to see the child. It was the parents that needed more help, so here is what I told them to do. Now I already knew how they would react to what I was about to suggest in the way of new strategies, but I also knew that from years of doing it this way, it would give us the correct outcome.

I began by telling them that her bedroom door needed to be removed then all of her clothes had to go. Then any trinkets, other furniture, and makeup, all had to go. They were to empty the child’s room until all that was left was a mattress on the floor and her school uniform. They had to make sure all the rest was taken to another place.

While I was outlining this strategy the two parents were looking even more afraid than when they walked in. Then I told them to telephone all of their daughter’s friend’s parents and let them know that under no circumstances were they to allow their daughter into their house if she was to run away again.

As I continued with my plan the mother couldn’t cope any longer and had to interrupt. I was waiting for her. Imagine this, here is me jumping out of my chair and writing on the big whiteboard all the things we were going to do to their precious baby!!!

The mother didn’t disappoint me. Just like others before her, she made attempts to let me know why they couldn’t do what I was asking them to do. Even the father jumped in and said he thought the whole door thing was a little tough.

Now this happens every day in my office so you will have to forgive me for sounding a little tough here, but this always delivers the state of mind in the parents so I need to help them further.

I began to scream and shout at the top of my lungs at both of them. How dare you both tell me what you can and cannot do, what sort of parents are you anyway? Are you bad parents then, is that is? Do you hit her all the time? Do you give up on her because you can’t get past your own feelings? Is that it? Are you hiding behind your own poor me attitude?

As I continued my rant I was in fact helping them get into a state of extreme fear and panic. Remember humans make up thoughts and emotions that produce behavior. These parents with the help of Monica had created an entire state of chaos and through perceived fear couldn’t parent the child.

Both parents began to defend and make excuses saying I was taking it too far and that the punishment didn’t fit the crime. I was even more incensed than before. Now they were telling me that Monica, a 15-year-old girl who swears and abuses her family and drinks and smokes and stays out all night doesn’t deserve any punishment. I hadn’t even called it punishment, they did, and the reason they called it punishment was because they couldn’t bring themselves to do anything about it.

Now that the three of us were in the middle of a heated debate and both parents were in a state of fear and dread I wanted to make sure they knew I was serious about sorting this mess out. So I finished off by telling them that if they didn’t do as they were told I’d make sure the authorities found out from my report that they were both terrible parents.

The reaction was the same as all the rest, they stopped, looked pale and their breathing became intense, just like a panic attack. Now was the moment that would change their lives forever.

Unknown to them during our little heated debate the mother kept putting her left arm onto her chest and breathing shallow every time I suggested things she should be doing. The father was similar as his tummy was busy moving in and out at the thought of removing his daughter’s bedroom door.

So I had the mother sit in my big black “magic chair”. I call it magic because that’s where the magic of change often happens. I had her tell me where she felt the dread and fear inside her and as expected it was in her chest. I had her close her eyes, see the image that helped her become afraid. Then I had her shrink that image smaller and smaller until it was the size of a “postage stamp”, then blow it away. As she was doing that I had her rub her chest sideways across with her hand.

When she opened her eyes the fear had gone completely. I then did the same with the father and his result was the same, his fear had gone. Now I had sat in my office with two parents with no fear at all. I have to do the same technique with every parent that brings in a child that has become out of control.

This I might add was the start of their change of view. Now with two parents who were not afraid anymore the task at hand became more manageable. They both listened to all the care instructions and plans I had laid out for them both to do and they were to come back a week later.

Now you can see why I needed to have these parents truly feel and experience the pain they were going through at that moment. I cannot cure a phobia of spiders unless I have a spider to use to make sure the person really feels the emotion, even though you now know we make all these fears up by ourselves. I can’t help someone overcome a fear of heights unless they attempt to be up high with me.

These parents began their conversation believing that Monica at 15 years of age was out of control and they didn’t know how to stop it. It all became very painful emotionally and overcome with these made-up emotions, the parents couldn’t cope. Now they could understand their contribution to what didn’t work before.

By having the parents reach a height of panic and anxiety that was as real as they could feel, it had a much more powerful effect when the fear is removed so quickly. I was then able to dismantle that feeling in a heartbeat.

It is so rewarding to see parents after this first session, which I fondly call “Imposing Sanctions”. I have my brother-in-law Keith to thank for that one by the way. This particular couple was even more joy to work with because they truly loved not only their daughter but each other. Sometimes I’m faced with a couple that has lost the love they once had for each other, so then they communicate differently with the children, which can cause all sorts of problems. If a couple is not together on this it is very difficult to accomplish a complete turnaround of bad behavior by parents and children alike.

When they arrived back they had smiles on their faces which is always a good sign for me. They told me the child had reacted exactly as I had predicted. She had screamed, thrown things around the house, and ran away to her best friend’s place. However, the best friend’s mum had done as Monica’s parents asked and not allowed her to stay in their home. Once again I see these techniques bring success to parents.

Now a point here…

There is almost always one person, normally a female (sorry no disrespect meant) who for personal reasons feels the need to become Mother Teresa the second. You know the one I mean. She is normally a single mother (nothing wrong with them by the way) who is in desperate need of love and attention herself.

She will be the one who no matter what a parent might tell her, knows best and will no matter what you tell her she can’t do, will take your child in for the night. She gets off on it. She craves this feeling she gets when a child runs away from home only to find refuge in her house. It is real and some women believe they should do this.

