August 10, 2006
A regular contributor to Dr. Phil shows dealing with hard-hitting teen issues, Jay McGraw has been assigned the task of bringing a young person’s perspective to topics ranging from runaways, to drug abuse, to bullying. After taping an episode titled, “Ask Dr. Phil, with Teens,” Jay sits down for a Q&A.
Q: “It’s obvious you have a wonderful relationship with your father. But there must have been a time when you had a rebellious phase and you and your dad didn’t see exactly eye to eye?”
A: “Probably the only thing my dad and I had conflict over was school,” admits Jay. “Because he was old enough to realize it was important. I thought it was a place that had a great basketball team. I had no interest in studying and it frustrated my dad to no end that I didn’t have a ‘great thirst for knowledge,’ as he calls it. I didn’t want to rush home, whip out the books and just start reading Shakespeare. It was very tedious for me to go to school and do well because I had no interest in it.”
Q: “Your dad talks about parents needing to explain the logic behind their rules to their kids. Was your father successful at that with you? Did he try showing you the logic behind the importance of an education?”
A: “Yes, he showed me the logic and that’s what made me do it. But I still didn’t like it! It wasn’t something I was into. But I’ve changed. I take it seriously now because I realize you do use it for something. That’s one of the best things about my dad and my mom as parents. They don’t make rules that even seem arbitrary. You realize the rules they have are there for a reason. It’s because they love and care about you. They want the best for you, not the worst for you. That’s what makes it easier to accept their rules.”
Q: “And having no arbitrary rules is important. Dr. Phil talks a lot about the need for parents to empower their children so that they can have a sense of mastery over their lives. I’m not sure if everyone understands exactly what that means. Can you elaborate on how that worked with you?”
A: “Yes. At the basic level, it’s really hard to disagree with something you thought of. If it’s your idea, it must be good idea. Otherwise, you wouldn’t have had it. So if it’s your idea to get punishment X for behavior Y, when that happens, it’s pretty hard to disagree with it and say it isn’t fair. How can you say it wasn’t fair when it was your idea?”
Q: “In other words, when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences.”
A: “Yes, I heard that [phrase] a thousand times a month!”
A: Jay laughs, "My dad's cool. He was always involved. He coached the teams [I was on] because he's the ultimate athlete. He's great at that. So we had a lot in common as I was growing up. But he knew his boundaries. He didn't try to be like one of us. He just tried to be a fun dad."
Q: "On today's show, there was a funny moment. Your father tried to tell a mom to lighten up about her teenage son's clothing and you reminded him that he made you change your clothes for church."
A: "Yeah, my parents let me dress the way I wanted - to an extent. Sometimes I wish they hadn't because I look at pictures of me as a kid and think, 'Oh, my gosh. I look like a dork!' They made me dress up for church when I wanted to wear shorts and tennis shoes."
Q: "On a serious note, when you interview teens on the show facing tough issues, you seem taken aback by kids in situations where there is no unconditional love. For example, on today's show, Lindsay's mother was rejecting her as a result of her homosexuality. In your interviews with runaways, many talked about being on the streets because their parents didn't care about them. Has working on this show given you a new awareness or appreciation of just how lucky you were to have grown up in your family situation?"
A: "In a lot of ways it has. If you don't know any different, you enjoy the parents you have and the life they let you live. But when you see there are parents who give love conditionally, you're sure glad that that wasn't the way it was at home."
Jay pauses, reflects, and continues. "My parents are cool. They're like my advocates. They've always tried to get me to be able to do things that I want to do. Whereas for a lot of parents, it always seemed like it was an inconvenience. For example, my parents would always go and pick up my friends so they could spend the night. While their parents were saying, 'No, you can't go because I don't want to drive you over there.' So yeah, my parents are great."