"On the outside, we appear to be a normally functioning family, however, on the inside, I am a screaming banshee," says Karen, a stay-at-home mother of five children who says her anger is "off the charts." "I am an angry mom. I take out my anger on the kids. 'You are a stupid idiot. Why are you so ******* stupid? Why are you being such a little bitch?'"
Karen's husband, Jim, says, "When I met Karen two and a half years ago, she had four children. I always knew she was very feisty, and that's what I liked about her." About Karen's anger, he says, "I don't like to step in because I don't feel the kids should see us on separate teams."
"Anything can set me off. I can get really nasty," says Karen. "I wanted the Dr. Phil show to put some cameras in my home, so they could capture my anger on a day-to-day basis. They definitely caught it."
Cameras in their home reveal a volatile morning.
Karen overhears her 10-year-old son, Brandon, and her 9-year-old daughter, Shayna, at the breakfast table. "I heard Brandon call Shayna a name. He denied having said anything," Karen explains. "I went to try and cuff him on the top of the head, and he covered his head with his arms. That made me angrier."
Karen hits Brandon on his head repeatedly.
Brandon: Ow, Mom, that kind of hurt.
Brandon runs from the room.
Karen: I heard you, and I'll show you 'kind of hurt!'
Karen: Brandon, get out here!
Brandon: I'm coming, Mama.
Karen: Get your coat, get your **** and get out the door!
As Brandon gathers his stuff to leave, Karen gets up from the table and charges him.
Karen: What is the matter with you! Why are you doing this?
What Karen is doing to Brandon is unclear, but Brandon issues a series of cries. As Karen's other children look on, Brandon pleads with his mother.
Brandon: Ow, no, ow, stop, please. Oh, that hurt.
Brandon runs from the room. Karen follows him off camera.
Karen: Get in your room!
Brandon cries audibly out of the camera's view as Karen screams at him.
Karen: (screaming) What is the matter with you?
"He was hollering, wailing, and that was just making me angrier and angrier and angrier," recalls Karen.
Brandon: Mommy, ow. Ow, ow, ow, ow!
Karen: Quit screaming!
Later, in an interview, Brandon explains, "She took me into my room, and then she hit me. She ripped my sweater. When she picked me up, she accidentally dropped me. She flipped me over and it hurt, and she wouldn't believe me that my knee hurt."
Brandon: Oh, that hurt! Oh, my knee.
Karen: Stop it! Stop it!
Brandon: I can't.
Karen walks back into the room.
Karen: You are such a ******* idiot.
Brandon: I can't walk, my knee.
Karen: Oh, ********!
Brandon: It hurts. Please, Mom.
As Brandon limps past his mother, she kicks him, and he cries out in pain.
"We had to go to school right away. Everybody's asking me, 'Oh, why is your sweater ripped? What's wrong?' I said, 'I don't remember how,'" recalls Brandon.
Brandon grabs his stuff and opens the door to leave.
Karen: I ******* hate you some days, you know that?
Karen turns to Shayna.
Karen: And what did you do in all this?
Shayna: Nothing, Mama. I was just, um "
Karen: Proud of yourself now? Walk around like you're some ******* little bitch?
"This happens at least every other day," admits Karen. "I have told my kids that I hate them. I threaten if they don't smarten up, then they won't have a mommy anymore. My 9- and 10-year-old get the brunt of my anger. I'm verbally abusive and degrading to them daily. I have spanked a lot harder and a lot longer than I should have. I'm angry all the time. I have convinced my kids that it's their fault. I walk around the house so full of rage, I just can't even put it into words. I am at the end of my rope."
Dr. Phil asks Karen, "What are you doing? These are your children, this is your flesh and blood sitting there. You're calling them names, you're hitting them, you're kicking them, you're doing this in front of the 3-year-old twins, and you turn to your 9-year-old daughter and say, 'What are you doing, you **** little bitch?' Tell me, under what theory, what rationale, that's OK?"
"Well, you must tell yourself it's OK, because you give yourself permission to do it, and you say you go to that kind of rage three, four, five times a week. So what do you say to yourself that permits you to bully and abuse those children?" he asks.
"I've just convinced myself that if they listened the first time that I asked them to do something, that I wouldn't have to get angry," she says.
"So, you're telling me this is their fault? They don't listen fast enough. They don't behave efficiently enough, they don't conduct themselves to meet your standard and therefore, they provoke this abuse from you?"
"That is what I have been telling myself, yes," says Karen.
Dr. Phil shows Karen some home camera footage that proves she can control her anger. On the tape, Karen stops her raging at the kids to answer the phone. She has a short, but pleasant conversation with the caller.
"You say you just lose control. It sounded to me like you had perfect control when your friend called," he points out.
"It just seems to be with the children. I don't walk around feeling angry at other people," she says.
"You do it with them because you can, because they can't fight back," says Dr. Phil. "You can hit them, kick them, cuss at them, call them names, and they don't have the ability to fight back. You just pick on defenseless children, is that the deal?"
"Let me make one thing very clear: This stops today," Dr. Phil tells her, sternly. "There is no way I can look at that and not report this. You know that, right? That's why you wanted me to see this video, isn't it?"
She nods again.