How to Be a Better Parent, Part 4
Have your children gone from little angels to kids gone wild? Are they whiney, tantrum-throwing, feet-stomping, door-slamming, spoiled and entitled? Well, good news, Mom and Dad! Dr. Phil launches his parenting boot camp and teaches parents how to take back control and live in peace for the very first time.
Four families tired of the fighting, yelling, chaos and conflict in their home move into The Dr. Phil House. Tammie says her 11-year-old daughter, Davia, is stubborn, uncooperative and annoying, and she finds herself with no desire to even hug her. Janice says her 11-year-old son, Austin, is a spoiled little baby whose tantrums are so obnoxious, she's ready to throw in the towel. Tiffiny and Ron say their two oldest daughters, Rachel, 14, and Paige, 10, make them regret becoming parents. They say living with their 14-year-old is like living with Hannibal Lector, and the 10-year-old won't stop lying. And, Laureen is a single mom who says her 16-year-old daughter, Shannon, is so out of control, she could be headed for jail. What are these families doing wrong? How can these parents regain control and create peace in their homes?
Part 2 Summary:
At The House, the kids find their portraits on the wall and are told to find an emotion card that defines how they are feeling and attach it to their photo. The parents are told that whenever their child displays an emotion card, they should use that as an opportunity to talk with their child about what they are feeling. Shannon says she's exhausted, while Laureen worries that her daughter is not taking this opportunity seriously. Davia says she feels hopeful, which makes Tammie break down in tears. Tammie tells her daughter this is her last resort before giving up. Laureen and Shannon snap at each other, and Tammie commiserates with Laureen about being frustrated.
The families move on to a group exercise, discussing what's not working in their relationships and what they intend to work on during their stay. Tammie tearfully acknowledges that she's lost the bond that she used to have with Davia. Paige cries, saying she misses her father, Ron, who spends all his time working and is never around. This surprises Ron because he works from home, so he feels like he's always there. Afterward, Paige changes her emotion card to sad, and Ron and Tiffiny comfort her.
Next, the families participate in dyads. Facing one another, they hear each other's frustrations, often for the first time. Janice is surprised to learn that Austin feels abandoned when she's not home. Shannon tells her mother that she feels unheard and wants to just be a teenager, but Laureen says she isn't trustworthy, and her behavior makes her ashamed. Later, Shannon cries in the confessional, saying her mother holds grudges. Rachel accuses her mother, Tiffiny, of yelling all the time and says that she agrees with her sister that their dad is never around. Ron is moved when she says she wants her dad back. Rachel fights back tears as she says she feels that her parents pay more attention to her two little sisters, and they make her feel like a screw-up.
After the exercise, Davia asks her mother to join her in the Timeout Room, where she breaks down and tells Tammie she's sorry about her lying and bad behavior. Tammie thinks her daughter is insincere and just vying for attention, which she doesn't want to give her. That night, Tammie videotapes an argument that she has with Davia, which she hopes will be evidence of Davia's bad behavior. But Tammie loses her temper and yells, badgers and bullies her daughter, accusing her of acting like "a little bitch."
Dr. Phil meets with the kids, while the parents watch from another room. He asks Austin about his tantrums and tells him that he's becoming a young man who can't continue to act that way. He asks Shannon about her disciplinary problems, and she blames her school for not being as structured as she needs. All the kids say they want less fighting in their lives. Rachel admits she lies to her mother about her school life because she doesn't want her to know that other kids make fun of her and that she has no friends and often eats lunch alone. Shannon says she wants a better relationship with her mother and to earn her trust back. None of the kids remember the last time they were truly proud of themselves, but Dr. Phil reassures them that their lives can change.
Dr. Phil then sits down with the parents. He confronts Laureen about how she seems beaten down and numb. Laureen says she cries every day, and all her time is consumed with policing her daughter's behavior. She feels insulted to be accused of being checked out emotionally. Tiffiny is sad to hear the truth about Rachel's experiences at school and is surprised to hear Rachel doesn't feel proud of herself.
Dr. Phil makes it clear that the parents' behavior affects their relationships with their children. He tells Janice that she is trying to ease her guilt by babying her son, but that actually cripples him socially and emotionally. He warns her that Austin is at risk of being bullied if he doesn't act his age. Dr. Phil tells Ron that he's emotionally checked out of his fathering role, and his workaholic ways are a detriment to his family.
