Stepparent Abuse?

July 1, 2014

Dr. Phil continues his discussion with Brenda and Drew, who are at odds over the way she says Drew treats her children. Brenda claims Drew is verbally and physically abusive to her 14-year-old son, Austin, who suffers from ADHD and bipolar disorder, and ridicules her 20-year-old daughter, Destiny, who is intellectually disabled. Drew says he’s just trying to make a man out of Austin, and says Destiny is a lot smarter than she leads people to believe, and he wants to prepare them for the real world. Dr. Phil’s wife, Robin, has a strong message for Brenda — and Drew. Then, nearly three years ago, Lauren says her 2-year-old daughter was brutally abused and murdered by her stepmother. Why does she blame herself, and how can she heal from such a painful loss? This program contains strong language. Viewer discretion advised.







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BrendaDrewDr. Charles SophyRobin McGrawLaurenLauren and Lily
Catch up on what you missed in "Stepdad Takes on Dr. Phil"!

Modeling Rage

"Do you think you're being an abusive, loud-mouthed bully?" Dr. Phil asks Drew about the way he treats his stepson, Austin. "Or, do you think you're doing what any reasonable person would do in a similar situation?"

“At the time, I don’t feel like I’m being a bully when I'm angry and trying to get him to understand," Drew replies. But, he admits that after seeing a recorded interview with Austin, it appears he has been acting like a bully. "I'm not very happy about that," he says.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to hear that two-part answer,” Dr. Phil says. “You have the capacity for some insight. You can get some objectivity and look at it and say, ‘I can do that better.’”

Dr. Phil explains that teenagers' brains are not fully developed: "They don't reason well. They don't have maturity." He tells Drew that teens look to their parents to model how they should behave — and says he is modeling rage for Austin. "She won't protect him from you," he says, indicating Brenda, "and he can't overpower you. So he just sits there and builds a rage inside ... and the first chance he gets, he's going to vent rage." Dr. Phil adds that children who are abused are at a much higher risk for coming into conflict with authority and spending time in jail. "You're not teaching him to be a man. You're teaching him to be in trouble," he insists.

"You may not know this, but you're breaking the law," Dr. Phil adds, warning Drew that his behavior constitutes child abuse under the laws of his state. He tells Brenda that she, too, is breaking the law by failing to report it. "You know it's happening. Failure to report is breaking the law," he explains. Dr. Phil introduces Dr. Charles Sophy, Medical Director for the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, who agrees.

"You said, 'Sometimes I think I should never have gotten with Drew ... but I'm afraid of being alone.'"

"It takes 1,000 'Atta boys' to erase one 'You're an idiot.'" Is Drew ready to make a change?

Robin Weighs in

Dr. Phil adds his wife, Robin, to the conversation. "From a mother's perspective, what do you say is her duty — her responsibility — for these children?" he asks.

Robin has a warning for Brenda. "Your job is to protect those babies ... and you're not doing that."

Robin tells Brenda that Drew is like a "big schoolyard bully," adding that he behaves the way he does because other people allow it. "That would be you," she emphasizes. She adds that she doesn't think Drew is an evil man, and Dr. Phil agrees. "He came here because, at his core, he wants to do better."

Finding Happiness

Dr. Phil says that he thinks Drew's behavior is completely unacceptable and cannot continue. "But he's here. He came here. And he said to me — I think in honesty — 'You give me a better tool box, and I'll use it.'" He turns to Drew and says, "When you're raging like that, you must be miserable inside."

"By all means, I am," he responds. "I would love to be happy ... But I have to figure out how to get there. I have been trying and trying, but not everything works."

“You both are dealing with children that present some management issues," Dr. Phil acknowledges. "Because you have some additional challenges, you need to have some additional management tools." He tells Drew that he needs help controlling his anger. "When people show anger, it's just an outward manifestation of hurt, fear and frustration," Dr. Phil explains. "You need to work some of these things out ... I want to help you get that chip off your shoulder about them being defiant and not following directions." He continues, "What you want is to be happy, not right." Dr. Phil offers professional resources to help them, and Drew accepts.

A Mother's Grief

Nearly three years ago, Lauren says she received a call from her 2-year-old daughter, Lily's, father, telling her there had been an accident, and she needed to get to the hospital immediately. By the time Lauren arrived at the hospital, Lily had passed away. In the end, a jury found that her death was not an accident, and convicted Lily's stepmother, Renee King, of felony murder, child abuse in the first degree and criminal sexual conduct in the first degree. Renee received a life sentence.

"Lily’s stepmother killed her because she was jealous of the relationship Lily and I had," Lauren claims. She says that Lily spent a lot of time alone with Renee while her father was at work. She recalls that Lily would cry every time she dropped her off at her father's house. Lauren also says that Lily started coming home with bruises on her arms and legs — and even a burn on her neck. "The excuses I was told were that she was clumsy. She fell all the time." Lauren confides that, on the morning Lily died, her daughter begged her to not make her go to her father's house. "The last promise I made her was that, one day, she wouldn't have to go to her dad and Renee's again," she says tearfully. "The last time I saw my daughter, she was screaming and crying."

Lauren says she documented Lily's injuries — including a cigarette burn and two black eyes.

"You were anything but asleep at the switch here ... You can't play the 'what if' game."

Dr. Phil tells Lauren that although she can't bring Lily back, she can honor her memory by using her story to help others avoid a similar tragedy. "I guarantee you, millions of people are watching this show right now," he says. "Among those millions, someone is hearing your story who's going to pick up the phone and save their child because of you and Lily.”

He adds that the grief process is different for everybody and tells Lauren that it's OK to be hurt and upset. "Those things don't mean that you're losing it. It just means that you're grieving the loss of this wonderful, precious child." Dr. Phil offers to provide Lauren with whatever help and resources she needs, and she accepts.

Dr. Sophy gives important information on the warning signs of child abuse.

Renee's Statement

Renee's King's attorney provided with the following statement on her behalf:

"Renee King’s convictions are currently under appeal. Renee mourns the loss of Lily every day of her life. Renee would never do anything to intentionally hurt Lily and loved her as she loved her own children. I only hope that one day Ms. King is granted a new trial as she is truly innocent of the crimes of which she has been convicted."


If you suspect that a child is being abused, please call the National Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 4-A-CHILD (422-4453).

If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship and needs help, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at (800) 799-SAFE (7233).