I had warned this couple that if they had one of these in their community then their daughter would know who she was and go there. Sure enough, their daughter knew about this woman and tried to enter but this couple had taken notes and remembered. Cleverly the parents had asked a close friend to go and see this woman that night, so you can imagine the feeling this 15-year-old girl had when she had exhausted all other places to go, only to discover her mother’s best friend was there and demanded she leaves at once. This woman was also able to explain to Mother Teresa the second that everything was going according to plan and there was no need for her to worry. Poor dear!!

The couple attended to every detail, they locked up their home like a fortress, turned off all the lights, and went to bed. Sure they sat there worried, but they had each other to talk to and reassure that what they were doing was for the good of their child.

Now please remember this was a kid who knew her way around the streets, she was no angel of innocence. For the past two years, she had broken away, put fear into her parents, and walked the streets. However, I was changing her little game. I had done this with hundreds of parents and when the parents carried out the plan to the letter it always worked. Always.

They told me just at 1.30 am in the early morning they heard a knock on the back door and it was her. They remembered what to do. Both went to the door and didn’t open it, but asked who was there. The daughter answered and the parent’s job was to listen to her voice and make sure they heard something other than anger.

I didn’t want them to see her, just listen to her voice first. The daughter was weeping, she had walked everywhere she could to seek shelter and friends but found no one. It was in the middle of winter and the child had run out in a fit of anger and didn’t take any warm clothing. Well her parents go rid of everything remember!

How different was that to the times she had run away and gloated to her friends about how she could do what she wanted to?

The parents said they were convinced that their daughter was genuine in her tears and upon that they went about their next part. I use the house door as a symbol, I wanted the child to really understand and feel what it was like to have nowhere to go and that if she was smart she would return home a different child.

Before opening the door the parents outlined what her life would be like this time around. They had their list of requests and “must-haves” to let her back into the house and back into the family.

If she agreed to these then they would open the door and they would all start with a clean sheet, no nagging and bringing up old issues. If she didn’t agree then they would turn the light off and go back to sleep, leaving her on her own.

No wonder they were smiling, I was by then, they had been brilliant. However, to my surprise, the father moved to the door of my office and opened it and in walked this 15-year-old daughter of theirs. I was totally surprised and wondering if I was about to get yelling at her when she walked over and hugged me and said, “Mum and Dad told me you put our family back together for us, thank you so much”. Well, I can honestly tell you there wasn’t a dry eye in the office after that, even the parents hadn’t thought she would say that.

This family in crisis felt the same emotional pain millions of other families do across our planet. My hope in telling you about this family is to let you know there is such a thing as a happy family and if your family is in crisis the number one thing to remember is:

Don’t trick your mind into thinking the child will do terrible things if you don’t let them have what they want. Children have to grow, they have to test and understand emotions. I’ve heard just about all the threats a child can offer to a parent and me.

The child can and does attempt to convince their parents that these idle threats will be carried out. Once you give in to these “so-called” threats, you have just trained that child to use them against you.

If for any reason you are dealing with your child and you suddenly feel anxious or fearful, instantly remove the feeling before you continue the conversation. I’VE SHOWN YOU HOW TO DO THAT. If you don’t you will believe the child will harm itself and then YOU will become a parent afraid to discipline the child or give it a wonderful loving childhood because you are coming from a view of fear and what if. Don’t get fooled by the threats of a child, these threats are really cried for help and they need their parents to take massive action to change things.

For example, an 11 to 16-year-old wants to know if they fit in with others. This becomes their primary important priority in their life at this age. To communicate with them on this topic often so you can reassure them that they do in fact fit in.

Remember once children go to school


I realize that this may come as a shock to some parents but please understand. Your love as a parent has to be a love of allowing, allowing them to fall, so they may get back up, a love of allowing them to fail, so they alone can work out how to succeed. Only then have you prepared your child for adulthood effectively.

All parents want so much more for their children and sometimes that love can blind them. Parents often use the phrase, “I just want to give my children what I never had”. In saying this though I believe we should be teaching them how to be happy for no reason rather than attempting to run a comparison on how our own childhood was. It should have no meaning to your own child’s life, but we know it does. The best way to teach your children to live an amazing life is to live one yourself. Teach by doing not by saying.

If you overcompensate to rid yourself of the guilt and shame you still feel because of your own childhood, your child will suffer.

Overprotective parents can ruin a young life before it has a chance to blossom. Love your children yes, but give them the freedom to learn from their actions and to take responsibility for their actions.

I used to read to my four sons when they were young and when I could I would always bring in a new book but make up the story rather than read the book. As my sons grew up I would tell them stories about what it was like when their great, great grandfather was alive, then about my life as a young boy their age.

They heard stories about how people would have to stand in a line all day in the pouring rain just to buy sugar. Times like that in the evolution of our planet should teach lessons to future generations.

Today my sons are fathers and they often mention that those stories really grounded them and made them feel grateful and appreciate what they had and understand what others didn’t have.

My sons today as fathers battle the minefields of mobile phones, the internet, and social network websites with their own children. I remind them to let their children know that once we could all walk down the high street shopping and if anyone was thirsty we would stop at one of the many drink fountains scattered along the street for a drink of FREE water. Today they build massive complexes and round you up in concrete shopping malls where the only place you can get water is out of a plastic bottle that costs you a fortune.

Here’s the real issue. As the world continues to change so too should your skills as a parent.

Amazing Love Of A Child

TODAY it’s the parents who NEED the love of the child because the parent isn’t living an amazing life. Many of the parents I see have shattered relationships and marriages and highly stressful lives. So to have loved the parent craves for the love of their child at any cost. Then when it’s time to say no to the child and mean no the parent can’t. Now we have a guilty parent and an out-of-control child being trained by the unwitting parent.

