Ask With Teens

Ask With Teens
Dr. Phil answers parents' questions about raising teens.
Sandra and Katie

Sandra, who has made her 13-year-old daughter, Katie, sign contracts agreeing not to engage in certain behaviors, wonders if she's being too overprotective.

"When she's 16, if she hasn't done drugs or had sex or gotten into kissing a boy, she gets $1,000," explains Sandra. "By the age of 17, she gets another $1,000. At 18, she gets another $1,000 ... Katie needs to give us 24 hours notice for sleepovers. If she doesn't call by 10:00, we'll drive by the house just to make sure everything is OK. Dr. Phil, am I being an absurdly overprotective parent?"

"I would like to go to a dance by myself without my parents because they embarrass me," complains Katie. "My friends say, 'Oh, you're the freak on a leash!' I've begun to feel smothered. I feel like a prisoner."
"Do you really want a daughter who is 18 and has never kissed a boy?" asks Dr. Phil.

"No, I don't," says Sandra. "We presented this contract to Katie and let her know that any time she wants to get out of it, she can."

"But it will cost her $1,000!" says Dr. Phil's son, Jay.

"Absolutely," responds Sandra.

"That's bribery," says Dr. Phil. "This has been tried in American history and throughout time. You cannot legislate or buy morality. You can inspire morality. You can do things that teach her to value herself enough not to go out and do things that are self-destructive ... You asked, 'Am I ridiculously overprotective?' The answer is, 'Yes.'"

Dr. Phil continues, "When you give people external rewards for doing things, it blocks the development of their internal values. 'Why am I not having sex with a boy? Because I'm being paid not to.' That's not how you want her to reason through that. [You want her to say] 'I'm not doing it because I value myself.'"
"I found that CD plus another one and I got the lyrics," says Dr. Phil. "Chris, I want you to listen to this because one of these is Tupac, which you like, and the other is Eminem, which Jordan likes. Now this is from the CD that was in the car."

Dr. Phil proceeds to read the lyrics:
"Bleep you and your mother bleeping momma...
We're going to kill all of you mother bleepers...
You better back the bleep up before you get smacked the bleep up.

"You see, what we hear are edited radio versions of this,"
explains Dr. Phil. "But these are the CDs they buy that have all the language on them. It's talking about shooting and killing."
"Do [the lyrics] influence you?" asks Dr. Phil.

"No," answers Chris.

"No," answers Jordan. "I'm not going to kill someone just because I hear it on a song. If I was going to kill someone, I would have had it in my mind already. Not that I do!"

"I'm with you on the music," Dr. Phil tells Chris' mom, Cynthia. "I think it's absolutely out of control. I think what parents should do is realize there are huge differences between the radio version of a song and the CD version. Go get your kids' CDs and listen to them. You will be stunned. And after you listen to them, break them, scratch them, do something."
Cynthia says her 17-year-old son has been pushing his curfew, causing her to spend many nights waiting up for him. On two occasions, he didn't come home.

"His curfew is between midnight and 12:30 a.m.," explains Cynthia. "I just want to know if this is reasonable and how to enforce this."

"Let me answer this a couple of ways," says Dr. Phil. "First off, you need to understand it's just a few months before he goes off to college [or in his case, the army] and he will have no curfew. Have you reasoned with him about why there should be a curfew?"

"I told him that by midnight or 12:30 a.m., he's had enough fun," explains Cynthia.

"You have to give him the logic," says Dr. Phil.
"You know what made me buy into the curfew?" says Jay. "I had a 1:00 curfew except on New Year's Eve. I thought I should be able to stay out later on that night but I had to come home by midnight. I thought, 'But midnight is the only thing that differentiates New Year's from every other night!' But then you [Dr. Phil] explained how more drunk driving accidents occur between midnight and 2 a.m. on that night than on any other nights combined. I thought, 'You know what? I don't want to be a moving target.' So I came home."

"The whole point is, I gave Jay some logic for this that he couldn't argue with," says Dr. Phil. "You need to let him know what it means to you and why it's important for you that he be home. When you say, 'You've had enough fun,' do you really expect that to make sense to a 17-year-old kid? I suggest that you get into the logic with him. Get him to understand and negotiate something with him. I don't think that midnight is unreasonable for a senior in high school."
Jay On Location
Dr. Phil sends his son Jay out to Dallas, Texas to find out what kids are really doing when they stay out past their curfew. After hours inside the local club district, Jay soon finds out that although most of the teens he interviews admit to having a curfew, they are in the habit of breaking it.

