Last July a judge in Michigan sentenced three children, ages 9, 10, and 15, to a juvenile detention facility until they are 18 because they refused to eat lunch with their father. I find that sickening. The oldest child said he didn't want to have lunch with his father because his father was violent, and that he saw his father hit his mother. The judge claimed the mother brainwashed him into saying that.
I know many parents complain about the other or make snide comments, but I don't think it's the norm for one (or both) parents to disparage the other so badly that the children are afraid of the other parent.
Family courts attempt to make things equal for mother's and father's after a divorce by dividing time between them, claiming this is in the best interest of the kids. What the courts don't see is how they are cared for when with either parent. They don't see the kids who get sick to their stomach and cry because they have to go to the other parents house ... and they don't see the temper tantrums and uncontrollable meltdown when they return.
I firmly believe a child needs a mom and a dad. They learn different skills from each parent. Men and women play with children differently. They talk to them differently. Mother's are traditionally nurturing, and a warm, soft place to land when they need held. Father's are traditionally more strict, but generous and loving. Kid's need all of those things. I had to be both mother and father to my kids, and assuming the role of the other parent is difficult because it's not instinctive.
Sometimes, as single mom, I felt like a big, fat failure. It was my job to raise to a happy, well-adjusted child. When one child was floundering I told a friend that I must not be a very good mom. He said "You are an amazing mom, you're just not a good dad." And that is true, not necessarily that I'm an amazing mom, but that I'm not a good dad. I'm not a man and I don't think like a man. I react to situations as a woman and a mom. I think I've done a good job raising my kids, but I have no doubt it would have been an easier row to hoe ... for myself and my kids ... if I had had the help of a loving father (or stepfather).
If courts really want to do what is best for the children, they would watch both parents interact with their children, and not just for ten minutes, but for an entire day (or more). Anyone can fake it for ten minutes, but an entire day with a handful of kids will show a parents true colors, if only in brief snippets.
There are wonderful mother's and father's who can parent their children equally well, and the kids thrive. But there are parents who withhold their children from the other or take their visitation simply to be a thorn in the side of their ex. Children are more perceptive than most adults give them credit for, and they can pick up on the fact that they are being used as revenge.
I've heard it said that you have to love your children more than you hate your ex. Sadly, that is not the case for many, and it's always the children who suffer ... often because a judge who doesn't know anything about either parent decides what is best. If our courts truly want to do what is in the best interest of the children, they need to figure out a better way to decide how they divvy up time. Simply bringing a child into the world does not automatically make you capable of raising children. When the court system learns this, then maybe they can honestly and confidently decide who gets the kids and when ... because as it stands now, a lot of children are being forced into situations they aren't prepared to handled ... and the other parent is helpless to stop it.
As far as the children who were sentenced to a juvenile facility for refusing to eat lunch with their father, no one wins. If the mother was lying, the kids will eventually figure it out and they will resent her for alienating them from their father. And if the kids were being truthful, that they in fact did see their father hit their mother, they should be able to decide if they want to spend time with him ... especially a 15-year old. Removing children from a loving home and placing them in jail for the duration of their childhood is incomprehensible. The judge in that case needs to be removed from the bench and disbarred.