I can’t remember how many smart little children have sat in my office and told me about how useless their parents are. They tell me things like “Patrick, my parents take my iPod from me for being naughty. They say it’s gone for a week, but I know I’ll have it back in two days, Mum always gives in”.

This is the type of parenting that confuses a child and trains them that the parent doesn’t mean what is said and therefore they can do anything they want.

Parents live in fear of many things today. You don’t need to believe that trick. Stop, don’t buy the myth of the child’s threat. Instead, be that honest reliable parent. This rubbish and politically correct phrase that the child has rights has been well overused.

No one has ever stopped me from filming or taking pictures of my children or grandchild. Plenty has tried but I told them to go away or else.


Patrick McNally PhD
Author Therapist Business Strategist

Patrick has a Ph.D. in Psychology, is a trained Clinical Hypnotherapist, an NLP Practitioner and is one of the worlds leading Change Clinicians and operates a private practice on three continents. UK, USA, Australia. He is a regular media commentator, appearing on Breakfast and Morning TV as well as taking calls from listeners on the many Radio talkback shows he appears on. He has featured in Pilot TV Shows on Fears and Phobias.

Patrick has been described as a cross between Dr. Phil and Robbin Williams.

He is a Master Public Speaker and uses his sharp wit and infectious humor to its full extent, offering audiences worldwide, laughter, fun, entertainment, and knowledge.

He has become known worldwide for his amazing 60-second challenge, where he guarantees to change the way a client feels in under 60 seconds. Having performed this on TV and Radio.

The Good Parent Divorce

“To All Divorcing Parents
Your children have come into this world because of the two of you. Perhaps you two made lousy choices as to whom you decided to be the other parent. If so, that is your problem and your fault. No matter what you think of the other party-or what your family thinks of the other party-these children are one-half of each of you.”

When I read this quote by a Family Court Judge I was struck by how strongly I reacted: not only should this be mandatory reading for every divorcing parent, I thought, but there should be steps in place to enforce it somehow! Of course, I know that’s not possible, but I feel it should be! Here’s the rest of the quote:

“Remember that, because every time you tell your child what an ‘idiot’ his father is or what a ‘fool’ his mother is, or how bad the absent parent is, or what terrible things that person has done, you are telling the child half of him is bad. That is an unforgivable thing to do to a child. That is not love. That is possession. If you do that to your children, you will destroy them as surely as if you had cut them into pieces, because that is what you are doing to their emotions.
I sincerely hope that you do not do that to your children. Think more about your children and less about yourselves, and make yours a selfless kind of love, not foolish or selfish, or your children will suffer.”
Judge Michael Haas – Family Court Judge, Minnesota, USA

I myself am a product of divorced parents, and also what you would call a ‘multiple divorcees’ while raising a child. I know first-hand how painful it is – to be in either position. The loneliness, confusion, and anxiety of being a child feels torn between your parents, and the anguish and stress of dealing with all the complexities of divorce that parents experience cannot be described as anything but awful. It is easy to see why parents can sometimes fail to notice how deeply the children are affected by the changes going on in their world and the adjustments they have to make.

My own experiences played a significant role in my choice to become a counselor and advocate for children of divorce. For the last two decades, a large part of my practice time has been spent helping divorcing parents create more conscious and mindful transitions for their children, and in many cases helping them develop collaborative, shared parenting that has resulted in their children becoming well-adjusted adults who have a good relationship with both parents. This is, as you may imagine, not easy but is nonetheless doable and with the right support can even be relatively stress-free!

At the beginning of a family break-up, it can be difficult to know what exactly will cause the least amount of damage to the children. Certainly, there are many different beliefs and schools of thought about this, and ultimately in most cases, the parents are the people best equipped to know their child’s needs – as long as they are not so caught up in their own emotions and agendas that their judgment becomes clouded. Unfortunately, this is all too often the case.

The good news is that there are a few basic considerations and some self-questioning that can greatly help parents gain clarity and increase their ability to ‘do the right thing’ for their children.

As parents, we want to protect our children, and we may believe we are covering up our own pain and distress and that our children are not aware of how we feel. We may also assume that because a child is not acting out any angst or upset they are handling the situation well. But neither of these assumptions are reliable. For a variety of reasons – depending on their age, stage, temperament, and family dynamics – children will hold their distressing feelings inside. One young six-year-old I worked with had convinced his parents that he wasn’t bothered by their divorce for over two years. Finally, he developed nightmares so frequently that his mother sought help. The young lad told me with a proud smile; “I have lots of bad feelings but nobody knows, ‘cos I keep them all inside me! You see I don’t want my mamma to feel worse.” Needless to say, the focus of my sessions with him became helping him to find and accept ways to express his emotions. Like many children in the same situation, he had adopted an emotional care-taking role for the parent he felt was suffering, and so he kept his own feelings under wraps to protect that parent from further distress. Interestingly, his mother believed she had successfully hidden her distress from her son. Younger children also often feel responsible for the family break-up even though nothing has been said or done to make them believe such a thing. One seven-year-old girl with parents divorcing told me she knew that if she was “a really good girl,” her mother would “let daddy come back.” A four-year-old brother threw temper tantrums every other night because he knew that when he screamed for long enough his mother would phone his father and ask him to come over to calm him down. Both children were acutely aware of their father’s sadness (even though dad assured me he had kept it well hidden and they couldn’t possibly know), and both children believed they could bring their parents back together. All children feel their parents’ emotional state; whether the parent shows it or not, and will act according to what they feel rather than what they are told (or not, as the case may be).

