Ask About Parenting: Craig and Jennifer

Ask About Parenting: Craig and Jennifer

"My daughter is out of control. She's lying. She's not doing very well in school. She's making very bad choices," Jennifer says of 12-year-old Sydney. "We're getting phone calls from the school almost every day. I believe if Sydney does not have a bad reputation at school already, she will in the near future."

"My stepdaughter, Sydney, is going on the wrong path," says Craig. "We've caught her in a bunch of lies."

Sydney describes a recent incident that landed her in hot water. "I took a picture of myself naked and my friend, and we sent it to our boyfriends. Her boyfriend sent the picture to one of his friends, and his friend sent it to the whole school," she says. 

"I was shocked when I found out that Sydney had taken pictures of her breasts and sent it to the boy," says Jennifer. But she admits that there were other red flags in her daughter's

behavior. "She's gone to detention more times than I can count. She's had gang writing on her knuckles. Sydney and four of her friends had been bullying a little girl who had been at the school for three weeks."

Jennifer says it's growing harder to trust her daughter. "Sydney threatened me by saying she can get several bruises on her and tell Child Protective Services that they were from me," she says.

"Sydney knows how to work my wife. My daughter, Sydney, doesn't have any respect for me," Craig says. "When I discipline her, she feels like she doesn't have to listen to me because I'm not her father," he says. "It really makes me upset that she feels that way, because I've been with her since she was 18 months old."

"My daughter does not want to live with him any more," Jennifer says. "I'm in desperate need of help with my daughter. She is at the point to where we are looking at boot camps to put her in."

"There is a corporal punishment policy at Sydney's middle school that her mother and I agreed upon signing," Craig reports. "We're asking the school to give her licks." 

Jennifer feels torn between her daughter and her husband. "Craig says that if I do not do something with Sydney soon, he's going to leave and possibly take the boys with him," she says. "I need Dr. Phil to tell me how can I save my daughter and my family before it's too late."

"You think this is on the threshold of just going from out of control to totally out of control, right?" Dr. Phil asks Jennifer.

"Very much so," she replies.

Dr. Phil addresses Craig. "What do you think is going on here?" he asks.

"I feel like my wife and I are not on the same page. When [Sydney is] disciplined " cell phone taken away, MySpace taken away, computer taken away " her mother will let her do things when I'm not around."

Jennifer adds, "We'll ground her, and I'll feel bad because her other friends are calling. They want her to go do things, and I feel bad because I know she has a good heart. I know she feels bad about some of the things she does."

Dr. Phil runs down a list of Sydney's bad behavior. "I know you guys say that you're not on the same page, but she's sending nude pictures, gang writing on her hands, saying, ‘I hate you' to both of you. You say she's hanging out with the wrong people, doesn't care about school, failing math, English, bullying a kid, sneaking out at night with boys, using vile language on the Internet and all the time, constantly uses the N-word. I understand that y'all may not be on the same page, but where do you think this comes from to begin with?" he asks. 

"I don't know. I know things haven't been perfect at home," Jennifer replies. "There's a lot that we need to work on with our marriage and communication. I really don't know where the anger is coming from. I think she takes a lot of it out on Craig because her father is not around."

Dr. Phil asks the couple how they think he's going to assess the situation.

"That it comes from us. We have issues," Jennifer says.

"When she does those things, we'll ground her, take her MySpace away, take her phone away. She doesn't care what we take away from her. She'll go upstairs in her room, shut the door and just stay in there," Craig says. "It starts from us, obviously."

"Kids are born a blank slate, and we write on that slate every day. You could say, ‘Well, she just won't listen.' You need to be less concerned about whether she listens and more concerned that she is always watching," Dr. Phil cautions. "She watches what you do. She watches how you interact. She watches what you model. I assume that you really want to help her."

"We want the truth. I want to know what to do before we lose her. We're going to end up divorced, and I don't know what will happen after that," Jennifer frets.