Solomon’s Choice: How the Ancient Story Speaks to Parental Alienation Syndrome Today

Two prostitutes came before King Solomon with a strange story. One said, “We live in the same house. We both gave birth around the same time. But during the night she rolled over on her infant and killed him, then stole my baby boy as I slept, replacing him with her dead baby.”

“No!” said the other harlot, “The living one is mine!”

How to tell which woman was telling the truth? Wise Solomon knew the false mother would sacrifice the son to win the argument, but the real mother would sacrifice for her son. And so Solomon requested a sword be brought, then said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one and half to the other,” 1 Kings 3:25.

The real mother cried, “Please, my lord, give her the living baby! Don’t kill him!” Solomon had his answer. He ordered that the living baby be given to her, saying, “Do not kill him; she is the mother.”

The true parent will be willing to sacrifice for the child. A false parent will sacrifice the child. This principle plays heavily into the discussion about parental alienation syndrome, or PAS, which plagues divorce courts and custody battles the world over. PAS entails one divorcing parent effectively brainwashing the children to turn against the other parent. Although some falsely apply this label,* the syndrome exists. I’ve seen it. But beyond my limited experience, the concept of alienation has abundant support in scripture, the whole theme of the great controversy between Christ and Satan being carried by a narrative involving the honored Lucifer turning one third of the angel “children” against their parent-God (Revelation 12).

It’s easy enough to see how this takes place. The true parent actually parents the child, which means boundaries, limits, and punishments. The false parent coddles and pleases the child, even to their own hurt, becoming the “treat” parent. The false parent emotionally punishes the true parent; and the child reasons, albeit unconsciously, that if they cross the false parent, they too will be punished. Cooperation and conformity to the true parent therefore entails a significant cost. In addition, the true parent is a “safe” parent who will forgive the child’s disloyalty, whereas the false parent requires perfect loyalty upon pains and penalty of rejection of the disloyal child. The child will make the operative choice to be disloyal to the less punitive parent, a choice influenced by a toxic environment in which they’ve been forced to choose between two parents—a choice no child should have to make.

A true parent will never put a child to that choice. They will avoid divorce in the first place; but if it becomes necessary, they will minimize the conflict, reduce the stress load, and carry the emotional pain of the process upon themselves rather than offloading it on the children. A false parent will stir up the conflict, weaponizing the children’s loyalties against the other parent. A false parent will instill strife toward a true parent as a means of retaliating against them. A false parent is willing to see the child hewn in two; a true parent will cry out, “Don’t kill them!” In principle, a false parent is no better than Lucifer-turned-Satan himself, and a true parent endures wrongful accusations as God has endured.

If you’re one of those true parents, hang in there. Eventually your children will grow up and realize you stayed the sword, and you are worthy of their love and loyalty. One day all liars will be put to shame, their false reports exposed in the dazzling light of truth.

*As you can imagine, false accusations of PAS abound. But the inappropriate use of the label in some cases doesn’t disprove the syndrome in all cases. As with all psychological labels, a label of PAS should be used with great care and only in cases where it is fully warranted.

9 thoughts on “Solomon’s Choice: How the Ancient Story Speaks to Parental Alienation Syndrome Today

  1. Pingback: Solomon's Choice - PEORIA ADVENTISTS

  2. Mary Ella Tremaine Reply

    As in the case of King Solomon and “the living baby”, what would you say to an alienated parent who is facing the choice of continuing the daily fight for their child (keeping the child in the middle of this turmoil) and “letting go” for a time and hoping for the best (“giving up the fight”, so to say, & knowing that there will likely be a great deal of time the alienated parent will be without the child)?

  3. Jennifer Reply

    Hi Mary Ella. That’s a very, very, very good question and I’ve thought of it many times. Should a parent who has been the brunt of kid brainwashing by the other parent try to stay connected or let go and pray? If the brainwashing parent is using the child as a hockey puck to slam the other person, would that be worse than the alienated parent fading away? I don’t know that there’s just one answer to this but please know I’m praying that you make the best decision for your circumstances. What I might do in that situation is ask the child him or herself what they prefer. It might help them not take it personally if the alienated parent does fade away. And likely no decision you’d make would be permanent. There’s always re-dos, thank God, in these situations where all the options are bad.