When local teens leave the clubs and meet up at a local gas station to drag race their cars, they're flirting with danger. Jay explains: "When I turned 16, they had seven memorials on the median, right here in the street for kids who died doing the exact same thing that the kids are doing tonight. You think your kid is at home safe or spending the night at a friend's house, but he could be out here ... It's 3:42 a.m. Most of the people here are teenagers and I don't know if their parents know where they are, but I do know why I had a curfew."
Lindsay and Rene

Lindsay, 15, recently told her mother Rene that she is a lesbian. Her mom didn't take the news well, saying, "It made me sick to my stomach, very ashamed, and embarrassed ... It changed my feelings toward my daughter ... Dr. Phil, help me to not withdraw from my daughter and to be able to accept her choices in the future."

To get Lindsay's side of the story, Jay flew out to speak with her.

"Do you try to be sensitive to your mom's feelings about this?" asks Jay.

"I try," explains Lindsay. "But she doesn't accept it at all, so I go through heck because of it."

"Does it hurt you that your mom reacts in that way?" asks Jay.

"I feel like I'm being torn between two worlds," says Lindsay. "I cry all the time at the thought of my mother not loving me any more. I don't want her to hate me for something I can't change. I can't help it that I'm attracted to girls and not attracted to guys."
Dr. Phil asks Rene how she feels after listening to her daughter talk about what's happened in their relationship.

"Sad," says Rene. "Because most of the words I said to her were to try to jerk her out of it, to make her feel bad, to hurt her feelings. I thought it was a phase and something that would pass — that it was something someone else had created in her life and forced her to join in on."

"I do not believe that at 15 years of age you can know whether you are a lesbian or not," says Dr. Phil. "You're in different developmental stages and there are different life forces that are acting upon you. It may be a phase. On the other hand, she may be biochemically and physiologically pre-wired in this way and it's not a choice. It could be as unnatural for her to be with a boy as it would be for you to be with a woman. And if that's true, you wouldn't want to force that upon her, would you?"
"There was a time in America when we diagnosed homosexuality as a disorder," explains Dr. Phil. "Then we learned more and it's been dropped from all of the diagnostic classifications. It is not a preference or a lifestyle, it's an orientation that comes from the inside out. Some people disagree with that. There are religious and social controversies about it. But the realities are clear."

Dr. Phil asks Rene, "Did you love Lindsay from the moment she was born?"

"Yes," answers Rene.

"Did you love her from the moment she was born because she was heterosexual?" asks Dr. Phil.

"No," answers Rene.

"Of course not," says Dr. Phil. "You didn't love her because she was, why would you withdraw from her because she wasn't? This is a time she needs you more than any time in her life. If she is confused, she needs you. If she's not confused and is in fact pre-wired this way, she needs you ... Give yourself permission to work on this. You need to be mom and daughter again."
Cynthia and Chris

Cynthia and 16-year-old son Chris are at odds about the way he dresses and the music he listens to.

"He dresses in big baggy clothes, wearing his pants half way down his butt," says Cynthia. "It just looks lazy and sloppy. There are some people who think it's gang related. And I really hate the rap music he listens to. The biggest complaint I have is the cussing in the songs. What should I do?"

"My mom doesn't understand that it's a style," explains Chris. "She should just get used to it. I like hip-hop and rap music. I don't really pay that much attention to the lyrics. They're expressing themselves with their lyrics. I'm expressing myself in the way I dress."

"This isn't a new debate," explains Dr. Phil. "Back in Roman times, I'm sure they were saying, 'You're not leaving here in that tunic!' Kids are just going to wear different things. You certainly have a right to influence this but you have to give some latitude."
Addressing the music issue, Dr. Phil says, "I'm not sure how much parents know what's really going on with the music [their children listen to.]"

Dr. Phil calls his son  Jordan, who also likes hip-hop and rap, on to the stage to ask him some questions.

"Jordan, do you remember when you had been in the car and I got in it with you the next morning?" asks Dr. Phil. "One of your CDs started playing and you dove from the back seat to hit the eject button."

"I might remember something of the sort," says Jordan.

"Your story was, 'That's my friend's CD,'" says Dr. Phil.