This last fact I know not only because both research and counseling experience has informed me, but because I remember vividly what it felt like to ‘know’ my mother’s distress when she told me she was fine; to ‘know’ my parents’ marriage was a charade when they pretended otherwise, and to be told my feelings were wrong when I felt them so clearly. The result was that I began to doubt my own internal ‘knowing’ or intuition, and when I later discovered that these feelings had been right, I became a very angry young person indeed. Years of therapy later, I have since worked with hundreds of people who have similar stories about their childhoods, and children in the midst of comparable situations.

One of the most important ways parents can help their children to feel safe and be resilient in the midst of a family break up is to be congruent; i.e. that what you say and do is congruent with what you feel and what is going on around your children. For example: if you are upset, at the very least do not deny it. If you can tell them you are not feeling very happy right now, this may be followed by something like; “I don’t really want to feel upset right now so I’m going to try to make myself feel better.” Then do whatever is appropriate at the moment – whether it’s going for a run or making a cup of tea – so that your child can witness how you may effectively deal with your emotions and that you can take charge of the way you feel. If he or she also feels upset, you might suggest that you sit down together and talk about the feelings, and then figure out what you could do to make yourselves feel better. Most adverse situations can also be great opportunities for learning and building resilience.

I am of course not advocating for parents to share inappropriate and ‘adult’ information with their children. Nor am I suggesting parents confide in or otherwise share their sorrows with children. What I am suggesting is that when you feel upset, and especially when children’s questions indicate that they feel something is not right, you do not deny those feelings. Let them know their feelings are valid, and that there are ways to express and even shift negative emotions, appropriately.

if you are in open conflict with your children’s other parent, any resulting damage to your children can be mitigated when you can manage your emotions and the degree to which your discord escalates, particularly when the children are nearby. Regardless of the level of your disagreement, children must be reassured that they are not to blame, and if they do witness conflict, that they also witness their parents settling the arguments, even if you merely agree to disagree.

Children are not equipped to deal with their parents conflicting, and certainly not to witness or handle when parents are abusive towards each other. Whatever their age, children are frightened by conflict, as much after divorce as before, and the fear they feel when witnessing fighting, arguing, hostility, withdrawal, or disharmony between parents is very real and can be very harmful. One of the ways this can manifest is that children learn to be aggressive and manipulative by watching their parent’s hostility. They can easily develop poor problem-solving skills and negative or disruptive behaviors, all of which may be avoided if the parents are mindful of their influence on their children and learn to manage their own emotion-driven actions.

I want to emphasize here the point made by Judge Haas in my opening quote: that no matter what you think of your children’s other parent, that person is ‘the other half of your children and when you speak badly of him or her, you are effectively telling your children that half of them is bad.’ It is worth noting that studies have shown that the conflict between parents can be more damaging to the children than the divorce itself.

Regardless of how badly your marriage or relationship ends, it is not the end of being a parent. It may seem unbelievable at that point but an unsuccessful marriage does not need to mean an unsuccessful co-parenting relationship.

The best interests of children are met when parents can work together to carry out the responsibilities of raising them. Although it may seem daunting at first, collaborative and shared parenting can allow for the responsibility to be shared without over-burdening one parent (as so often occurs with sole custody). Parenting is a privilege as well as a responsibility and children need a relationship with both of their parents – they deserve to have their parents make the effort to collaborate and ensure that this vital need is met. It may be helpful to remember that parents have different skills, roles, and assets that are important to their children, and making the effort to collaboratively co-parent allows you to combine these to more fully and completely meet their children’s diverse needs.

If, however, collaborative parenting is impossible for whatever reason, supporting your children to maintain a consistent relationship with their other parent as well as refraining from dropping negative comments or otherwise speaking negatively about him or her (no matter how tempting it may be), will ensure your child experiences the family break-up with less long-term stress or trauma. If all of this seems overwhelming, it can be most helpful to ‘bring it home’: bring your attention and focus back to yourself, where you actually have some control!

1. Whenever you feel overwhelmed or any other disagreeable feeling, take the time to release the emotion, either physically if you can (run, jump, walk fast, etc.) or by writing in a journal, even screaming into a pillow can help. Then follow that immediately by spending a few minutes slowing down your breathing and lengthening the out-breath, preferably while placing one hand gently on your chest. Notice anywhere you are holding tension (i.e. shoulders) and let it go.

2. Start each morning by focusing on the love you feel for your child or children, and on all that you can appreciate about them and about being their parent. Allow yourself to breathe slowly and feel the feeling of love and appreciation, really feel it!

3. Choose one ‘Parenting In Stress’ behavior you may be doing from the list below, and commit to exchanging it for a better, kinder, more appropriate behavior.
1. Threatening
2. Being defensive
3. Reacting from DIS-stress or DIS-ease
4. Lecturing
5. Catastrophizing
6. Fixing and Rescuing
7. Guilt (either acting from guilt or laying guilt on)
8. Shaming
9. Cramming morals
10. Trying to make control look like it’s “for their own good!”
11. Withdrawing love or attention (passive-aggressive)
12. Confusing behavior with identity

Check in with yourself and the list at the end of every week, and re-commit to your new and more positive parenting behavior.

Divorce or the break-up of a relationship is never easy, especially when children are involved. But increasing your awareness of your and your children’s emotional reality, honoring those emotions, and taking steps to better manage them, can all go a long way to improving the experience and making it, if not completely stress-free, at least considerably less stressful!

