Biggest Mistakes Parents Make

A Headstrong 4-Year-Old
Dr. Phil talks to the mother of a defiant 4-year-old.
Evan, Rebecca and Avery
Rebecca and Evan have been married for four years and have two children, Avery, 4, and Londyn, 2. Rebecca became pregnant with Avery while in college, which prompted Evan and her to marry. Rebecca says that she and Avery constantly battle. She has tried all forms of discipline " from time-outs to spankings " even creating charts listing how many spankings Avery will get when she disobeys. Rebecca says none of it is working.
Rebecca now has feelings of dislike for her daughter, which she feels guilty about. She admits that she blames herself for Avery's disobedience.

"We need to put blame out of this," says Dr. Phil. "Parents don't need to be feeling blame about this. What you need to be thinking about here is that you have a responsibility for what has happened."
"I feel like I've tried everything," says Rebecca. "The spanking, the reasoning, I feel like I've tried it all and nothing seems to be working. So I feel like it's my fault."

"That's not why you feel guilty," says Dr. Phil. "How do you feel toward her?"

"I feel very resentful toward her, I feel bitter," Rebecca acknowledges. "I can't stand that she makes me go through this day in and day out. I want to break through the whole cycle so I can feel lovingly toward her. And it makes me feel guilty to feel so awfully about my own child."

"Well of course it does," replies Dr. Phil. "It's not about what she's doing or not doing ...You want to love her. You want to like her. You want to feel good about her. But your primary emotion is resentment?"

"Yes," says Rebecca.
Dr. Phil asks, "Are you aware that [Avery] feels [resentment]? Your [pregnancy] came right on the heels of you graduating from college. It wasn't the best time in the world, was it? And then she winds up not being the easiest child in the world."

Dr. Phil explains how Avery is simply mirroring her mother's own bad behavior: "Children are very perceptive. They don't have the word power that an adult has, so their other senses become very keen. She is picking up these cues from you. And what messages is she getting? She's getting anger, spanking, resentment, guilt and frustration ... It agitates her and gets her tense. It gets her absolutely on edge and it's a hair trigger that goes off because she's picking that up in you. Children mirror what they get from their parents."
"Your biggest problem here is that we're escalating. The worse she gets, the more tense you get. And the more tense you get, the worse she gets. You need to take the deep breath and calm down, you [pointing to Evan] need to step in and help de-compress more than you are. She is reading you like a book and she's poking you like she had a stick."

Rebecca asks, "But where does my authority come in? When is she supposed to obey me?"

"She is supposed to obey you when you put age appropriate expectancies and requirements on her," answers Dr. Phil. "You choose your battles to make sure, number one, that it really matters. And number two, that its' something that you have the likelihood of winning. I believe that you should avoid confrontation with your children at all costs because if you ever have a direct confrontation, you must never lose. And that means you've got to pick those battles very carefully."
Rebecca expresses her biggest fear by explaining, "I'm just scared to death to have a 16-year-old daughter that's this out of control. I am really focused on trying to get her to respect and obey, and I fear that if I back off, I'm going to lose even more control."

Dr. Phil offers the following advice: "I want to tell you two things. Number one, love is the most powerful form of discipline there is. I've admitted I am anti-spanking. I don't think children learn from spanking. I think they get alienated and confused."

Dr. Phil continues, "Number two, I'll guarantee you if you don't decompress this [situation] you aren't going to believe what you'll have when she's 16. The only difference right now is that she doesn't have the ability to get the car keys and head out the door."