May 27, 2008
Have you got a whiny, crying, tantrum-throwing, feet-stomping, door-slamming, spoiled or entitled child? When you ask your child to clean up his or her room, does World War III break out? Have you ever thought, who is running this house, me or my 9-year-old? Four families who say their kids are out of control move out of their madhouse and into The Dr. Phil House. This is no summer camp!
Skylin and Robert are newlyweds with a blended family of five kids. Robert’s two boys, Andrew, 12, and Micah, 8, constantly torment their new sister, Kaitlyn, 8, which leads to yelling, crying, screaming and chaos.
Helen says her 9-year-old son, Ethan, has been in the “terrible twos” for the past seven years. Ethan lies, steals, cheats and bullies other kids. He’s been suspended from school and has caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to family vehicles.
Lisa says her 15-year-old daughter, Haley, is spoiled and unappreciative. She’s mistreated her new home and her expensive clothes. Haley says her mother nags her constantly and is always angry.
Wendy is a single mom who lost her daughter, Olivia, three years ago to brain cancer. Since that time, her 10-year-old son, Noah’s, behavior has spiraled out of control. He’s been in trouble at school countless times, including hitting the principal. Noah says Wendy doesn’t treat him with respect, and he’s called Child Protective Services, claiming that she abuses him. Wendy says she hasn’t stopped grieving for her daughter.
Part 1 Summary:
The four families arrive and get their room assignments. After settling in, they begin a dyad exercise. The parents and the kids sit face to face and share each other’s upsetting behaviors. Ethan doesn’t take the exercise seriously, which frustrates Helen. Kaitlyn tells her parents that they make her feel lonely, and Haley tells Lisa that she makes her feel that she can’t do anything right and that she’s not a good daughter. Noah accuses Wendy of hitting him on the plane ride to L.A., and an argument ensues. Noah tells his mother to shut up and then slaps her across the face. Wendy is stunned.
Dr. Phil meets with all the kids and asks about their home life. Noah tells Dr. Phil that he hopes his mother is exposed for the abusive parent that she is. Dr. Phil is skeptical, and when he asks about the incident on the plane, he accuses Noah of being dishonest. Dr. Phil questions Andrew and Micah about how they tease their sister. Andrew admits to being a bully and tells Dr. Phil that he misses his dad and wishes they would spend more time together. Ethan says everything is fine at home, even after Dr. Phil lists all the trouble he’s been in. Dr. Phil tells the kids that he’s on their side and will talk to their parents about making their lives more peaceful.
Sitting down with the parents, Dr. Phil assures them that their kids’ behavior problems can be fixed, but they need to acknowledge their role in it. He begins by showing footage of Wendy and Noah, ending with the slap. Dr. Phil tells Wendy that she’s given up control as a parent, and if things don’t turn around soon, there will be a disaster headed her way with Noah. Dr. Phil suggests that the death of Wendy’s daughter has caused her to check out as a parent, and she needs to begin healing her grief so she can plug back in for her son who is still very much alive. Wendy says she knows she needs to move on, but can’t face the prospect of letting Olivia go.
Part 2 summary:
In the first exercise, the parents and kids use puppets to role-play a scenario from the past in which someone’s feelings were hurt. Noah and Wendy act out the incident on the plane, when Noah claims Wendy hit him. After, Noah misbehaves and ends up in timeout, where he and his mother have yet another fight. When Ethan and Helen do their puppet show, Helen becomes frustrated with her son for being uncooperative and sends him to a timeout as well. Haley and Lisa reverse roles and act out one of their fights, and Lisa gets a taste of how her daughter perceives her, which is not flattering.
After the puppet show, Dr. Phil sits down with Noah and Wendy, to broker peace between the two of them. They apologize to each other and say they forgive one another, but when Dr. Phil leaves, the mother and son clash again. After listening to Noah complain about his mother, Haley realizes how her complaints about her own mother must sound, and for the first time, she comprehends that Lisa may have a point.
Next, all the kids participate in an experiment called Temptation Table. A table is covered with candy, cookies, electronics and toys. The kids are instructed by their parents not to touch the items on the table, but instead to draw a picture of their family. After the parents leave the room, Andrew, Ethan and Noah act out, pretending to touch the items on the table. Noah shoves and kicks Ethan. Meanwhile, the parents meet outside and talk about how their children seem to have a sense of entitlement. Wendy admits that she’s at the end of her rope and has told her son lately to “get the **** out of my face.”
