Extreme Parenting: Nathan

Extreme Parenting: Nathan
"My husband's parenting techniques are extreme," says Julie. She has issues with Nathan's military-style discipline of her 12-year-old daughter, Robyn.

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."

Nathan explains his technique: "If I find that there's a mess, first I will ask her to kindly clean it up. The second stage, I will crack the verbal whip. I'm projecting my voice to a very unpleasant tone. If she is consistent in her disrespect, or her lack of responsibility, I will raise the notch up to level three. Then it will raise to stage four. And that includes staying in the corner, locked in detention with her nose in the corner."

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.

"This has gotten to the point that you're actually separated now, correct?" Dr. Phil asks Julie and Nathan.

"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."

Addressing Nathan, Dr. Phil says, "You say that you will get within an inch of her face and scream to the point that your face turns red, your veins bulge, to the point they think you're going to have a heart attack and fall over."

"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?"

Nathan says no, but Julie disagrees.


"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.

Nathan explains that his extreme parenting techniques are effective for the most part. "Depending on the infraction, if I've found her stealing something, or found her lying, or skipping school, I find that I see a lot less of that," he says. "We've been to counseling and had a wonderful counselor who agreed that, yes, I was coming across too strong ... But this counselor said that if I draw up a contract, then there's no misunderstanding between Robyn and I."

Dr. Phil takes him to task. Showing the first paragraph of Nathan's contract with Robyn, he says, "I've been doing this for 30 years, and I've drawn up a number of behavioral contracts. I haven't ever quite seen one like this ... You're talking about keeping her room satisfactorily clean, and then as you go down to the third line, 'Doesn't cop an attitude,' and if so, you'll promise not to yell at her. That's part of her reward — 'I won't yell at you,' and you'll take her out to places like movies, you'll give her hugs every day, say nice things to her, and defend her with your very own life."

"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

that it's an eat-what-you-kill world. You've got to teach her to work hard, and get good rewards, and all those sorts of things," Dr. Phil instructs. "But you have to teach her to love herself, and value herself, set high standards for herself, that's how you prepare 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.