Ask about Parenting: Sydney's Side

Ask about Parenting: Sydney's Side

"I feel like I'm not the only one making bad decisions in my life. When my stepdad is out of town, my mom will not come back until 3:00 in the morning, drunk. She knows that we have no one to watch us. I was looking through my mom's phone one day, and I saw that she had been texting some guy. I asked my mom if she was cheating on my stepdad, and she said, ‘No.' I'd ask her, and she'd just lie. I knew she was cheating on him; she just didn't want to admit it to me," Sydney says.


The preteen says she also found drugs in her parents' closet. "It was in a box," she says. 

"When she asked me what it was, I told her the truth. It was marijuana paraphernalia. I told her it wasn't mine and I was going to get rid of it," Craig explains. "I put it in my gun safe until I could give it back to the person. She found the key and opened it."

"I didn't believe my stepdad about him not doing the drugs, because I'd found them twice. I told the counselor at school," Sydney says.

"They were required by law to submit the claim to Child Protective Services," Jennifer adds. "I worry every day when I'm going to get the phone call."

Dr. Phil is troubled by the preteen's video confession. "When Sydney is talking about the things that she's talking about, that's violating one of two rules that I have for children, no matter what the circumstances: Rule number one is you don't ask children to deal with adult issues. Number two, you don't expect them to control things that are above them, beyond them, things that they can't control," he says.


Dr. Phil faces Jennifer. "She's dealing with adult issues here. She says you're having an affair and that she knows it, and that she isn't the only one who knows it," he says. "Is that true or false?"


"No, it's false," she replies.

"You haven't crossed the boundaries with anybody, whether you admit to it being physical or not?" Dr. Phil probes.

"I did have a friend whom I was talking to. Craig knows about it, and we've discussed it," she answers. 

Now it's Craig's turn on the hot seat. "Are you telling me that those were your friend's drug paraphernalia and that you're not smoking dope?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I'm not saying I'm not smoking dope, or I haven't smoked dope, but I'm telling you that [paraphernalia] was not mine. I don't keep it at the house, and I don't smoke at the house. If I go to the deer lease, and I'm out of town, and I'm around my family members " Dad, my brother or whomever it may be " and someone lights up a joint and passes it to me, I might take a couple of hits," he replies. "I don't drink. I quit drinking 11 years ago. I'm not denying anything, but I tell you one thing, the paraphernalia that was at my house that she found was not mine."

Dr. Phil is perplexed. "What are you doing? First off, you're splitting hairs. You use pot, right?"

"I'm not going to lie to you and say I don't do it, because occasionally, I will do it."

"Then don't lie to me by omission either. I want to know what this kid is growing up around, and you are a regular pot smoker, are you not?" Dr. Phil probes.

"No," Craig replies.

"I'm just asking you to be honest, because we've got a girl who hangs in the balance here," Dr. Phil warns the couple. "What you're saying and what I'm seeing don't add up. The reason I'm talking about that is not to throw you parents under the bus. I commend you for being here asking for help, but you can't change what you don't acknowledge. This girl's learning what she lives. She's living in chaos, and she is living with chaos, and she is behaving with chaos."

"I know things need to change. I know they need to change today. I'm ready. That's why I'm here, and whatever we have to do, I want to be completely honest," Jennifer says.

"First off, you've got to decide that you're either going to be married or you're not," Dr. Phil says. 

He turns to Craig and says, "You don't trust her."

"No," Craig replies.

"You think she is having an affair or has had an affair?"

"She has had one."

"Do you think she is now?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"I don't know," he replies.

Dr. Phil tells Jennifer that Sydney believes she's having an affair. "I can play the tape back. You've got a 12-year-old daughter who thinks her mother is cheating on her father. Now what do you think that does to a kid's psyche?" he asks. "What do you think that does to her sense of security and comfort in the home situation?"

"It's not good. I know," she replies.

"How is it your daughter thinks you're having an affair, and why would that even be on her radar screen?" Dr. Phil asks Jennifer. "I would have to think that you were being less than discreet."

"I have a BlackBerry, and she plays with it, and she saw some text messages," she says.

"As a mother, you have not just the job of avoiding impropriety, you have to avoid even the appearance of impropriety," Dr. Phil says sternly.

"I know."

Dr. Phil explains that the same-sex parent is the most powerful role model in a child's life. "She sees you yell and scream, she sees you doing things that are untoward, she sees you involved in things that are outside the boundaries, then gee, golly, what do you know? She's e-mailing pictures of herself to somebody," he says. "This didn't come out of the blue."

He addresses both Craig and Jennifer. "If this doesn't settle down " whether y'all stay married or whether you don't " I'll guarantee you, that girl will be pregnant within 24 months, because she has hit that point, and you're going to have yourself another baby to raise because she isn't going to have a clue how to do it. She's going to be sexually active, if she isn't already. Do you think she is now?"

Jennifer wipes away tears. "I really don't think so," she replies.

"Do you think she's sending those pictures of herself naked because she wants to get on the soccer team? She is advertising," Dr. Phil says.

"I want to do whatever I can do. I want my kids to be OK. I love my kids more than anything," she says.

When Dr. Phil points out the disparity in Craig and Jennifer's discipline, Craig says, "It upsets me because it makes me feel like I have no control. Whatever I say, it means nothing."

"I'm tired of being alone every weekend," Jennifer tells her husband.

"When she says I'm gone all the time, I deer hunt. There's 12 months in a year. Deer season is open three months of the year, so the other nine months I'm there at the house with the kids," Craig says.

"How much time do you spend on the Xbox every day when you get home?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I spend an hour when the kids aren't home yet. If I get home early, then I wait until they go to bed and get on for an hour. So two hours a day, but not every single day," Craig replies. 

"What about me? What about your wife who works 50 hours a week?" Jennifer asks.

"Well, you're on the phone, on the computer and stuff with your work, and everything so " " Craig begin.

Dr. Phil interrupts. "Well, here's a thought: Turn the damn thing off, and hang up the phone!" he says. 

"You guys have gotten to the point where you've said, ‘This is bad enough that we've actually considered sending her to some kind of school or boot camp,' right?" Dr. Phil asks.

"We talked about it, but I knew that we needed to make a lot of changes, so I didn't want to ship her off when I knew there are plenty of things that we need to do," Jennifer says.

"I have to tell you, if I was going to ship somebody's ass off, it would be y'all, not her. This child didn't come up with this on her own. She is living in a chaotic situation, and you guys are going to have to calm down or you're going to reap what you sow here. I have so many people that I deal with who want to drag the child to the therapy alter, pull up in front of the shrink, kick the kid out at the curb, say, 'Fix her, and call me when you're done.' That's not how it works," Dr. Phil says. "This child is part of a family system, and the system is sick. The maternal input here is toxic. The paternal input here is toxic. The system of how everybody comes together is toxic, and that has to be the focus of what happens here."

Dr. Phil offers to provide resources to the family to remedy their situation. "It's not too late. You guys may decide as a product of all this that you want to get a divorce, and if you do, that will be up to you, but you don't make that decision now. This isn't the time to make the decision."

"When you're so upset, and the kids are around, what do you do?" Jennifer asks.

"You be mature enough to put a lid on it until they're not around," Dr. Phil responds. "But you have enough self-control to say, ‘I am not going to vent this in front of my children.'"

The couple agrees to accept Dr. Phil's offer of help.