Ask Dr. Phil: Kara and Ben

Ask Dr. Phil: Kara and Ben
Dr. Phil talks with guests about what is causing their daughter's bad behavior.

Ben and Kara are extremely frustrated with the bad behavior of their 7-year-old daughter, Kailin. "She has slapped her sisters across the face. She has thrown things at them ... She has the mouth and attitude of a 14-year-old," says Kara. Kailin talks back to Kara, saying she hates her, doesn't want to live with her, and doesn't want her to be her mom.
To control her emotions, Kara has started taking her own timeouts in the bathroom. "It's very aggravating. I don't want to punish her in a way that it gets physical, but I'm scared to think of what might happen," she says.


"We've tried spanking, we've tried grounding, we've tried countless things. It's like you're talking to a brick wall," says Ben, who acknowledges that Kailin is worse with Kara than she is with him. "Kailin is more eager to fight with her, and I'm not real sure why." Ben has been thinking of the future with his wife and four daughters. "If we don't stop this problem now, it's only going to get worse," he says.


They turn to Dr. Phil for help.

"You guys get that you're in a battle of will and wit with a 7-year-old and you're losing?" asks Dr. Phil.


Ben and Kara agree. They explain that Kara is a stay-at-home mom during the day, but works a part-time job at night, just to get away from the kids. Ben leaves at four in the morning and gets home at four in the afternoon, just as Kara is leaving.


"Do you think you understand how much [Kara's] up against?" Dr. Phil asks Ben.


"Definitely, because my cell phone rings all the time while I'm at work," says Ben.


Kara explains that after she talks with Ben, she calls other family members, asking for help.


Dr. Phil advises them to see a pediatric neurologist to rule out any medical causes, but he doesn't think that's what's going on with Kailin. "I see 50 reasons that this is happening that don't have anything to do with the neurological stuff," he tells them. "You feel that you have tried and failed, that every solution has failed?"


Kara explains that they've gone to parenting classes and a child psychologist, but nothing works for very long.

"In 10 years, we're going to have a 17-, 16-, 15- and 13-year-old in the house. All girls," explains Ben. "From my standpoint, that's scary. And that's even when they're good. I want to correct this now."


"Well you need to, or I've got four words for you: Federal Witness Protection Program," jokes Dr. Phil.


Dr. Phil explains that this problem is situation specific. "She's this way at home, but she's an angel, teacher's pet, model student at school," he says.


"And at Grandma and Grandpa's house," adds Ben. "Any other relative's house, she's fine."


"What does that tell you?" Dr. Phil asks.


"We're doing something wrong," says Kara.


"She has the capacity, she has the impulse control, she has the concentrations, she has the socialization to do it, but with you guys, she doesn't," Dr. Phil points out.

Dr. Phil continues: "Ben, I believe you are a huge part of this problem. Are you not inconsistent, contradictory, and undermining of everything that [Kara] tries to do with this little girl?"


Ben agrees to an extent, but says that sometimes they don't always have the time to discuss what happened during the day.


"Then you need to make time," Dr. Phil tells them, explaining that the older Kailin gets, the more able she is to express her defiance in more serious ways. He asks Ben, "You have said that when you come home, you just don't want to come down on her. You want special time with her?"


"I haven't seen her all day, yeah," agrees Ben.


Dr. Phil explains that Ben needs to put his wants after what's in Kailin's best interest. He also points out that young girls compete with their mothers for their father's attention and affection. "She's won! That's why she disrespects you," he tells Kara. "You're irrelevant. She competed for Dad; you lost. She has him wrapped around her little finger ... You've got to deal with this child in a way that she can predict the consequences of her actions with 100 percent accuracy ... And what she does now is she can just go crazy with anger and she knows all she has to do is make it to 4:00 and [Mom's] gone and she's playing house with Dad."

Dr. Phil tells Ben: "And you say, 'I don't want to come in and be the heavy.' That's too bad. If you don't teach her that there's a unified front here, that you guys do compare notes, that when Mom talks, she's talking for the two of you ..." he cautions.


Dr. Phil recounts a personal story of what happened when his son Jay was disrespectful to Robin on a car trip: He pulled the car over, turned to Jay and said with authority, "Don't you ever talk to my wife that way again." Jay has never forgotten it.


"You guys need to get together, close ranks, unify the front, and go back through some of those techniques you've thrown away. And if it means you need to find a lever with her, take away everything she's got. Maybe you need to take away her bedding, her toys, her favorite clothes, and let her earn them back. She needs a clear signal that this is a new day. 'I don't know where Mom and Dad went, but I wish they hadn't.'"