Jennifer Day is the author/co-author of 6 books for parents and has been counseling and coaching parents through divorce for two decades. She recently designed and launched FOREVER PARENTS, an online course for divorcing parents who are considering or have decided to share parenting. The course includes one-on-one coaching with Jennifer herself in a secure online space, as well as six audios and simple, practical written materials for download to apply immediately. For more information go to

The Rights of Parents

The idea that individuals have rights springs from the vulnerability of every human being in the face of stronger forces. Our Declaration of Independence and Constitution are based on the idea that the purpose of government is not to protect the elite, nor to facilitate greed or self-interest nor to promote a religious group’s agenda. Its purpose is to guarantee certain inalienable human rights for all people including our nation’s posterity… our young citizens.

Most of us presume that parents have rights that give them exclusive power over their children, especially newborn babies. But the need to specify those rights only arises when things go wrong in families and in child-serving institutions. Unfortunately, the emotionally charged issue of parental rights arises quite often today. Parents compel state intervention when they neglect and abuse or dispute custody of their children. Minors give birth. Too many child-serving institutions are overburdened and unable to function effectively.

Even defining who is a parent can be complicated. With surrogate birth and artificial insemination, defining a mother and a father can be complicated. By eliminating the ambiguous term “natural parent” from its rules for establishing a legal parent-child relationship, the Uniform Parentage Act encourages courts to focus on the precise relationship a female or male has to a child. Is the relationship of each mother and father: 1) genetic, 2) birth (mother only), 3) functional, 4) stepparent, or 5) adoptive? A single child could have as many as nine different persons legally recognized as a parent by adding 6) foster, 7) step, 8) surrogate and 9) sperm or egg donor.

Parental Rights
Because of their obligations to their children, parents need rights or prerogatives to protect and fulfill the human rights of their children. Unfortunately, contemporary talk about human rights usually emphasizes the rights to benefits and overlooks the responsibilities that accompany those rights.

In the past, children have been treated as the personal property of their parents. Under Roman law, the patria protestas doctrine gave fathers life and death power over their children. To this day, the popular presumption is that children belong to their parents.

In contrast, since The Enlightenment of the Eighteenth Century, parenthood in Western cultures has been seen as a contract between parents and society by philosophers and evolving legal codes. Parents are awarded rights in exchange for discharging their responsibilities.

John Locke in the Seventeenth Century and William Blackstone in the Eighteenth Century held that parental rights and powers arise from their duty to care for their offspring. They recognized that no society can survive unless its children grow up to be responsible, productive citizens. Children also have the right to be raised without unjustified interference by the state. Taken together, these rights are called the right of family integrity. Both Locke and Blackstone held that, if a choice is forced upon society, it is more important to protect the rights of children than to protect the rights of adults.

Every man and every woman has a natural and Constitutional right to procreate. This principle could be reasonably applied when the onset of menarche was between sixteen and eighteen. Now that menarche appears on average at the age of twelve, we must ask if every girl and boy has a natural and Constitutional right to procreate. In the light of this question, the need for careful thought about parental rights and responsibilities is intensified.

The Child-Parent Relationship
James Garbarino, professor of psychology at Loyola University Chicago, points out that parental rights are influenced by personal and public views of child-parent relationships. Are children:
• the private property of parents,
• members of families with no direct link to the state, or
• citizens with a primary relationship with the state?

Children as Private Property
Parental rights have become the most protected and cherished of all Constitutional rights. They are based on the natural right to beget children and the likelihood that affection leads parents to act in the best interests of their children. The Fourth Amendment’s protection of the privacy of the home and the Fourteenth Amendment’s due process clause are interpreted to give parents legal and physical custody of their children. The popular presumption that children are the property of their parents therefore is understandable.

In the 1995 Congress, a Parental Rights and Responsibilities Act was introduced. It would have created a Constitutional amendment specifying absolute parental rights. It didn’t gather support because the legal system already respects parental rights. It also would have made protecting children from neglect and abuse more difficult.

In spite of strongly held beliefs to the contrary, the legal system no longer considers children as property. There even is a genetic basis for the legal position that parents do not own their children. The genes we give them are not our own. Our own genes were mixed when they were transmitted to us by our parents. Our genes are beyond our control. We really do not own them. They extend back through previous generations and potentially forward into future generations. We are only the temporary custodians of our own genes and of our children.

Mary Lyndon Shanley, professor of political science at Vassar College, holds that an individual’s right to reproduce and a parent’s wishes cannot be the primary foundation of family law. The primary focus must be on children’s needs and interests. The parent-child relationship is one of stewardship. Parental authority involves responsibilities beyond the parent’s own wishes.

What’s more, our legal system is based on the principle that no individual is entitled to own another human being. Guardians of incompetent adults are agents, not owners, of those persons. In the same way, the childrearing rights of parents consist of 1) the guardianship right (legal custody) to make decisions on behalf of a child and 2) the right to physical custody of the child. These rights are based on a child’s interests and needs rather than ownership of the child. We certainly do not own our children.

Children as Family Members
Children are generally regarded as family members with no direct link to the state. The concept of parental rights sprang from traditions and Constitutional precedents that endow genetic and adoptive parents with special rights.

Parental rights are legal prerogatives based on the moral and civil rights of children to be nurtured and protected. They are based on the assumption that parents can best decide how to raise a child without undue interference by the state. Without a voluntary or involuntary forfeiture of parental duties, the state cannot permanently remove children from their parents’ custody to seek a better home for them unless there has been a legal termination of parental rights.

Children as Citizens
Two trends have added the view of a child as a citizen. The first is the growing emphasis on the right of children to grow up without neglect or abuse. The second is increased limitations on parental control seen in child neglect and abuse laws, child labor laws, mandatory education laws, adolescent health care policies and parental responsibility laws. When parents do not fulfill their responsibilities, child protection services intervene and governmental agencies can assume legal and physical custody. Then the child’s primary relationship is with the state as custodian.

