Divorcing the Family: Peggy and Kevin

An Explosive Household

Peggy is at her wits' end, thanks to her twin 17-year-old sons. "Jason and Michael are out of control. I don't know what to do with them at this point," she says.

 

Peggy says the boys are rebellious, rude, resistant to authority and disrespectful; they're constantly arguing, fighting, disrupting the household and getting into trouble. Their father, Kevin, admits the situation is so volatile that he often dreads going home from work. He says, "I've pretty much thrown in the towel. I'm just waiting for them to move out."

 

Peggy and Kevin eventually devised a drastic solution to their out-of-control home situation. "Earlier this year, Kevin and I decided to apply to the court to relinquish parental responsibility for Michael because we could no longer sit back and watch him deteriorate," Peggy says. "When we told Mike about the

court process, his initial response was â€lWhy me? What about Jason?' With Michael, the concerns are constant. Mike is the one that I thought was the most trouble."

 

Dr. Phil refers to the incidents, arguments and series of events that lead the couple to their breaking  point. He asks, "What's your theory about what's gone wrong here?"

 

Peggy admits that neither she nor Kevin set a good example for controlling their tempers or consistently disciplining their kids; to complicate matters, she says that the boys also have ADHD.

Dr. Phil says, "I didn't know there was a window where you could go and turn in your kids. If there was, there'd be a long line, I'm sure, of parents who would want to do that sometimes."

 

Peggy says that she never anticipated having to face this kind of situation when she had her kids. "You don't have them to give up on them," she says tearfully, noting that it was especially difficult to watch Mike continue to "throw his life away."

 

Dr. Phil asks, "What do you think the court's going to do to solve that? By terminating your parental connection to him, do you think that's going to stop the self-destruction?"

 

"Quite honestly, what I was trying to do, I think, was to help Mike make the decision whether or not he wanted to be a part of our family," Peggy says.

 

"I'm sorry, I don't get that," Dr. Phil says. "The court didn't give you that job; they can't take it away. They can hand you whatever piece of paper you want, they can sign up whatever you want, he can agree, not agree. You're this child's mother. You didn't get that job at the courthouse, and they can't terminate that job at the courthouse."

Dr. Phil mentions he's not entirely convinced that Mike and Jason actually have ADHD. "ADHD doesn't explain this behavior ... I do have a theory about why these kids are the way they are."

 

Dr. Phil shows Peggy and Kevin video footage of the family interaction in their home that he finds most interesting; outbursts, yelling, fighting and Kevin's explosive temper and expletive-filled reactions to Jason and Mike's behavior. "Are you out of control?" he asks Kevin.

 

Kevin admits, "Yes. I don't know what to do."


Dr. Phil asks about Mike's reaction to the court filing. Peggy says that the process made him angry. But, she adds, "If I really was trying to emancipate him, I wouldn't have waited until a week before he was 17 to send the paperwork in. I just didn't know what to do."


Dr. Phil makes it clear that he disagrees with Peggy's strategy.

"This is not about throwing you under the bus as a parent." Dr. Phil assures Peggy and Kevin. However, he has two key points to convey to the couple. First, the plan to emancipate their child didn't make any sense. "I think that's a bad strategy. I think it didn't work, and the court told you, 'No, we're not going to do that; he's too old. You've pulled him this far, pull him the rest of the way,'" he says.

 

Secondly, Dr. Phil says, "There are four people in this family and five personalities, and the fifth personality is the collective personality of the family. That's what's wrong here. It's not these boys; it's the collective personality of the family."

 

Further, Dr. Phil tells Kevin that as the same-sex parent of his sons, he is the most powerful role model their lives. The boys even mimic their father's behavior and angry mannerisms. "You're not a bad dad and you're not an evil dad, but you are an out-of-control dad," Dr. Phil says. "Do you disagree with that?"

 

Kevin doesn't completely agree with Dr. Phil, but he realizes that his way of dealing with his sons is not working.