Are You Disciplining Your Child The Wrong Way?
Dr. Phil talks to parents who are having disciplining issues and explains what they are doing wrong.
Lori and Brandon

Dr. Phil's first guests, Lori and Brandon, say that their two sons, 6-year-old Logan and 3-year-old Mason, refuse to clean up their room. To get a glimpse of their parenting techniques, Dr. Phil placed cameras in Lori and Brandon's home.

Lori: Can you please, please get this mess picked up?

Logan and Brandon: No!

Brandon: Why don't you guys listen?

Logan: Because.

Brandon: That's not a reason, Logan.

Mason: Because we don't like cleaning up.

Lori: I need you guys to help me out and clean up your room. That's the only thing I ask. What do we need to do? What do I need to take away? [Do you want] some kind of reward for cleaning your room? What kind of reward would you like?

Logan: Um...a scooter.

Brandon: A scooter? No. I think that's a little too much.

Lori: How about a hug?

Brandon shakes his head no.

Lori ends up cleaning up her children's room, as usual.

Brandon: We're slaves to the kids. And I think they know that.
Dr. Phil: Your intentions are good but your methods are off track ... I detected a distinct pattern. You say, "Do it," they say, "No," and then you get up and do it while they watch. They look like plantation owners. They're standing there watching you like you're working in the fields. What part of that do you not get?

Lori: I just don't know what I'm doing wrong. I know that I shouldn't do it for them, but it has to get done.

Dr. Phil: So you think is that it has to get done and if they won't, you'll do it for them. These kids are playing you like a fiddle ... Life law number three says people do what works. So this is working for somebody at some level. The kids are refusing to clean their room because they have no reason to do it. You need to give your children consequences and they have to be short-term. It can't be, "If you don't clean up your room, you don't get a car when you're 16." It has to be, "If you don't clean your room, you don't get something you want right now."

Dr. Phil: If you don't teach them this, you are really crippling your kids because you're not teaching them how the world works. They have to understand that you have to earn things you want.

Dr. Phil also tells the couple to adjust their communication with their children to their level. Lori and Brandon insist that they already do.

Dr. Phil: Are you the ones I just saw conducting a summit meeting with your children about what they thought the penalties should be for failing to comply with your instructions? Do you think that's a 6-year-old level? Let's get to the bottom line here. You feel guilty if you have to discipline your children and disappoint them.

Lori and Brandon both admit that feelings of guilt have prevented them from disciplining their children consistently and effectively.
Jami and Lew
Time-outs aren't effective with 8-year-old Amara and 5-year-old Kayla, according to their parents, Jami and Lew.

Jami: I'm having to tell them something two or three times and they're not listening. I tried time-outs and sending them to their room. My husband has said that they're in there reading books, but I don't actually know. I think our biggest problem is consistency and definitive consequences that are predictable. I fear if we don't come up with a plan, we may have problems when they're pre-teens and teens. Dr. Phil, please give my husband and I some tools for disciplining our girls.

Lew: We struggle with disciplining. We find ourselves frustrated more and more. Every single evening it just seems like we're starting from ground zero again.
Dr. Phil: Is it possible the tool is OK but the application is faulty? Let me go over this with you. You send them to their rooms. Have you been in their room lately? Have you ever been to Disneyland? Do you think that sending that girl to her room with all of her frills and books, games, and her closet is a time-out?

You've also said there is no currency that works with these kids. That's because these kids already have everything. There is nothing to earn and you won't take anything away. You said you won't take away their dance lessons, soccer or bike riding. When you put them in a time-out, you place them in their room — an environment that they have designed. Then you go in to the room and give your daughter undivided attention for 20 minutes. She knows all she has to do is misbehave to get an audience with mom.

Jami admits she feels guilty taking things away from her daughters.
Dr. Phil: Time-outs should be a maximum of five minutes long. A good rule is a minute per year [of age]. Start this at two or three years of age. A child's attention span is real short. So if you leave them in their room for an hour, they lose why they're in there. Your child shouldn't be isolated because it sends the wrong message: "Go away, you're not good, not worthy." You should do it in the presence of others when there are activities going on nearby that they can't participate in.

You have to be willing to take things away from your children for the short-term and not feel guilty.
James and Sarah
After constantly yelling at their children out of frustration, James and Sarah say they feel guilty about their behavior and the effect it may be having on them.

Sarah: All day, all I do is yell and scream at my kids. They'll talk back to me. It's constant. My husband yells at the kids too. I feel guilty because I feel it's affecting them. They'll say stuff and I know they got it exactly from me. I want to find a better way to discipline them. Dr. Phil, how do I discipline my kids without all the screaming?

James: My main concern about the yelling is that the kids will pick it up and it will be a problem in the future.

Dr. Phil: What I see is that this is inefficient. Do you see that this isn't working?

Sarah: Yes.
Dr. Phil: Here is the vicious cycle with yelling and screaming: Children mimic your level of stress. When you are freaked, your children freak right back and the situation escalates. You're also in a vicious cycle of screaming and feeling guilty, so you give in to them.

Then your children begin to learn that love and comfort are paired with yelling and fighting. They will go out and create that in their own lives. They will have very volatile, yelling and screaming relationships because they believe that is antecedent to the good part. Married couples call that make-up sex. But kids get confused about how those go together.

You've got to find out, based on results, what your child's levers are and let them know that those rewards are contingent upon their behavior. If they violate a behavior, then you remove the element. If they behave, you introduce the element. Pretty soon you won't have to yell anymore because they'll realize that if they misbehave, they won't get to watch Sesame Street.