Like other guardians, parents have the legal prerogative to make stewardship decisions. Society generally defers to their authority. The challenge is to encourage parents to act in the interests of their children rather than in their own selfish interests. Toward this end, lawmakers rely on persuasion and education to help parents fulfill their obligations. Because they are unresponsive to persuasion and education, some parents require legal interventions before and after a baby is born.

The Parent-Society Contract
James Dwyer, professor of law at William and Mary University, affirms that parental rights do not have a direct Constitutional basis. The emergence of children’s rights reflects this position; our society has progressively and empirically limited the control parents have over their children’s lives.

Dwyer endorses the Enlightenment view that persons who conceive and give birth enter an implicit contract with society to raise their children as responsible citizens. Damage caused by maltreatment extends beyond the individuals involved and gives our society a compelling interest in the wellbeing of our young.

Mark Vopat, professor of philosophy at Youngstown State University, also holds that a parent’s obligations derive from an implicit contract with the state beyond the child. This parent-society contract provides a strong moral imperative for public efforts that ensure every child’s safety and quality of life. Since a contract implies mutual obligations, the parents and society are accountable to each other. The government’s role is reflected in debates about:

• Child wellbeing. Is it an entitlement? A privilege? A tool for social control? The trend is to view it as an entitlement.
• Adolescent childbirth. Who has legal and physical custody of a minor’s newborn baby? Strictly speaking no one, but relatives and government policies support minor parents by default.
• Financial support. Is financial responsibility for a child purely a private matter or a public responsibility? Both. Federal and state laws mandate childrearing benefits in addition to financial child support from parents and sometimes grandparents.

In the parent-society contract, government plays a vital role in supporting parents in rearing children and preventing maltreatment. The intimacy involved in family relationships can’t be provided by the state. It’s the duty of families to rear children. Still, state and local governments are responsible for providing schools and safe neighborhoods to support childrearing. They can provide health insurance, tax deductions and welfare benefits as well.

Parents really do not need specifically defined rights. They have prerogatives that flow from their children’s rights. Unfortunately, parental prerogatives and children’s rights do not fit well in contemporary society. As examples, workplaces offer little accommodation for parents’ childrearing duties, and, when children are held indefinitely in supposedly temporary foster care, their right to competent parents is unfulfilled.

Public policies must recognize that children have the right to be cared for by persons with an enduring commitment to, and the capacity for, parenthood. Public policies also need to recognize that in the parent-society contract, society must ensure that parents have access to essential childrearing resources. The parental rights debate would be resolved by shifting it from children as property to parenthood as a career. Parenthood is a parent-society, contract-based career with prerogatives derived from the responsibility to nurture a child and to advocate for the child’s interests.

Being the loving mother or father of a child does not necessarily mean that one is qualified for legal and physical custodial rights. Parental love is insufficient for healthy child development. A minor or developmentally disabled person can be a loving mother or father without having parental rights. Persons even remain a mother or a father of a child after parental rights have been terminated and other parents have assumed motherhood and fatherhood roles through adoption or kinship care.

The Rights of Mothers
The laws of every state give the woman or girl who conceives and bears a child automatic recognition as the legal mother. Giving birth follows the physical relationship formed during pregnancy. These laws reflect an appropriately strong bias in favor of birth mothers, especially those who care for and form attachment bonds with their babies. This is complicated by surrogates who are not genetic mothers but who have a prenatal physical relationship with a newborn.

States seldom challenge genetic/birth motherhood unless compelling circumstances arise, such as a Child in Need of Protective Services petition filed before childbirth. Even in such cases, a newborn baby may be placed in foster care under state custody to rehabilitate the genetic/birth mother. This intent usually is not realized. A similar situation exists with children whose mothers are incarcerated with the expectation of maintaining the mothers’ custody of their children. A 2009 study by Volunteers of America revealed that after the release of their mothers from prison 81% of their children remained with their caregivers and did not live with their mothers.

Women and girls who give birth can decline parenthood by voluntary revocation of their parental rights through a Termination of Parental Rights proceeding to allow for adoption. Paradoxically, an implicit recognition that minors do not have the judgment required for parenthood is reflected in the fact that minors require a guardian ad litem to terminate their parental rights and an adult or institutional payee to receive Temporary Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits. An involuntary Termination of Parental Rights can be initiated after reasonable efforts to help parents meet return conditions have failed. Mothers’ parental rights also can be terminated automatically at childbirth under circumstances such as previous involuntary terminations or murder of a sibling. In some states, third parties like foster parents can petition for the termination of genetic parental rights.

The Rights of Fathers
Unlike maternity, substantial Constitutional guidance has been provided for states in determining paternity. States must ensure that men have the opportunity to seek to establish paternity. A genetic connection and a relationship with a child (or the effort to establish one) are necessary for the Constitutional protections of a paternity claim.

To claim parental rights, males must register with putative father registries within varying time frames. Agencies are required to notify putative fathers of the mothers’ adoption plans. Questions arise about the feasibility of making fathers aware of their need to register. In situations where genetic fathers don’t want to acknowledge fatherhood, state agencies try to establish paternity through genetic testing, other biological evidence, or acknowledgement by the mother or the father to seek child support payments.

A father’s genetic tie can be overridden when a child’s interests are better served by a man who is married to the mother and who has established a relationship with the child. In the 1989 U.S. Supreme Court case Michael H. v. Gerald D., the genetic father of a child produced during an adulterous relationship was denied paternity in favor of the father who was actually raising the child.

