Monica says her 9-year-old daughter Carissa "earns great grades in school, but at home with us, she's rude, competitive and argumentative. I'll ask her to do something and she'll stomp her feet. She doesn't want to do it, and it becomes a big argument. She'll argue just for the sake of arguing, even if she knows she's wrong, she'll keep arguing just because it's fun."
Frank says he is concerned that Carissa shows no remorse, especially "when she hurts the dog, when she yells at me or argues with her mother. I don't want her behavior to carry over into her adulthood. I just want her to be a likeable person."
Frank says he believes it's a maturity issue. "She acts like she's stuck in a 6-year-old emotional mentality," he says. "I understand the intellect is there, but she doesn't seem to be getting past 6 years old emotionally."
"This is something that generally occurs between 5 and 7 years of age, and it happens a little later in females than in males, which is unusual because females are usually more feeling and expressive than males.
"But here's what's going on. There's something called 'conservation,' which has to do with the ability to take the other person's viewpoint. And what I'm saying is, Carissa doesn't have the ability to say, 'If I'm inflicting pain on the dog, then let me go around on the other side and be the dog, and I see the dog is hurting.' She has not developed that ability at this point, and that's the problem. The question becomes why do you think you have a child that has not developed empathy?"
Monica answers, "I think it's a mixture of two things. One, I think that it is the immaturity level, but also I think a lot of it is control. I think Carissa enjoys the control. She can hurt the dog because she wants to hurt the dog."
Frank adds, "I also think it's an only child issue as well. She doesn't have a sibling to work through this with. She only has us and she plays us on a daily basis."
Dr. Phil asks, "Would you like a suggestion on what I would add to that? I believe that both of you are afraid of this child. Frank, you're afraid if you don't stay right on top of her, she's going to really be bad. And Monica, you're afraid if you confront her, there's going to be this terrible rebellion. Does that seem to you guys like you don't have an integrated plan and approach to raising this child? You're afraid you have to stay on her like a duck on a June bug, and you're afraid if you do, you've got big problems. It's like she's living with Sybil!"