Divorce Games Children Play

Divorce Games Children Play

I'll Be On Your Side If You Give Me What I Want

Children sometimes tell a parent what the other parent has given them or the places the other parent has taken them to try to gain similar advantages from that parent. Children sometimes tell a parent the grievances they have about the other parent to make that parent play into their hands. Parents need to realize that children are not always accurate reporters and that they do try to manipulate situations to their advantage.

But Mom (Or Dad) Said Yes  

This game also is played by children to get their own way at the expense of one of the parents. Children know the kinds of events or activities that one parent may allow but not the other. This game particularly works well if the parent who allows the activity is outside the home. The children enlist that parent's support and if the other parent says no, children drop the bombshell: "But dad/mom said it would be OK". This also works when parents have different rules or responsibilities for the children.

If possible, divorced parents should continue to try to present a united front to children and try to determine the position the other parent may take. Children need to know that while each parent may have different rules, the rules of the household in which they are residing when an issue arises should be followed.


Children may try to manipulate a parent when they are feeling threatened by change or want their own way. Children may tell a parent they won't visit or they will go and live with the other parent if the parent has a new girlfriend/boyfriend, is going to remarry, tells the children they can't do something, or disciplines the children. If this game is not brought to a halt, children gain power over the parent. Children need to understand that there are rules and consequences for broken rules and that parents have to get on with their lives too.

I'll Get Even With You  

Children rarely understand the motivation and consequences for this game as they do for the other divorce games they play. Children sometimes display hurt and anger by acting differently from ways they have behaved before. Some children may be withdrawn or act violently toward themselves or others. Sometimes the child at home may be different from the at-school child.
Parents who are understanding and have good communication with children may be able to address the problems and help children resolve the feelings of hurt and anger. Some children may need professional help and should be involved in counseling.

SMILE Handbook