"My Head-Butting, Punching, Kicking, Bruising, Biting, Knife-Wielding 8-Year-Old"

March 13, 2014

Dawn says she’s afraid of her 8-year-old son, Gaje, who she says is violent and out of control. Dr. Phil has some tough questions for Dawn, as well as Gaje’s father, Lee, and stepfather, Michael, about their parenting. Then, he sits down with the boy for a revealing one-on-one talk. What’s at the root of Gaje’s behavior? Plus, Crystal suffers from Fibromyalgia and says the chronic pain and fatigue are taking a toll on her — and her marriage. Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer (GetHealthyStayHealthy.com), shares important information about managing the disease. Will Crystal finally find some relief?







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Dawn, Gaje's motherMichael, Gaje's stepfatherLee, Gaje's biological fatherDr. Phil talks to GajeCrystalRyan, Crystal's husbandDr. Freda Lewis-Hall, Chief Medical Officer of Pfizer

A Family's Fears

"I have become increasingly afraid of my 8-year-old son Gaje," Dawn confides. "He has thrown things at me, kicked me, punched me." Dawn says Gaje has threatened to kill her multiple times, including a recent incident, when she says he threatened her with a metal baseball bat and then a knife, after she took away one of his toys. "He just kept saying, 'I'm going to bash your head in. I'm going to kill you. You want some of this?'" Dawn recalls. "I don’t know what’s going on in his brain to make him be so angry and aggressive," she says, tearfully.

Gaje's biological father, Lee, says that Gaje has busted his lip, hit him in the nose and punched him in the side of the head. "He's very physical," Lee says, adding, "He has told me that he would run me over with a car. He has told me that he wanted to cut my throat."

Michael, Dawn's husband and Gaje's stepfather, echoes their concerns. "Gaje is physically and verbally abusive toward me, his mother and his brother and sisters," he says. Michael adds that Gaje has also become violent at school — once headbutting a teacher and breaking her nose. "He told his teachers he was going to blow up the school," he continues. "A police officer had to come and talk to him. He told the police officer, 'I'll take your gun and shoot you in the face.'" Michael confides, "I worry about Gaje really getting in trouble ... I don't want to see him end up on the news as the next kid who went to school with a gun."

Onstage, Dawn and Lee say that Gaje's behavior started to escalate around age 3, when they were having problems in their marriage and then divorced. "Between Lee and I, our house was a toxic house," Dawn admits. "There was a lot of screaming and arguing and hitting in our relationship before I left."

"So, about the time the marriage falls apart, on the heels of violence and yelling and screaming and chaos, that’s when his behavior begins to escalate ... Is that a coincidence?" Dr. Phil asks.

The parents reply that they're not sure — and have received conflicting opinions from different doctors. "I don't think it had a lot to do with it, but it might have just a little to do with the situation," Lee says.

"No conflict here — you affect a child when that happens." Plus, Dr. Phil reviews a timeline of Gaje's violent behavior.

Disciplining Gaje

Michael admits that he uses spankings to discipline Gaje, because he says nothing else seems to have any effect. "I don't think Dawn really knows how to handle Gaje," Michael says, adding, "Gaje knows that I'm in charge." He recalls an instance when he heard Gaje yelling at Dawn, after he says he warned Gaje not to talk back to his mother. "I went in there and spanked him for it, and Dawn got mad at me," Michael says. "She even threatened to call the police, even though there was no abuse or anything."

"Gaje is intimidated by Michael," Dawn says. "He knows that he can't get away with as much with Michael as he does with me." She continues, "When Michael spanks Gaje, he does straighten up — for a little bit — but it doesn't last long. Spankings, to me, are not effective. It's not resolving the issue."

Lee insists that he knows how to calm Gaje down when he goes into one of his rages. "I try to get on Gaje's level," he explains. "When he is really bad, a lot of times I'll just grab him by his arms, and I have to get right in his face and talk him down ... I'll say, 'Please, stop doing what you're doing. Relax. Breathe. Just focus on me.'" Lee adds that he also tries to encourage Gaje to play outdoors to use up some of his excess energy. "If he's contained in one place for too long, he has meltdowns," Lee says.

Dr. Phil cameras capture a struggle between Dawn and Gaje. And, Dr. Phil weighs in on the spankings: "You're just creating more anger."

"He’s been on a number of medications ... I made a list of the side effects, and there are 72 of them."

One-on-One with Gaje

With Dawn and Lee's permission, Dr. Phil goes backstage to have a one-on-one talk with Gaje, who promptly declares that he's "pissed" and removes his microphone.

"What has you so angry?" And, Dr. Phil gives Gaje a challenge: "I'm going to say four numbers: 7, 4, 8, 2. Can you repeat them?"

Back onstage, Dr. Phil tells the parents, "First of all, he's not angry. He's scared. This is not an angry child." He explains, "I've always said: Take anger out of your vocabulary and replace it with hurt, fear or frustration ... Anger is his way of protecting himself, because he is so scared. At this point, he has a very simplistic strategy for life, and that is, 'Get them before they get me.'"

"Do you want to know why I asked him to remember those numbers?" What did the task reveal? And, how can the parents help Gaje?

Fibromyalgia: An Invisible Illness?

Twenty-five years ago, Crystal, 41, says she started experiencing mysterious pains and intense bouts of fatigue, which she couldn't explain. When she was 27, she was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. "It feels like my muscles are actually being pulled off my joints," she explains. "The pain is usually around a seven, but when I have a migraine, it goes right up to a 10. I wind up in the ER three to four times a year." Crystal says she believes her disease contributed to breaking up her first marriage, after 11 years. She's been married to her current husband, Ryan, for seven years and says her Fibromyalgia continues to present challenges.

Ryan admits that dealing with Crystal's illness can be frustrating. "I work out of town during the week, so I'll be on my way home, and she's tired. She's done. She's in bed. I'm thinking, 'Oh, no, not again,'" Ryan says. "It really does bring me down, and it puts me in a bad mood."

Crystal explains that it took her many years — and going to many different doctors — to finally get properly diagnosed. "It was nice to put a name to it, and then I could stand up and say, 'I'm not crazy,'" she says. But Crystal adds that it's disheartening to know there's no known cure for Fibromyalgia. "I don’t feel like I’m living," she says. "I just feel like I’m existing, and that’s not a good place."

Pfizer's Dr. Freda Lewis-Hall discusses the symptoms of Fibromyalgia — and gives tips for managing the silent but painful disease.