Finally, Dr. Phil plays a home video of a fight between Tammie and Davia. In it, Tammie tells her daughter she has no affectionate feelings toward her, and she can't treat her like her other children because she's always mad at her. As the other parents look on in shock, Tammie weeps.
Part 3 Summary:
After watching Tammie's home video, Dr. Phil tells her point blank that she is a bully, that she is abusing her daughter, and that it has nothing to do with Davia. Tammie sobs, and Dr. Phil tries to uncover why she is so mad and where her contempt for her child comes from. Tammie eventually admits that she feels like Davia was a mistake and that she thinks she resents her for being alive. Dr. Phil reiterates that Davia is the same little girl she always was, and this issue comes from inside Tammie. Her daughter is just an easy target. Since Tammie recorded the disturbing video of their fight, Dr. Phil worries about what wasn't caught on tape. He implores Tammie to fix herself and her issues before she damages Davia.
Dr. Phil tells his guests that there are moments in time when any wrongs can be made right, and they have to recognize this as one of them. He says it's not too late for their children. Dr. Phil tells Ron that if he doesn't plug in as a father, he will be shocked if his two older daughters make it to 18 without getting pregnant. He turns to Laureen and tells her if her daughter needs a live-in school with structure, he will find her one. The offer brings Laureen to tears. He tells all the parents they have great kids, they just need to be great parents, and not just when it's easy. "Reinforcements have arrived. We can do this," he says.
Dr. Phil leaves them with their thoughts. Tammie cries, drawing comfort from the other mothers. Tiffiny consoles her, telling her that she sometimes speaks to her children in the same manner, and they both can change for the better. When Tammie tells the other moms that she doesn't know why she can't appreciate her daughter, Janice and Laureen tell her that they don't understand it either because they see a quiet, normal 11-year-old.
Later, Davia goes looking for her mother, and when she finds her, Tammie quickly excuses herself to the Timeout Room, to gather her thoughts and compose herself. Then she asks Davia to join her. Crying, she hugs her daughter and apologizes for the way she treats her. Davia is moved to tears as well and hugs her mother, telling her she loves her and that she thinks she's the best mom. Afterward, Tammie says she feels closer to her daughter and acknowledges that she has to make peace with her decisions instead of resenting Davia.
Then, the group participates in a role-playing exercise. The parents pair up with their kids and switch roles as they act out a common scenario in their house. The parents portray the children as pouty, bratty and disrespectful. The children try to portray their parents as angry yellers, but Tammie, Laureen and Tiffiny all say their kids didn't get as loud or angry as they admit they are in real life. Ron says watching all the skits is an eye-opener.
Tiffiny accuses Ron of not being himself while at The House and of putting on an act for the cameras. Ron disagrees and says he likes to keep a civil tone. Tiffiny fears he will go back to his old self once they get home.
In the confessional booth, Janice explains that her son, Austin, changed his emotion card to read "Guilty" and then went into the kitchen to eat ice cream. She realizes that she has taught him to comfort himself with food and feels horrible about it. She wants her son to deal with is emotions in a healthy way.
Frustrated that she's being perceived as numb or shut down when it comes to her daughter, Laureen tries to explain her side of the story in the confessional booth. She later tells Tammie that she just can't seem to get her feelings out, and Tammie tells her it's because she's numb. Laureen disagrees.
Then, the group heads outside for an exercise in trust. The kids have to lead their blindfolded parents through an obstacle course. The parents also carry an egg and have to safely deposit it in a basket at the end of the course. The exercise leader comments that Laureen and Shannon appeared to have the most difficulty with trust. Laureen thought her daughter gave up, and Shannon admits she was frustrated and wanted to walk way. The leader notes that Tiffiny and Paige and Davia and Tammie did well, while Austin and Janice seemed to take the easy way around the obstacles. He notes that Janice could have reined in her son a little more instead of letting him do whatever he wanted.
Part 4 Summary:
Dr. Phil drops in on the families during breakfast and speaks with them about choosing to be happy instead of right. He implores everyone to learn how to compromise and negotiate when they have clashes. He tells the kids that they can't blame their parents for everything; they must step up and do their part too. Dr. Phil tells Shannon that she's two years away from being an adult and she must start carrying her own weight.
