Anywhere, USA: Teens in Trouble: Mertis, Brandon

A Grandmother's Dilemma
Dr. Phil talks to Mertis about helping her grandson find his momentum.
Mertis admits that she's in over her head raising her grandson, Brandon. He's an 18-year-old who dropped out of school and has never had a job. Mertis suspects he might be using drugs.

"I've been taking care of Brandon since he was a baby," says Mertis. "Basically, I got him because I wanted to give him a
chance, and I knew he wouldn't have that with a teenage mother in a very unstable home. My greatest fear is that I will die and leave him here unprepared to take care of himself."

Brandon admits that he likes to lie around the house. "I'm lazy. I don't like doing anything," he says. "I wake up like 12:30 or 1. I have a bad attitude."

Brandon's uncle was murdered when Brandon was 14. "My uncle was a mentor to me. He helped me do a lot of stuff," Brandon remembers. "I miss my uncle a lot."

Mertis worries that Brandon is headed toward self-destruction. "I'm always very fearful that I'll get a call telling me that something really bad has happened to Brandon. I live with that fear all the time," she says, wiping tears.
Dr. Phil pays a house call to Mertis to discuss Brandon's situation.

"He's been a real source of concern for me because at some point, Brandon's just shut down," Mertis tells Dr. Phil. "I always tell him what's not acceptable, but then that doesn't seem to have any impact."

"Does it have any consequence when you tell him that?" Dr. Phil questions.

Mertis says that it doesn't. Dr. Phil reads a quote from her to illustrate her inconsistency when it comes to disciplining Brandon: "'I don't want to kick him out because he won't survive on his own,'" he reads. "If you tell him not to go out, he'll sneak out the front door. But then he'll come home and ring the front door and you'll let him in ... What's going to happen to him if he doesn't get control of his life?"

"I'm really, really nervous about what's going to happen to him because he's not prepared for anything. He doesn't have any job skills whatsoever," Mertis replies. She also tells Dr. Phil that she fears Brandon will start making money illegally, such as stealing or selling drugs. "I really don't want him in the judicial system, if I can do anything about it," she says.
"There are grandparents all over this country that are raising their children's children because they were irresponsible to have them, they've been irresponsible in parenting them, so they get dumped on the grandparents," Dr. Phil tells Mertis. "There's a difference between giving this young man a place to live and doing the hard job of parenting him. He needs some parenting right now. He needs some tough love right now."

Dr. Phil points out that Mertis works every day, while Brandon " who doesn't have a job and is not looking for one " spends the money that she earns. Dr. Phil also says that Mertis has to be willing to get tough with her grandson. "I want to get him a job. I want to get him standing on his feet, and then I want him to pay it forward," he says.

Mertis agrees. "I have spent so much time grieving over Brandon, 'til I just have not really lived," she says, emotionally.
Dr. Phil asks Byron, the associate pastor at the Mount Carmel Baptist Church in Elgin, to accompany him on his house call to Brandon, and also to be a mentor to the young man.

Facing Brandon, Dr. Phil asks, "Do you have a plan for your life?"

Brandon says yes, but admits that he is not looking for a job or going to school.

"Are you doing drugs?" Dr. Phil probes.

"No," Brandon replies, impassively.

"I do not, for one minute, believe that you are not drinking and smoking dope," Dr. Phil declares.

When Brandon asks why, Dr. Phil responds, "I can see it in your demeanor. I can see it in your eyes." He reassures Brandon that he's not trying to get him in trouble. "I'm here to get you moving. We're here to help you because you're a good guy with a good future. You've just lost your way."
"If we can overcome this inertia where you're just kind of stuck, bogged down ... will you accept the help?" Dr. Phil asks Brandon, telling him that he has resources to help aid him in getting a job or a GED.

"Yes," Brandon replies.

"How long ago did you lose your uncle?" Dr. Phil asks.

"When I was in ninth grade," Brandon says.

"When you lost him, you lost your momentum. You lost your initiative," Dr. Phil points out. "Why don't you make him proud? If he were here right now, what would he be telling you about what I'm saying?"

"That's what I need to do " get a job, finish going to school," Brandon replies, looking downward.

"Will you take the help?" Dr. Phil asks.

Brandon says yes.
Back in the studio, Dr. Phil faces Brandon, Mertis and Byron, who are in the audience. Addressing Byron, Dr. Phil asks, "Pastor, what do you think of this young man?"

"I think Brandon is a very good person. I believe ever since the visit that you and I paid to him, his whole demeanor has changed," Byron reports.

Dr. Phil wonders if Brandon has stopped using drugs. "Could you pass a drug test right now?" he asks.

"Yes," Brandon replies.

Dr. Phil tells him that he has a drug test backstage, and asks if Brandon could pass that when he leaves the show.

"As soon as we leave here," Brandon answers confidently.
Dr. Phil tells Brandon that Joe and Glenda Ross, the owners of Gigi's Cafe in Elgin, are on the phone. Dr. Phil asks if Joe would be willing to give Brandon a job.

"I'd be more than happy to start him in the shipping center," Joe replies. He also owns a retail and furniture store.

"You're agreeing to do some other things as well, including making sure he gets up in the morning, right?" Dr. Phil asks.

Joe replies, "That's right. We've agreed, if he's not there, to go over there and wake him up and drag him out."

Handing Brandon a piece of paper, Dr. Phil says, "I've got here your enrollment certificate in the GED preparation classes beginning right away, and also in a life skills class, so you can learn a little bit about how to get along in the world and how to take care of business. Those are all set up for you and it's all paid for. All you've got to do is show up, and you will of course show up, correct?"

Brandon nods.

"The time you quit school was right at the time that your uncle was murdered, right?" Dr. Phil asks. "He was moving you along in school, and you lost him and you lost your momentum, and we want to get it back."