A Family in Crisis: Stacy and Chris Face Off: Brianne

Brianne's Taste of Alcohol
Dr. Phil discusses Chris and Stacy's marital woes.
The most recent family conflict involves 14-year-old Brianne's first taste of alcohol. Chris gave Brianne a piece of pie that was made with tequila. Although Chris says that he let his stepdaughter taste just a morsel of the pie, Brianne says she felt violated by the incident because the Mormon religion forbids alcohol.

Stacy says she couldn't believe Chris gave Brianne the pie. "I just looked at him and I was just like 'You do some of the stupidest things,'" she says.

"I just ran into my room and started bawling," Brianne cries in her video diary. "I had alcohol. Now I feel completely betrayed. Chris is my stepdad and he loves me. I'm supposed to be able to trust him. He's not a parent figure. He's taken something away from me that I can never have back. Our trust bridge has been completely smashed."

Dr. Phil tells Brianne to explain why eating margarita pie was an ordeal for her.

"I won't even drink caffeine," Brianne says. "Alcohol? I mean that's a big deal. Even the littlest bit. I can never have the chance back. He just completely took that away from me."

Dr. Phil wants to get the facts straight with Chris. "You knew that there was tequila in this pie," he says. "It's margarita pie."

"I assumed that [tequila] was blended with it," Chris admits.

Dr. Phil looks perplexed. "You also know how committed she is to the principles and values of her religion and her spiritual beliefs, correct? But you fed this to her anyway. What was your decision-making process there?"

Chris replies, "I'm not disagreeing with you that it was a bad judgment." He recounts coming home from work that day and finding the margarita pie on the counter, which had been brought over by a neighbor. When Chris sat down to taste the pie a few hours later, Brianne asked for a bite, and he gave her a piece.

"Isn't it true that you knew Brianne was totally anti-alcohol?" Dr. Phil asks.

When Chris responds that he knew, Dr. Phil says, "And isn't it true that you knew there was alcohol in the pie? Isn't it true that knowing she was totally against it at a very moral, religious level, that you gave it to her anyway?"

"Yes, and it's also true that I told her it was margarita pie," Chris explains.

"Does that excuse the fact that you gave it to her?" Dr. Phil asks. "Are you saying because you said, 'It's margarita pie,' that she should have said, 'I don't want it'?"

Dr. Phil asks Brianne what she needs from Chris that she's not getting. Turning to her stepdad, she says, "Maybe if we just sat down and went through all the rules I have. I'd like for you to know when I'm grounded and what I'm grounded from," she says.

"Can I respond to that?" Chris speaks up.

"It's the new you," Dr. Phil jokes. The audience applauds, as only minutes before, Dr. Phil was urging Chris to speak up.

"Brianne, those are things that your mom and I need to get back on the same page and communicate with," Chris explains. "I don't necessarily know exactly when you've been grounded because your mom and I haven't spoken in detail regarding things going on at home. There are times when I feel like I'm playing catch up, and that's an area that your mom and I need to work on."

Dr. Phil explains that Chris and Stacy need to close the information gap between them so they can better focus on parenting issues. "You two can't be so hostile and alienated and unplugged from each other that you're not communicating about your most precious assets in this whole world," he says, looking at Brianne.

Dr. Phil wraps it up with Stacy and Chris. "You have to understand, when the two of you have problems and you don't resolve them, everybody else in the family picks up the tab for that trouble," he says. "Everybody is affected by that, which is another reason that I've said to married couples all the time, if you love your children, you will protect the relationship between their mother and father. The greatest gift you can give them is to let them grow up, not in an emotional divorce and a barren environment, but in one with constructive things going on and progress being made."