Then, Dr. Phil talks with the parents alone, explaining that it's time to stop the momentum of their dysfunctional patterns and start putting their children's interests ahead of their own. Tiffiny says she sees herself in Tammie, because of the way she also yells at her kids. She says it's not surprising to learn her daughter, Rachel, isn't proud of herself, given the negative comments Tiffiny has made to her. Dr. Phil explains that it takes a lot of positive reinforcement to erase one comment like, "You're stupid." When Tiffiny asks if it's too late to fix the damage she's caused, Dr. Phil says no, but stresses that the parents' motives must be pure. He explains that it's their job to advance their children's place in life. Tiffiny tearfully shares that she's jealous of the lives her daughters have, and she doesn't think they appreciate all that they're given. Dr. Phil points out that she's sacrificed to give her children a good life, and now she resents them for having it. He implores her to heal her own pain, which will make her anger dissipate, and to celebrate what their daughters have instead of resenting them for it.
Laureen tells Dr. Phil the circumstances that led her to pull Shannon from school permanently: Shannon got in trouble for disrupting a school assembly, which is a criminal charge, and Laureen didn't want her bad behavior to invite worse consequences. Dr. Phil notes the many disruptions in Shannon's life that have probably impacted her, such as her parents' divorce and moving multiple times. Laureen says she dreams of a better future for her daughter. She asks Dr. Phil, "Do you know how long I've been scared for her?" and he responds, "Probably for most of her life." Dr. Phil tells Laureen that if she's interested, he will make the resources available for Shannon to attend a therapeutic residential program for teens. The Aspen Education Group runs the Turn-About Ranch. Shannon can not only be back in school, but she can take an active role in the daily running of a working ranch. Laureen cries and thanks Dr. Phil.
Janice admits she sends her tantrum-throwing son, Austin, mixed signals by telling him to grow up, yet still treating him like her baby. Dr. Phil warns her that, although her situation may not seem as serious as the other families, hers is a ticking time bomb because as her son gets older and bigger, his temper tantrums could turn violent. He accuses Janice of being lazy and feeding her child so she won't have to see him cry. She agrees.
Turning to Tammie, Dr. Phil discusses the importance of roles in the family. He tells Tammie that Davia's role has become the source of Tammie's frustration, the place she vents, and Davia has been the one she criticizes, and the one who causes her pain. He tells her that Davia is not dumb, and she knows and feels her mother's resentment. Dr. Phil tells all the parents that until they clean up their motives, they will never parent with effectiveness.
Later, Tammie expresses her frustration to the other women that she's again becoming annoyed at her daughter's clinginess. Janice and Laureen try to help her discover the cause of her irritation, and Tammie soon realizes that it started when Davia gave her a look that reminded her of her ex, Davia's father. In the confessional, Tammie cries, fearful that nothing will change once they get home.
Dr. Phil meets with the kids alone, and they express positive outlooks about going home to a different family life. When the kids have a turn to ask questions, 10-year-old Paige asks about how Dr. Phil handled tantrums with his sons. He explains that he believes parents make a mistake when they give in to a trantrum, and if Austin's mom, for example, stopped paying attention to him when he threw a fit, he would stop throwing them. Austin agrees. Dr. Phil also addresses the topic of spanking and says he thinks a child has the right not to be hit. He tells the kids to negotiate with their parents, give them respect and always be honest with them. The parents have the responsibility to calmly respond, rather than yelling and screaming. He reminds the kids that their parents love them and are committed to them. Dr. Phil offers Shannon the opportunity to get an education with the program he told her mom about. Shannon agrees to give it a try.
Next, the parents and children sit down to write their family contract, which will address their dreams and goals as a family, with expectations they all agree on, and positive and negative consequences. Afterward, the group participates in an exercise where they share the positives qualities they see in each other, bringing some of them to tears.
Update: Janice says Austin no longer whines to the degree that he used to, and she says she is trying not to allow her guilt to be the basis of any bad decisions concerning her children. Shannon is now back in school, thanks to the Aspen Education Group. Laureen says Shannon writes her weekly letters saying that she loves and misses her. Tiffany and Ron say there are good days and bad with their daughters, but overall, Ron says he sees progress and believes they can get through it together. Lastly, Tammie says she and Davia are not doing well at all. Tammie says she got so angry at Davia, she wouldn't talk to her for three days. Stay tuned when Dr. Phil brings Tammie back for more advice.