A Pandemic of Cruelty

There is a pandemic in the Western world — especially, but not only, in America — that few are talking about, let alone addressing.

This pandemic doesn’t actually kill people. But it does destroy people, ruin lives, crush families and cause permanent, debilitating pain — far more than have the vast majority of cases of COVID-19.

This pandemic consists of adult children who have decided never again to speak to one or both of their parents. The vast majority of these people were never sexually or physically abused. In fact, nearly all were loved by their parents.

So, then, why have these people decided to hurt their mother, their father or both in one of the worst ways possible?

There are three primary reasons.

The first is the ascent of the therapeutic mentality. Prior to the explosion of psychotherapy, people were governed by “shoulds.” Beginning in the 1960s, however, the therapeutic model replaced the moral model as the guide to one’s behavior. People who lived at that time will recall the phrase, “there are no shoulds.”

I will use a family story to illustrate this point. Despite the fact that his mother was a very difficult woman, my father called her every night, and every night she would yell at him. I heard the yelling because instead of holding it to his ear, my father would place the phone on the kitchen table while she ranted.

Had my father been born a generation later and gone to a therapist where he discussed his mother, if he said how much he dreaded calling his mother, the therapist would likely have led my father to believe there was no reason he should talk to her. And a culture that declared, “there are no shoulds,” would have concurred. The therapist would have declared my grandmother “toxic” and thereby given my father the green light to avoid calling her.

But my father lived in the age of shoulds, and he was a religious Jew who had been taught the Ten Commandments since childhood — the Fifth of which commands us, “Honor your father and mother.” Moreover, he believed, as did most Americans, that the Ten Commandments were given by God.

In our post-biblical age, there are no Ten Commandments. In fact, there are no commandments, period. That’s what “no shoulds” was all about — no Commandments. Instead, you do what you feel is right. If you don’t feel like talking to your mother or father, you don’t. My father, governed by the Ten Commandments and many other shoulds, called his mother every night despite the fact that he rarely felt like doing so.

Though the Bible commands us to love our neighbor, love the stranger and love God, there is no commandment to love our parents. On the other hand, there is no commandment to honor anyone except our parents.

A second reason for the Ignore-Parents (IP) pandemic is parental alienation. This is usually caused by one parent against the other during and/or after a divorce — frequently, though certainly not always, by the mother against the father. She is so angry at her husband or soon-to-be ex-husband that she has decided to hurt him in one of the worst possible ways — by convincing one or more of their children that their father is a terrible human being, unworthy of their love, respect and time. The children should therefore not only cease to love him but have nothing to do with him.

A third reason for the IP pandemic is ideological. In these instances, a spouse may be involved, but often it is the decision of the child. This is the newest reason for ignoring parents. I suspect few of us ever encountered parents whose children did not speak to them because of how the parent voted. As much as Democrats and other liberals hated Richard Nixon, it is hard to imagine a grown man or woman in the late ’60s or early ’70s refusing to speak to a parent because the parent voted for Nixon. But there are probably hundreds of thousands of parents who voted for Donald Trump who have a child who will not speak to them because of that vote — or because the parent holds some conservative value such as that marriage should be defined as the union of a man and a woman.

For the record, I am not speaking about myself. My two sons and two stepsons and I speak regularly, love one another and share values. But I know how lucky I am. I have written this column because I have spoken with an inordinate number of wonderful people who have a child or even children who do not speak with them.

Yes, there are times when a parent is so pathological or evil — or when it is the parent who has chosen to ignore a child — that communication is essentially impossible. But in general, the infliction of such pain on a parent is about as great an act of cruelty as most people will ever inflict on another human being. If there is a God who gave the Ten Commandments, these people will be judged accordingly.

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Dennis Prager

Dennis Prager is a nationally syndicated radio talk-show host and columnist. His commentary on Deuteronomy, the third volume of The Rational Bible, his five-volume commentary on the first five books of the Bible, will be published in October. His latest books, published by Regnery. He is the co-founder of Prager University and may be contacted at

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  1. Dear Mr. Prager,

    I am a person who has gone no-contact with a parent. I am also a mental health counselor myself. First of all, I am wondering what your credentials are to speak on this subject and to make the claims that you are making.
    I think that you are presenting a straw-man version of we adult children who have gone no-contact with parents. You claim that “The vast majority of these people were never sexually or physically abused. In fact, nearly all were loved by their parents.” – where is your source for this?

    Personally and professionally, I have serious doubts about this as day in and day out I hear horrific tales of emotional neglect, abuse, incest, not to mention verbal abuse. Then there is parentification, using children as pawns in divorce, etc. I hear of parents who locked their children out of house, beat them and tied them to the porch, threw away their favorite toys, or were just indifferent, meted out harsh punishments, said things like, “I wish you were never born.”

    I would think that Christian values would dictate a more compassionate and nurturing attitude toward children – tormented in countless ways by parents, immature and ill equipped themselves to be parents.

    Be here, we have insult to injury – the unsubstantiated moral “should” that adult children who were in fact mistreated and traumatized by their parents in various ways “should” attempt, in some cases at great cost, to maintain a relationship with their parent. For what?! To obey God?

    Is that what an “all loving” God would want? Why would God allow his precious children to be subjected to this in the first place?

    Anyway, this article is an opinion with no credentials or data to back it up and serves to perpetuate the acceptance of mistreatment first by parents and then by anyone else.

    1. Seek Professional help. You are obviously “Emotionally Challenged”
      If YOU are so certain of your “analytical” prowess, why not use your REAL name.
      The Author of this piece was courageous enough to use his.
      I use a nom de plume, because of demented people such as yourself would attack me or my family if I did not.

      1. So you’re calling me emotionally challenged and demented – ad hominem attack. Is this allowed on this page?

        And you’re bashing me for using a pseudonym when you’re doing the same thing? Way to go.

        The god excuse, the last refuge of a man with no answers and no argument.

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