Family Drama

Can This Family Be Saved?

Devin explains how he reacted when Amy came home drunk at 15. "I went and got the video camera. I told my wife what I was going to do," he recalls. "I said, ‘This is going to be evidence. This will be the proof.'"

"My first question toward my father would be, ‘Why would my father need evidence on me when I'm only 15 years old?'" Amy says. "This was clearly a mistake that didn't need to be filmed."

On the videotape, Amy lies in bed with a red blanket covering her face. The covers are pulled back to reveal the words "I'm a drunk loser" written on her face.

When the taped segment ends, Dr. Phil praises Devin. "I think that's the best idea you've had: videotaping her when she's drunk and making her look at it," he says. He turns to Amy. "I think it's a good idea to give you a wake-up call about that."

"He always sees everything as black and white with Amy and Ashley," Loretta says. "With teenagers, you have to have flexibility."

"Not when it comes to drinking at 15," Dr. Phil says. He expresses frustration with the family's right-fighting attitude. "Not one person here has said, ‘Dr. Phil, what can I do to make this situation better?' Not one person here has said, ‘I have ownership in these problems, and I want to know what I can do to improve the situation.'"

"I don't think the question is more so, ‘What can I do?'" Amy says. "It's more like, ‘Can I do anything to fix the damage that's been done?'"

"You don't like yourself when you tell your parent to [expletive]," Dr. Phil says. "You're not proud of that, are you?"

"No," she replies, wiping away tears.

"I'm not going to lie. I don't like a lot of myself, so I can see where you're coming from," Ashley says.

"You want to hold yourself to a higher standard. You're better than this," Dr. Phil tells the twins.

Dr. Phil drills down to the heart of the parenting issue. "You are so bent out of shape about what you think is abusive behavior from him to them, that you go around behind it and try to make it all OK by indulging it," he tells Loretta.

"Right," she replies.

"That's no gift to them. Two wrongs don't make a right," