January 21, 2010
Dr. Phil and special guest Dr. Jim Sears, pediatrician and co-host of the hit show, The Doctors, tackle five childhood behaviors that often leave parents frustrated and reveal the dos and don’ts when dealing with them:
Laurie and Jim’s 10-year-old daughter, Haley, snooped into her mom’s Facebook account, didn’t like what she read, and became hypervigilant about her mother’s behavior. She reads her text messages, disapproves of her clothing and gets upset if she’s late coming home. Little Haley says she doesn’t trust her mother and needs to track her every move.
Dr. Phil tells the parents, “You cannot abdicate control. That’s one of the biggest mistakes parents don’t know they’re making. You don’t want to abdicate control.” He tells Laurie, “You do want to secure your status as the mother. You do need to assert your authority, not just for your own sanity, but for hers.”
Dr. Phil recommends Laurie put a password on her computer and phone, learn how to say no and put down clear boundaries for her daughter.
– Don’t abdicate control
– Do secure your status
– Do assert your authority
Angela says her 9-year-old son will only eat a small list of foods ” candy, cookies and dessert, pasta, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, Sloppy Joes, hot dogs, apples with peanut butter, grapes, flavored yogurt ” and refuses to try anything new. She says family meals have become a battle, and he often goes to bed without eating. Angela worries about the effect his limited diet has on his health.
Dr. Sears says the short list of what her son is willing to eat is actually pretty nutritious. He explains that when his children didn’t like what was served, he didn’t take it personally. “I say, ‘Well, this is what’s served. I’m not making you anything else, but feel free, if you want to go make yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.'”
Dr. Phil says Angela should pick her battles. He explains that kids control three things: what they take in, what they put out and what they say. “They have a lot of choice in these matters. This is their power. Sometimes we have to fight those battles, but those are three that if you can avoid fighting those, you need to avoid fighting them.”
Dr. Phil explains that she can’t guilt-induce her son into liking something. “What you don’t want to do is make this a battleground because it foretells an eating disorder. You don’t want to make this a huge issue. And I promise you, kids will eat the placemat when they get hungry enough,” he says. “This kid will start eating. He’ll find what he likes, and he’ll start eating, and he’ll go through this phase of being picky.”
Dr. Sears says if Angela includes her son in preparing the meals, he can choose foods that he will eat.
“If he feels like he has control, there will be less anxiety, there will be less resistance. This had become a battle of wills. You don’t want that. You want to disengage from this,” Dr. Phil says.
– Don’t pick wrong battles
– Do consider child’s desires
Vicki says her 7-year-old daughter, Raelee, is very selective about what clothes she wears and the way she looks. She changes her clothes repeatedly and throws a temper tantrum every morning if her outfits don’t perfectly match and her shoes aren’t just right. Is this a sign of something more serious? “I just want her to be happy. I don’t want her to worry about the way she looks at 7,” the mom says.
Dr. Phil tells Vicki, “I think this is a little girl who, on the upside, is taking pride in how she looks. She pays attention to it. It matters to her if she has a spot on her shirt.” Dr. Phil tells Vicki to consider letting Raelee have an impact on what clothing is bought for her and maybe having fewer clothing choices would help.
Dr. Sears says, “She has some anxiety about how she dresses, and I think you’re treating that with more anxiety. You’re yelling at her, her brothers are yelling at her, and she’s kind of getting the message that ‘I’m not good at dressing myself, so I’m going to have to really obsess about how I look.'” He recommends that Vicki ask her daughter for fashion advice and opinion when she gets dressed, to take the focus off herself.
Dr. Phil says he and Robin let their son, Jay, wear his Hawaiian Jams shorts and red high-top sneakers without laces every day when he was young, because it made him happy. “You go with it, and they’ll move through it. She has a fashion sense and a desire. Embrace that. Embrace her nuances, but you don’t want to fight her individuality here. You’re picking the wrong battle.”
– Don’t fight individuality
– Do embrace a child’s nuances
Susan says her 6-year-old daughter is scared of all animals and bugs. She refuses to walk from the car to the house if she sees any creature in the yard. Susan says the phobia has been going on for five years, and she worries her daughter is missing out on life because of her fears.
Dr. Phil says all phobias come down to a fear of losing control. It’s important for parents not to ignore their child’s fears but to empower him or her with skills for mastery. A therapist can help, using systematic desensitization. “That is where you teach the child to call up a relaxed and calm state and then maintain that in the presence of ever-increasing stimuli. So, first it might just be the thought of an animal, then maybe the picture of the animal, then maybe an animal 30 or 40 feet away, and then 10 feet away, and then you get in what’s called in vivo, where you’re actually in the presence of an animal in the world. Now the good news is this: This is not a serious mental disorder or mental illness. It responds very well to treatment in a very short period of time. This is something that could very well be resolved in a couple of weeks.”
– Don’t ignore an issue that matters to your child
– Do empower with skills for mastery
Laura says her 6-year-old son came home from school singing the song, “I Kissed a Girl.” What started out as a few smooches on the playground has escalated. A teacher informed Laurie and her husband that their son and some classmates gathered in a circle, pulled their pants down and exposed their privates to each other. Her son cried when they asked him about it. Later, he was caught kissing more girls. She wants to know if this is normal behavior.
Pediatrician Dr. Jim Sears says it’s nothing to worry about. “At 6 years old, when it’s with kids the same age, not an older child or a younger child, generally, we just consider it curiosity,” he says. “In your mind, it’s the same as if he was picking all the other kids’ noses: inappropriate. He’s violating boundaries.”
Dr. Phil agrees. “I think this is exploratory behavior. The big mistake parents make here is to either overreact or under react to this.” He says the child needs to be taught where boundaries are, that it’s inappropriate and rude behavior. “You don’t want to shame a child about this — And if they have curiosity, then satisfy the curiosity at home with discussions, with books, whatever.”
– Don’t label the child
– Do teach personal boundaries
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