Nathan defends himself. "Having been a Marine Corps sergeant, I have a very low tolerance level for bad attitudes, and sass, excuse making," he says. "While raising Robyn, I found resistance. She would talk back to me, and always try to get the last word in."
Robyn says, "Nathan's yelling is really, really, really intense. Even my little dog, he just gets so scared. He'll cower."
Nathan wants his stepdaughter to know the meaning behind his severe punishments. "The reason that I discipline Robyn is because I love her. And I want to teach her the difference between right and wrong," he says.
Julie is at the end of her rope and needs to see a change in her husband. "Nathan's method is borderline abusive," she says, turning to Dr. Phil.
"That's correct," she replies. "It just reached a point where he was angry a lot. There was a lot of frustration, and Nathan was yelling at Robyn on things that did not seem, to me, to be appropriate to be so upset and angry. And I moved out."
Nathan adds, "I totally admit that I'm a disciplinarian. At times, I do agree that I'm much too harsh. But I also feel that the discipline is necessary, needed, depending on the nature of the child, and the nature of the infraction."
"You say you take a military approach to this. Why is that?" Dr. Phil probes.
"During the first nine or 10 years of Robyn's life, before I was in it, I think it was kind of weak on the structure, and non-existent on the discipline."
When Dr. Phil points out that Julie had threatened to leave Nathan if his tactics continued, she explains, "I was seeing a change in my daughter in the sense that it was like she was living in fear and walking on eggshells all the time."
"I realized after standing back and giving myself a timeout that I had overreacted," Nathan admits.
Dr. Phil reads a list of other offenses: "You've thrown her laundry all over the room and made her clean it up again, because you didn't like the way she cleaned it up ... She's tried to explain to you why the room was not clean, and you just told her to shut the F up ... Have you told her that she's going to wind up being a whore on drugs if she doesn't listen to you and do what you say?"
"And you're separated, and you're saying if it doesn't change, you're not going back, correct?" Dr. Phil asks Julie.
"That's correct. I think that there's a better way to live than to be constantly arguing, and constantly fighting and angry with each other over issues that could just be discussed," she replies.
"I will agree that that's bad wording, because I do give her hugs, I do love her," Nathan explains.
"I graded your paper," Dr. Phil says, and an "F" appears on the graphic of Nathan's behavioral contract. "You have an opportunity to write on the slate of this young woman's life, and you're not putting a good message on there," he warns. "What you're doing is not productive long term."
Dr. Phil advises Nathan to read the chapter in Family First that deals with blended families. "Especially for children of divorce, you have two primary jobs you have to cover. Number one is to protect your daughter. And you must protect her. That is what you are here for, you must protect her," Dr. Phil urges Julie. "And if you perceive a risk — someone is going to erode her self-esteem, it's going to put her self-worth in danger — it's your job to step in the middle and protect her, because she cannot do it herself. She's 12 years old."
Julie's second job is to socialize his stepdaughter and prepare her to be responsible. "Indulgence doesn't prepare; indulgence can cripple a child. Because the world won't indulge her, you've got to teach her
He admonishes Nathan for yelling at Robyn. "I've said a million times, it takes 1,000 'atta girls' to overcome one of those sessions of yelling at her and telling her she's going to be a whore and a drug addict. There is no time, ever, period, in any scenario, that that is a proper communication to a child at any volume level, let alone yelling and screaming. She's not a soldier. You're not a drill sergeant. She is a tender child. And you are a loving parent. If you want to be a drill sergeant, go get in the reserves."
Dr. Phil tells Nathan that as a stepfather, he cannot be the primary disciplinarian in Robyn's life. "You cannot come in to a child's life who is 9 years old, has a personality, has a will, and start running her life as a disciplinarian," he says.