Taking the Next Step: How to Be a Better Parent

Laureen sought help from Dr. Phil because she was struggling to parent her 16-year-old daughter, Shannon:

"My daughter, Shannon, doesn't treat me very well. I'm being bullied. She yells at me a lot of the time," Laureen said. "Shannon wants what she wants when she wants it, and if she doesn't get it all the time, it's sort of like dealing with a 5-year-old. I try not to give in, but as she gets older, it's getting harder, and I'm getting worn down. She was taking my credit card, and going online and charging things. I told her I was putting my room under lock and key, and she broke in. At one point, there was an altercation here one night, and Shannon got very angry at me and hit me, and I ended up calling the police. I have a lot of anxiety. I don't sleep. I cry a lot. There are times when Shannon takes off and won't tell me, and I'm frantic, searching, calling friends on the phone, trying to find her, and she does it on purpose to get to me. Shannon has been suspended for excessive class cuts. If Shannon's future keeps going the way it is, I'm afraid she's going to end up in jail."

Laureen gives an update since the show:




It is truly amazing what has changed in my life since I first wrote to, and went on, the Dr. Phil show. So much has changed. My 16-year-old daughter is attending Copper Canyon Academy (CCA) in Arizona. CCA is an all-girls therapeutic residential school, which is part of Aspen Education Group.

Her journey to get where she is today began over three-and-a-half years ago by skipping school. From there, she progressed to stealing from me (including credit cards), lying about basically everything, drinking, swearing at me and at teachers and hitting me on a couple of occasions. She was suspended from school for excessive class cuts, insubordination, vulgar obscene language, excessive office referrals and disturbing school assembly. As for the last offense, she could have been charged criminally. At one of her many court hearings the judge presented copies of 64 office referrals that she had from her teachers to her head master … The judge told her that she was a bad person. He told her that if the school was a person that she was the cancer that was festering. Needless to say, she repeated the eighth grade and was failing ninth with solid Fs. Truthfully, I am condensing about three years of outrageous behavior for the sake of this letter … Her behavior, I have found out, was more destructive than I was aware of at the time.

Nothing that I tried worked. I turned to many services for help. The front door of our home was a revolving door of therapists. It was the most difficult, emotionally draining, fearful time I have ever had to deal with in my life. For me, there are no words to capture the "panicked" state that I was in. Just thinking back on it I go right back to the anxiety that I lived every day during that time. I was so afraid for my daughter and the direction she was headed, but I wasn't ready to give up.

All along I had been writing to the Dr. Phil show. Sometimes very late at night I would have "panic attacks" about my daughter. I would be crying. I would literally get down on my knees and pray to God for her and pray for help. My whole family was praying for her. When I couldn't sleep I would write e-mails to the Dr. Phil show, sometimes I would send them, sometimes I wouldn't … Most of the time, I sent them. I was desperate, and desperate times call for desperate measures. I also thought it would be helpful getting my feelings out. I never thought in a million years, that me, unimportant, uninteresting me, would hear back from the Dr. Phil show. One day, after one of my many e-mails to the show, and one of my desperate pleas for help, I got an e-mail back. Am I ever glad I didn't give up!

That day was the beginning of a new direction for me. More importantly, I attribute (without a doubt) what followed after that first e-mail from the Dr. Phil show, and when we (my daughter & I) went on the Dr Phil show, to literally saving my daughter. Going on the show wasn't easy for me. I wasn't the same person that I used to be. I was worn out and felt "beat down" and Dr Phil recognized that (of course he did, dah!) He also saw all the qualities of my beautiful daughter, but he knew that I needed help. Dr Phil told me that I was "in over my head" with her. He met with my daughter, and she was cooperating with him, talking openly with him, and she cried when he asked her when the last time was that she was proud of herself. She said she couldn't remember. I also think the fact that Dr. Phil was interested in helping her encouraged her to want to help herself. Dr Phil told me that help had arrived. That was music to my ears. He told me that he believed that she needed a therapeutic, residential school situation. He asked me if I was interested. I told him that I was very interested. He told me about Aspen Education Group. He went on to say that it was very expensive. He also knew that as a single parent, I didn't have the financial means to pay for it. He told me that he would make the resources available to me and my daughter and no cost to our family if we wanted it. Miracles do happen … once in awhile.

In April 2009, my daughter began her new school life at Turn-About Ranch (TAR), part of Aspen Education Group. It is a Christian based program on a real working ranch. It is a very difficult and demanding program with strict rules. The kids have to earn everything. Nothing is taken for granted. My daughter worked so hard, and I am so proud of her. Academically, she went from Fs at her previous school to A-plusses at TAR. She worked very hard on her self-destructive issues and her self-esteem. She communicated openly with the staff, she obeyed the rules, and they began the process of helping us build a new relationship; a healthy relationship. The staff members at TAR are caring, open and the most giving people you'll ever meet. I love them all and owe them so much. In the local community of TAR, I met kind and generous people who have inspired me to be a better person. When she graduated from TAR, the staff members were sad to see her leave. She had become a leader for the other students. They said that they would miss her helping them; they said they would miss her big smile. I was/am so proud of her. What a difference the right kind of help makes. Compare that to "that judge" who said she was a cancer.

She is now at Copper Canyon Academy (Aspen Education Group) in Arizona. I found out last Monday that because she is doing so well, she will be "fast tracked" from level one to level two. CCA is a therapeutic, residential college prep school with strong academics. This is the new phase in our journey and where we are right now.

I have recently left my RN job in Massachusetts and moved to Arizona so that I can participate in the family component of CCA. This includes family seminars and workshops, plus living closer will permit me to visit with her, according to the school's regulations, and participate in family therapy. She will also be allowed home visits as part of the process later in the program and according to her progress. I have also started training for a new career as a dialysis nurse. It hasn't been easy for me in many ways but particularly since I miss my daughter so much. I remember how things use to be though, and the gift that we have been given is priceless.

I remember on the Dr Phil show that I had told Dr Phil that I would do anything for my daughter. He told me that he believed that I would. I was glad that he said that. I remember that I told Shannon that I would never give up on her. I am proud that I didn't give up. If I had, where would she be right now? She has thanked me over and over for not giving up on her. The better she's doing, the better I'm doing. We are more connected now than ever before. I love her so much.

My advice (and I don't think I'm one who should be giving advice) if I were to give it is: do whatever you need to do to save your kids and don't ever, ever, ever give up on them.

Now I have so many people to thank, beginning with the Dr Phil show. So many people have shown that they care, and I am amazed by the generosity of Turn-About Ranch, Copper Canyon Academy, and Aspen Education Group. I have met so many kind people because of this journey that it has sort of "restored my faith" when I was so down and pretty negative about life. I am beginning to regain some joy in my life … a work in progress. It took me a long time to realize what's really important. Every day, I am thankful."