Victoria sets rules for her boys, but they often ignore what she says. "The moment I saw John's tattoo, I realized that he had deliberately defied me, because I told him no. I was just livid. I wanted to scream. I wanted to start pulling his hair," she says.
Victoria's sons will also bully her to get what they want. "A lot of times when they want something, they just start calling me incessantly at work. Every two minutes. If I hang up, they'll just hang up and call back. And call back. Needling and begging," she says. "Frank has a habit of waiting until I come in the door, and already I'll hear the 'But Mom. But Mom. Mom.' And it goes on and on, because he knows that eventually I'm going to give in."
She describes the only way her discipline works. "My most effective discipline is borderline nervous breakdown. I start crying, screaming,
Victoria says that she is now ready to date again, but her boys are not happy about it. "It didn't matter if the man was nice, successful, young, old, had three arms — they did not want to accept anybody else dating their mom," she says. "They would ignore if the man asked a question or tried to be polite. They gave one-word answers. Borderline rude. Let the person know, 'This is my house. She is my mom. You're an alien here.'"
"I feel like my method has failed, maybe I have failed. I feel like there's something maybe someone should be teaching me," Victoria admits. She turns to Dr. Phil for help. "How do you discipline a boy who's a young man?" she asks.
"What's the biggest challenge?" Dr. Phil asks Victoria.
Victoria says that disciplining the boys is her biggest challenge. "I'm between ages. On one hand they're screaming they're men — having reached 18 or beyond — and on the other hand they're acting like
"At some point along the way, they decided that they had permission to yell at you, scream at you, disobey you and just kind of do whatever they wanted to do," Dr. Phil says to Victoria. For example, the tattoo. "How did that get to be OK?"
Victoria explains that her sons are honor students and they have used that as leverage. "They will turn to me and say, 'I've earned these As, and I've done what you asked of me,' so they think that gives them leeway to do certain things and get away with certain issues or situations," she says. "This is still not allowable to have your children disrespect you at times or think they can roll over on you. I was raised in a strict household, and I feel like I've kind of faulted, and I feel guilty about that."
Dr. Phil's sons, Jay and Jordan, are 26 and 19. "Our goal with them was to say, 'If we're successful as parents, then that means we're going to have raised them, we're going to have prepared them in a way that when they go out on their own, they're going to be successful in the world," he explains. He says that Robin has always been the only woman in the house. "She's always had to have rules and teach these boys how you treat women in a respectful way," he says.
"The truth is that you're past the point where you can really discipline these boys in a way that you could when they were 2, 4, 6, 8 or 10," Dr. Phil tells Victoria. "But that doesn't mean that you're without tools."
Victoria says another issue is that her ex-husband undermines her authority by buying their sons lavish gifts. "He never believed that was proper prior to the divorce," she
"If you say, 'Boys, you're not going to drive those cars. You can't have them,' then you become the bad guy," Dr. Phil points out.
"I was the bad guy for a couple of months," Victoria agrees.
"You're at a point where you always have to step back and say, 'I'm going to negotiate something here,'" Dr. Phil tells Victoria. "You do have control of currency. You pay the bills. You provide the house. You do a lot of the things that they take for granted, but you've got to say, 'If you guys want to live here and have the comforts that you have, and have a roof over your head and all of the things you've come to expect growing up, with that privilege comes responsibility.'"
Dr. Phil repeats some of Victoria's previous statements. "You say, 'There is no follow-through. If I punish one of the boys and say, "You can't go out," not only do I cave in, pretty soon I'm at his room begging him to go out,'" he says.
"He turns to me then and says, 'I'm not going. Don't bother,'" Victoria says. "Like I did something wrong."
"You're being guilt induced," Dr. Phil points out. "You've got to give yourself permission to say, 'Wait a minute, I'm the parent here. I'm the adult here. If I want to date somebody, I'm going to date somebody.'" Dr. Phil warns her not to say things in a fit of anger, but rather, have a calm conversation with the boys. "Make the decision, 'Wait a minute.
Dr. Phil continues. "This really isn't about them. This is about you saying, 'You know what? I don't need to feel guilty because we are divorced. I don't need to be trying to make it up to them because some things have happened in their life,'" he tells her.
"I'll find myself telling the boys, 'I didn't do anything wrong here,'" Victoria says. "I feel like they're making me feel, at times, badly."
"They can't make you feel that way. The reason you're feeling that way is because you're saying it to yourself as well," Dr. Phil says. "You didn't do anything wrong here, and you need to understand that when kids go through a divorce, what they need more than anything else is structure, and guidance and strength. That will only begin when you say, 'I have the right to have rules in my life and my home.' And embrace that right and do not let them take it away from you. And you will be amazed at how fast bright young men will recognize and respect that."
Growing up Gotti can be seen Mondays at 9 p.m. on A & E.