  4. pat Reply

    Sometimes it never works out. My kids were alienated and still are, and probably always will be. I let go, after God gave me this very verse about Solomon and the women. Twenty five years later I am still following Jesus and my two kids are still with their ungodly dad, following him wherever he moves. They treat me like scum; basically I stopped the scumming and said no last year. No relationship now. But I have peace. They all need the Lord but may never accept Him. Matthew 10 is also clear about this.

  5. Dr. Regina Marie Baldwin Reply

    As an alienated parent going on 25 years and now a minister and professional who specializes in high conflict custody cases involving alienation; I can assure you that without intervention, children do not grow out of it. There is science today that can determine whether a child is alienated or not and immediate interventions by the courts are necessary in order to reverse the damage. When I was going through this as a young believer, I simply stood on my bible promises and got whooped in court. There is value in knowledge and wisdom and parental alienation is actually more traumatizing that sexual and physical abuse combined. Less than 2% of custody cases litigated by an attorney using a high conflict model wins because it’s a completed different type of evil. They have studied over 30,000 children over several decades and it truly has generational consequences. Children have a loving parent stolen…erased out of their life …and are raised believing they are unloved and often that their healthy parent is dangerous. It’s one of the most selfish evils I encounter; but God is faithful and I do see Him work miracles literally every day. The biggest problem within the church is that parental alienation almost always stems from domestic abuse…domestic abuse which is unreported…pastors and parishioners don’t want to take sides and when you don’t take a side you are taking a side. Abusers aren’t held accountable and are so convincing. Targeted parents are then further betrayed and perpetrated by the community and justice system because most faith communities and families don’t want to take sides or get involved. Alienated parents start reacting and parenting from a place of brokenness thereby unknowingly contributing to the alienation and in their desperation and hopelessness mentally decline further proving the very allegations of their abuser that they are unfit. Education is needed. The first place alienated parents should be able to turn is the church but instead they are often thrown into an adversarial legal system. There are Godly professionals that care about the affect on the children and are skilled in de-escalating these situations but please, please, don’t underestimate the seriousness of alienation. Imagine for a moment going from PTA mom, soccer coach, day school director to losing your children and being registered as a sex offender and despite winning your appeal…nothing is restored…or your child is kidnapped and you go from planning a birthday party and next thing you know 5 years have passed and the authorities have no idea where he is and you are being implicated. These are some of the milder cases our ministry handles…so please don’t minimize the severity of this abuse …at the same time I serve a God who is bigger than every evil but community and education must happen within faith communities before true change in our justice system occurs. God has given us all authority over evil. He has provided for everything we need. We are His ambassadors. We are called to walk in His power, signs and wonders and do great things than Jesus did. The answer or solution will not come by praying for God to intervene especially in areas we are commissioned. It’s like praying for God to heal the sick but he did 2000 years ago…by His Stripes we were healed. Our faith manifests His promises. I know. I was diagnosed twice with one year to live. We can’t create doctrine to justify why prayers aren’t answered. Jesus never taught on unanswered prayers because he didn’t have any and neither should we as mature believers.

    How is God going to make it up to Pat? Pat you have the authority to speak life and death over your situation. Take every bible promise and speak over your situation, your children, and don’t waiver. He promises His Word won’t return void and all things are possible so I needed to determine years ago whether I really believed His Word or not…and I am living proof in countless ways Pat that He loves your children more than you do; He promises to teach them personally; He promises to save and deliver them; and perhaps you need to start binding and losing the spirits operating in their life that have then deceived. I will be praying for you. No disrespect meant but we are in a war and God has provided everything we need for life and godliness…and so we fight until we get the victory…because it’s guaranteed.

  6. Dr. Regina Marie Baldwin Reply

    Don’t ever give up on your children. They need you and God entrusted them to you knowing the situation you would face. You have authority and power and dominion. Please don’t water the power of His Word because it hasn’t worked yet. Contact me. It doesn’t cost anything to meet with me regardless of where you are in the country.

  7. Skjf Reply

    This is all wrong and mixed up . You don’t seem to have any insight into abuse and domestic violence and how it affects the true parents capacity to parent effectively and set boundaries and effective routines in a crazy making gaslighting narcisstic environment… And then the parent who is abused but loved their child with their all is further isolated by the continuing coercive control and parental alienation… I don’t think you have ay expertise in this at all.

    • Jennifer Schwirzer Reply

      Thanks for your input. I do have an understanding of abuse patterns. I consider efforts to alienate a child from a parent to be a form of abuse. I’m not sure why both those things can’t be true at the same time.

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