Parental Liability
The common-law doctrine of parental immunity has maintained that, in the absence of willful and wanton misconduct, children cannot sue their parents for negligence. In response to the magnitude of child neglect and abuse, most states and courts are beginning to define parental liability. As long ago as l963, an Illinois Appeals Court heard Zepeda v. Zepeda in which a child sued his father for having caused him to be born out of wedlock. Although that suit was unsuccessful, it raised the issue of a child’s legal right to be wanted, loved, and nurtured… in essence, to be competently parented.

Children have successfully sued their parents for negligence and have brought actions against third parties who alienate a parent from the family. In l992 in Orlando, Florida, eleven-year-old Gregory Kingsley legally “divorced” his mother so he could be adopted by his foster parents.

The Parens Patriae Doctrine
The most significant fact justifying state involvement is that children do not choose the families into which they are born. The parens patriae doctrine justifies state intervention as a part of the parent-society contract. Parens patriae is Latin for “father of the people.” The doctrine grants the inherent power and authority of the state to protect people who are legally unable to act on their own behalf. It gives state courts the ultimate power to terminate parental rights and is based on three assumptions:

• Childhood and adolescence are periods of dependency and require supervision.
• The family is of primary importance but the state should play a role in a child’s education and intervene when the family fails to provide adequate nurturance, moral training, or supervision.
• When parents disagree or fail to exercise their authority, the appropriate authority to determine a child’s or an adolescent’s interests is a public official.

The parens patriae doctrine empowers the state to compel parents and minors to act in ways that are beneficial to society. It never presumed that the state would assume parenting functions. Instead, the state is responsible for protecting the best interests of children under the guidance of two principles:

• The wellbeing of society depends upon children being educated and not being exploited.
• A child’s developmental needs for nurturance and protection are defined by child neglect and abuse statutes.

A 1985 decision by Canada’s Supreme Court made a child’s welfare paramount in disputes between genetic parents and third parties. In King v. Low, the Court stated that although the genetic parents’ claims would receive serious consideration, they must give way to the best interests of the children when the children have developed close psychological ties with another individual. This view is taking hold in American courts as well.

Our legal system distinguishes between what parents can do to themselves and what they can do to their children. For example, parents can refuse essential medical treatment themselves but usually aren’t allowed to do the same with their children. They also aren’t permitted to physically harm their children, nor can they allow children to physically harm themselves.

Parents who fail to provide a minimum level of care, who abandon their children, or who fail to provide supervision can be found guilty of neglect. Parents who physically, emotionally, or sexually abuse their children can be found guilty of abuse. Parents who have been convicted of a serious crime, who abuse drugs or alcohol, or who cannot meet return conditions after their children have been removed can be found unfit as parents. When persons cannot be persuaded or educated to become competent parents within a certain period of time, parental rights can be terminated to enable adoption.

State Liability
Despite the parens patriae doctrine, the liability of the state if it does not protect minors has not been clearly defined. In l989, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in DeShaney v. Winnebago County Department of Social Services that the state is not required by the Fourteenth Amendment to protect the life, liberty, or property of its citizens against invasion by private actors.

Joshua DeShaney suffered brain damage from repeated beatings by his father at the age of four. As a result, Joshua was expected to remain institutionalized for life. The U.S. Supreme Court rejected arguments that the state had a duty to protect Joshua because it once placed him in foster care and later because social workers suspected he was being abused by his father but took no action. It held that only “when the state takes a person into its custody and holds him there against his will” does the Fourteenth Amendment due process clause require officials to take responsibility for the individual’s safety and wellbeing. At the same time, the Court did not rule out the possibility that the state acquired a duty to protect Joshua under tort law.

An appellate court in California upheld a local court’s dismissal of a suit by a seventeen-year-old who alleged damage by mismanagement of his adoption as a newborn:

At the age of 17, Dennis Smith filed a complaint against the Alameda County Social Services Department alleging the agency was liable for damages because it failed to find an adoptive home when his mother gave him to the Department for adoption shortly after his birth. The Department placed Dennis in a series of foster homes, but no one adopted him.

Dennis claimed that the Department negligently or intentionally failed to take reasonable actions to bring about his adoption. Therefore, he was deprived of proper and effective parental care and guidance and a secure family environment. Dennis alleged that this caused him mental and emotional damage.

The dismissal of Dennis’ complaint was upheld in appellate court on several grounds, including the difficulty in directly linking his damage to the failure to arrange for his adoption. The court implied that liability could result in more convincing links between early life experience and later outcomes.

Cook County, Illinois, settled a claim out of court by an eighteen-year-old boy over the negligence of county social workers. In this case, the link between professional practices and damage to Billy Nichols apparently was made effectively:

In December of 1981, attorneys for the State of Illinois and Cook County paid $150,000 in an out-of-court settlement of a suit of a former dependent child, Billy Nichols, who had been entrusted to the child welfare system and later as an adult sued the county social service agency for the negligence of social workers that kept Billy dependent and unfit to live in society.

On September l9, l960, Billy and his seven-month-old sister were abandoned by their mother and found eating garbage behind a skid-row mission in Chicago. Billy’s age (approximately five) was unknown, and his speech was unintelligible. He was sent to an institution for the retarded in Michigan for four years. After a subsequent stormy foster-home placement, he was placed in Cook County’s juvenile security prison for nearly three years, although the superintendent repeatedly petitioned the court to remove him.

In l969, a legal aid lawyer, Pat Murphy, filed a class-action suit to release dependent and neglected children from prison on behalf of Billy. At 14, Billy was transferred to Elgin State Hospital, where he ran away ten times and was committed to the Illinois Security Hospital at Chester at the age of 18. Three years later Attorney Murphy intervened to enroll Nichols in a psychiatric program for two years until he was jailed for car theft.

