"My relationship with my husband is volatile. We're both miserable," Trisha says. "Everything is wrapped around his control of the children and demanding respect. If they don't give him respect, that just sets him off, and I'm so scared he's going to flip to the other side and do something extreme."
Trisha does not agree with Rafael's method of disciplining their three children. "He would have the kids go outside in the middle of the heat in the summer, carrying a pail and picking up rocks for about three hours at a time. He has them stand at attention for about two hours. He snapped one time, and he hit our daughter, and I immediately reared up and I told him if he ever, ever laid a hand on anyone in that way in this house, I would leave him."
Trisha is especially concerned for their eldest daughter, who is 13. "He really does single her out. And if she doesn't live up to his demands, she gets in the most severe trouble. He came in, and she refused to give him a hug, and he said, â€˜Fine, that's it.' She had to sit on the couch the entire night. I tried to confront him, and he said, â€˜You know, she thinks she's stronger than me? I'm going to break her.' That's when I turned to him and said, â€˜She's not a horse.' I can't stand by anymore and watch my daughter suffer. When he says he is going to break her, I just want to pack up the car, put the kids in and get away as far as I can to protect them."
Rafael says he has to be "the hammer" because his wife is too lenient with their children, and as a result, they're disrespectful. He says he's tired of Trisha undermining him.
"I think I'm hot, but I'm fair," Rafael says. "The child needs discipline. Corporal punishment should be legal. My wife doesn't put her foot down or actually discipline the children. I think it's pointless to send a child to their room. I try to think of things out of the box. This one time I made the kids pick up every single stone in the horse pasture. Since we live in front of a park, I'll think of a new and interesting one. Maybe, I don't know, go get a pair of scissors and cut an acre of the park or something," he says with a smile. "I don't tolerate disrespect. If I'm talking to a child, I expect the child to look at me, engage me. That's simple respect. Our eldest daughter, she needs to set the example. I hold her to a higher, or more rigid, standard. She's going through issues. She's depressed. She's a little overweight."
He explains a recent punishment. "Our daughter came in the door. She didn't say hello, and I was trying to talk to her, and I said, â€˜Well, sit on the couch. When you're ready to talk to me and say hello to me, go ahead and do it.' She ended up sleeping on the couch the whole night because she preferred to take the punishment. I'm a strict disciplinarian, and yes, I'm harder on her because life isn't fair," he says.
"We are basically at D-Day. Divorce is now an option. I'm being backed into a corner to choose. I feel like I have to protect my daughter," Trisha says.
"If you ask my daughter, â€˜Do you think your father loves you?' I would hope to God she says yes. I'd be devastated if she says no. But I have that doubt, and that's one of the reasons I'm here, to see what do I need to do to make myself a better person and create that atmosphere where my daughter's willing to step across that line and give me a hug and look me in the eye and say, â€˜I love you, Dad.'"
Dr. Phil asks Rafael, "Where did you learn what you learned about parenting?"
"I was shipped away when I was 6 to England, to go to boarding school, and basically, discipline was beaten into me," Rafael says. "When I did something wrong, I was either caned or I was given the slipper. I do know that hitting a child, or the way that I was raised, isn't the correct way of doing it. And I don't think that I'm parenting in the way that I was raised."
"If you're so smart and so right about it, why is it going so wrong?" Dr. Phil asks.
"I think that's the fundamental problem I'm trying to search for an answer to," Rafael says. "For two years, I haven't had a relationship with my daughter. She hasn't said she loves me, she hasn't hugged me and so on."
Dr. Phil consults his notes regarding what Trisha has observed with her husband. She says Rafael made their daughter sit on the sofa with no dinner until 6 a.m., he made her stand at attention for over two hours because she did not wipe the counter, he's called their daughter "lazy," "idiot" and "stupid," he's made their kids pick up rocks in the hot sun for three or four hours, he's told their daughter, "I will break you," and he's said, "It's me, myself and I. I'm wired to be independent, I am non-emotional, and I will write her off if she doesn't shape up," and "It's my way or the highway. Parents should be able to hand down punishments as they see fit behind closed doors."
"I have said them, but there's a reason why those comments are said," Rafael says.
"I don't want to take it out of context, so I'm going to give you the opportunity now to frame that up for me within context," Dr. Phil says.
Rafael says it all comes from the way he was raised. "I think a child should show discipline to a grownup, they should acknowledge you when [they're being spoken to.] I think that's simple respect, so when you're talking to a child, there should be at least that engagement in the eyes. I think a child, when they come in, regardless, should at least acknowledge the parent. It's simple respect. It's the foundation of what I think is a family," he says. "One of my pet peeves is when a child, when I'm talking to my wife, just jumps into the middle of a conversation and interrupts. And I try to create an environment " good, wrong or indifferent " with the skills that I have as a parent, whether it be making her feel guilty, whether it be punishing her, whether it be these things. Unfortunately, I came up with an environment that was very totalitarian."
"OK, but you're an adult now," Dr. Phil points out. "I mean, I understand that you were raised in a certain way, and you've said that some of the beatings you got were not appropriate, but you're an adult now. If you think these things are OK, then we have one problem. If you think they're not OK because they're not working, then we have another problem."
"I can acknowledge what I'm doing is not working," Rafael says.
"Do you acknowledge that it is crossing a line?" Dr. Phil asks Rafael.
"I find it hard to understand because that's the way that I was raised," Rafael says.
"I think it is absolute and outright abuse," Dr. Phil says. "That's what I think." He asks Trisha, "What do you think?"
"No, I don't think it's to the point of child abuse," she says. "If so, I feel I would've left long ago."
"Well, that's my question for you. You've been watching this. You've been watching him have your daughter stand at attention for over two hours. You've been watching him have her sit on a couch all night long with no food. You've been listening to him call her names and demean her. It takes two parents for one to be abusive. I'm curious why you haven't put your foot down," Dr. Phil says. He looks at his notes. "You said, â€˜I'm cracking. I haven't cried in years but it's building inside. It's over for us. I feel it.' So do you recognize that it's crossing a line or do you not?"
"There's so much in our house that just isn't discussed, which I know is fundamentally wrong, and I unfortunately, being the peacekeeper for the past couple of years, I've gone to [my daughter] without him knowing and I'm like, â€˜Please just do this for Dad so that he won't be so mad because he's very generous.' We're making him out to sound like a monster, but he has a good side â€" "
"Listen, I resent that," Dr. Phil tells her. "I am reporting the facts on behalf of this child who had no voice, so I am being her voice. And if I am saying anything that's different than what is actually happening, then say so, but if you're being made out to be a monster, it is the composite of your conduct. It's not something I'm saying. Have I made anything up here?"
"No," Trisha says.
"Have I misstated anything?"
"Have I taken anything out of context or colored it in a way that is inconsistent to what you have reported to us?"
From what Dr. Phil has learned about them, he tells Rafael, "I don't think you're an evil guy. I don't even think you're mean. I think you're wrong."