Dr. Phil meets with the parents and shows them home camera footage of poor parenting situations in their home. After playing a chaotic scene in Skylin and Robert’s home, Dr. Phil tells Robert that his son, Andrew, is begging for more time with his dad, and it would be tragic if Robert didn’t hear him. Robert gets choked up when he explains that Andrew has been through a lot. Dr. Phil tells Skylin that her daughter, Kaitlyn, is a drama queen because that is how she gets attention. He implores them to create a calm environment in their home, take back control and create a unified front as parents. Dr. Phil tells Helen and her ex-husband, Tony, that they are not unified, and plays a videotaped scene in their home of them trying unsuccessfully to get Ethan out of bed. Tony raises his voice at his son and then argues loudly with Helen. Tony admits that their arguments are a big reason why Ethan behaves as he does.
When Wendy asks the question, “What do we do?” Dr. Phil wonders if he’s wasting his time. He tells Wendy that she created the behavior her intelligent son exhibits, she rewarded him for it, and she is the one who is shaping him to be who he is. He tells all the parents that they are in a power struggle, and they need to calm the environment, set predictable consequences, identify their children’s currencies, and change the way they react to their kids. Dr. Phil explains that their homes should be joyous, not chaotic. He tells Lisa that her daughter is beautiful but doesn’t know it, and all the kids have negative internal dialogues, which can be reversed if their parenting philosophies change.
Part 3 Summary:
The moms get to be a fly on the wall when they watch and listen behind a two-way mirror as their kids have a conversation with one of their peers. Noah doesn’t hesitate to claim that his mother hits him and that he thinks she’s evil. Kaitlyn, Andrew and Micah all mention how they wish their parents wouldn’t yell at them. Haley says her mother is quick to get angry and nags her in front of her friends. Ethan doesn’t have anything to say, which surprises and upsets Helen. Wendy is surprised to learn that Noah keeps his feelings inside about his sister’s death, but he’s still upset by it.
Next, since the parents frequently complain that their children won’t clean or pick up after themselves, the kids are paired up and put to the task of cleaning up a filthy room. The youngsters get a “Job well done!” from their parents, but Dr. Phil notes that Helen nagged her son throughout the entire exercise. Wendy gave positive comments to Noah and a big hug when he was finished, but before long she puts him in timeout again. When he acts out in the timeout room, she takes away his cell phone, which earns her a high five from the other moms.
Later, Wendy turns to Lisa in an emotional meltdown. She says she doesn’t know how to let her deceased daughter go, and she knows it’s affecting her son. Lisa encourages her to take it one day at a time and to give herself some credit for asking for help.
Dr. Phil sits down with the mothers and the fathers separately for some no-nonsense parenting advice. During his talk with Skylin, Wendy and Lisa, he outlines a parenting plan that will create harmony in their families. He implores them to use commando parenting if necessary, to be consistent in their discipline and to stop yelling. “When you raise your voice, you’ve already lost,” Dr. Phil tells them. He reminds them to pick their battles and to remember to reward good behavior. Dr. Phil also warns them that things will get worse before they get better, as the kids will push their parents’ boundaries to get them to relent. They must not give in.
During his talk with Robert and Tony, Dr. Phil says they are the most powerful role model in their son’s life, and they need to be the hero. He points out that Robert is a busy father who provides nice things for his boys, but they don’t appreciate their toys and would much rather have his time, attention and love instead. Dr. Phil reminds both men that their boys have experienced a fractured family and will look to their father for how to handle other people, anger and frustration. He tells Tony his being divorced from Helen but living with her and Ethan on the weekends is not working.
Dr. Phil believes that the first step in creating a phenomenal family is to sit down with your children, look them each in the eye and apologize for the mistakes you’ve made. When the parents do this, all the kids accept their parents’ apologies, but Noah is still wary.
Before the families leave The House, Dr. Phil has them each sign a behavioral contract with their children, so the kids have a sense of self-determination and can earn privileges. This agreement between parents and kids will make their relationships stronger.
Lisa says she’s changed her attitude by working on negotiating with Haley, rather than yelling. Helen says she’s excited to report that she’s using the tools Dr. Phil gave her and they are working. She and Ethan are getting along better. Robert says things are better and worse since show. Kaitlyn and Micah don’t throw tantrums anymore, but Andrew is still acting up a bit and more work has to be done in their home. Wendy and Noah have made improvements and are doing great. She says she’s taken back control of the house and is a mom again to Noah.
New Camp for Kids
Deborah Gibson was one of the biggest singing sensations during the 80s. She’s sold 16 million albums world wide and was called The Original Pop Princess. Now she’s starting a new camp for kids who are serious about acting and singing ” Camp Electric Youth. Dr. Phil sits down with her to discuss her new project.