Lawsuits continue to attempt to redress the adverse impact of foster care. Class action suits have been used to force improvements in child welfare services. In 1993 a class action suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and the Children’s Rights Project, Inc., against Milwaukee County and the state of Wisconsin for failing to adequately protect children. In response, the duties and authority of child welfare services were transferred from the county to a state Bureau of Milwaukee Child Welfare.

The Right to be a Competent Parent
To say that a parent has a right to be competent might stretch the notion of rights too far. However, the logic for this right in our society is compelling and worth considering.

First of all, by definition the child-parent unit is irreducible. One-half of the unit is a parent, and one-half is a child. The interests of children and the interests of parents are inseparable, and both derive from a child’s goal of responsible citizenship.

When parents face dangerous environments, poverty, unemployment, illness, or mental incapacities, their children inevitably face the same problems along with the risk of incompetent parenting. If children’s interests are to be fulfilled, the interests of parents must also be taken into account. If children have a moral right to be competently parented, then parents have a moral right to be competent if they are not under the legal or physical custody of others.

A second reason is that the integrity of society itself depends upon competent parents. Incompetent parents threaten the stability of society and incur enormous public costs. Therefore, in this view becoming a competent parent deserves the status of a right.

Third, human beings have a genetic predisposition to parent competently in order to ensure the survival of our species. The goal of the reproductive cycle is parenthood, not just procreation.
Conceiving and giving birth initiate parenthood as the fruition of the parents’ own developmental stages of childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. In the most fundamental sense, competent parenthood fulfills the role of a woman or a man in the reproductive cycle. In order to preserve humanity and our society, adults have a right to fulfill their reproductive and parental potentials and for the state to help them become competent parents when possible.

Balancing the Rights of Parents and Minors
The essence of childhood at the beginning of the Twentieth Century was its dependency. Competent parents respected this dependency by judiciously exercising their authority. In the second half of the Twentieth Century, parental authority declined. As a result, childrearing has become a negotiation between parent and child with state and other agencies monitoring the process.

In the past, children were assumed to have capabilities we now rarely think they have because their labor was needed to help a family survive. In our efforts to give our children enjoyable childhoods, we tend to downplay their developmental need to assume responsibilities and obligations. Much confusion about adolescence is caused by stressful conflicts between adolescents’ rights and their obligations to their parents. This highlights minors’ responsibility to accept parental authority and to cooperate with their parents.

In some ways, the contemporary adolescent quest for independence represents a return to the time in which childhood did not extend beyond fourteen. The difference is that in earlier centuries persons were economically productive at the age of fourteen and were not capable of reproduction whereas now they have an increasing number of years, often beyond adulthood, before they become economically productive.

The shift in power from adults to children and adolescents has emotional and economic repercussions. Parents may now look to their offspring for emotional support and give them excessive material goods that stress family finances. This shift includes the ability of children and adolescents to bring legal proceedings against their parents for alleged abuse without justification. All of this has eroded parental authority. This trend toward overindulgence is further abetted by the exploitation of adolescents as consumers.

Although our tradition of individual autonomy has largely kept government out of the family, the law is moving toward defining the limits of parental power. The Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 1974 removed “status offenses” of incorrigibility and running away from juvenile delinquency. They are now regarded as related to inadequate or inappropriate parental authority rather than as acts stemming solely from the adolescents. The focus has shifted to therapeutic interventions.

When family matters are brought into the legal system, the interests of children, parents, and the state need to be carefully identified and balanced to determine the appropriate rule of law.

Valuing the Parental Rights of Competent Parents
If all parents and child-serving institutions served children’s developmental interests, the issue of parental rights seldom would be raised.

Parental rights are no longer based on the presumption that children are property. Legal and physical custodial rights enable parents to discharge their responsibilities in a parent-society contract that provides a strong moral imperative for public efforts to ensure children’s safety and quality of life. Parental rights really are prerogatives essential for discharging the duties of parenthood.

A shift from the rights of parents to the best interests of children has gradually emerged in our courts. Parents who fail to meet specified conditions can have their parental rights terminated to permit the adoption of a child. Most states have set aside the parental immunity doctrine so that children can sue their parents under certain circumstances.

We can balance the interests of children, parents, and the state if we truly value competent parents.

Jack C. Westman, M.D., M.S., Is professor emeritus of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. He has over 150 publications and 11 books. His book Parent Power: The Key to America’s Prosperity became available in 2013. He is president of Wisconsin Cares, Inc., a nonprofit advocacy organization for families. More information is on his website:

Dr. Westman is promoting the formation of a national organization for parents comparable to the American Association of Retired Persons on his blog: []

Universal Studios Tours VIP Studio Pass

Unlike Disneyland, reservations cannot be made for
any of the attractions within Universal Studios.
However, you can get a VIP Studio Pass, which
will allow you to skip many of the lines, and will
even provide you with a personal tour of the back lot.

The cost of the VIP Studio Pass is quite affordable
? under $300 for two people, and it entitles you to
many special perks?.you get to see everything,
including many things that are not part of the
standard Universal Studios Tour, although the VIP
tour actually starts with the standard Universal
Studios Tour ? then it just gets better.

If you are in possession of a VIP pass, you will be
allowed to get off the tram and wonder around the
movie sets. You will be allowed to visit the props
department as well, which is great fun. You will also
be entitled to prime seating at all of the shows, and
have the opportunity to meet the cast members
after the shows.

If you will be going on a Universal Studios Tour and
visiting the theme park, the VIP Studios Pass is
definitely the way to go!

(word count 191)