Biggest Parenting Problems: Jennifer and Brantley

Biggest Parenting Problems: Jennifer and Brantley

"My husband and I disagree on disciplining our son. It's war," says Jennifer. She and her husband, Brantley,

are parents to 23-month-old Garrett. "I am not OK with spanking. I don't think that spanking does any good. I have to have a better relationship with [Garrett] than fear and hate."

"I believe in spanking," says Brantley. "We have a 2-year-old son that runs our household. Garrett screams. Garrett bites. He constantly hits his mother. 'No' seems to be the only word he knows. He can spit in her face, and she will still take him somewhere and buy him a toy."

Jennifer admits that Garrett acts out and is hard to control at times. "He's crazy when he's mad," she explains, but she doesn't think he's learning anything from the spanking. "When I have spanked Garrett, he's cried, and I think he's crying because I hurt his feelings. I don't think Garrett has any comprehension that my spanking him is a result of his tantrum," she says. "When Brantley swats Garrett
on the butt, I feel sick. I want to support my husband, but I love Garrett more than anything in the world." She and Brantley argue in front of Garrett, and he can feel the tension. "He will play me against his father. He manipulates me. He knows that Mommy's not going to spank him," she says.

"When Jennifer tells me not to spank our son, it pisses me off. We're not talking abuse here, but you know a good swat on the butt. I think pain sends a better message than [talking sweet]," Brantley explains. "I was spanked as a child. My dad was spanked as a child. His father, my grandfather. It worked then, and it will work now."

"I don't believe that spanking teaches discipline," Jennifer says. She turns to Dr. Phil for help. "Is spanking an appropriate discipline for a 2-year-old?"

"You think she's a total pushover?" Dr. Phil asks Brantley.

"Without question," he says. "Complete pushover."

Pointing out that Jennifer and Brantley are loving and caring parents who want the best for their son, Dr. Phil says, "This is creating problems

between the two of you."


Jennifer agrees. "Absolutely," she says.

"How does it affect you when you see him spanking your son?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I want to back him, but I can't, because I'm fixated on poor Garrett. What is this doing to him emotionally? Is he noticing that Mom's not helping him out? Is Brantley hurting his bottom?" Jennifer says. "There's so many tangents that spawn from the one swat on the butt." It also gives her feel bad feelings toward her husband.

Dr. Phil asks Jennifer what philosophy she uses in disciplining Garrett.

"I tend to think, reason. 'Garrett, why are you screaming at Mommy? Why are you hitting me?' I want to get to the bottom of it and logically figure out what's wrong, and teach him to communicate verbally." Jennifer explains. 

"He's 23 months old, and you want to reason with him," Dr. Phil quips. "Here's the deal: That's crazy. At 23 months old, here's his reason: 'I want what I want when I want it, and I want it now.' That's the reason. How's that working for you?"


"It's not," Jennifer admits.

Dr. Phil has Jennifer read a statement she previously made. "I'll do whatever it takes to make Garrett happy," she says.

"You said, 'I'm weak, soft. I melt when it comes to Garrett. If he cries, it kills me inside,'" he reads. "Therefore, this is about you, it's not about him."

"I know that this isn't working, and I know that this isn't right. But, in the moment when it's happening, I can't separate my heart from my brain. When he cries, or if he's that upset, the first thing I want to do, as his mother, is just make him feel better and console him, and show him love."

"That's a great maternal instinct," Dr. Phil tells her. He shares his thoughts. "Spanking, in my view, absolutely is unnecessary. And even if you think spanking does work, it's not efficient, in my view. There are more efficient ways to do it, and giving him anything and everything he wants or sitting down and having a United Nations debate, is not the alternative."  


Dr. Phil explains what it means for a child to be happy. "Happy means that the child is peaceful, calm, comfortable and can predict the consequences of their actions," he says. "And one of the things that gives kids that perception

of control is, 'If I do A, I earn access to B. I control whether I get to watch cartoons' ... It's called currency. And that's what makes them happy."


Dr. Phil suggests a tool they can use when Garrett is frustrated and yelling. They should communicate with him and let him know they heard him by repeating what he says. For example, if he says, "I want that toy," they should say, "You want that toy, don't you?" "If he knows that you've heard him, then really he'll go, 'There's no sense in repeating myself. They get it. I'm just not going to get to do what I want to do,'" Dr. Phil explains. "You don't need to spank, you need to redirect, and you need to identify that currency. Every day that he gets older, that currency is more powerful ... You control the currency, you control the child. You don't have to hit them to do it."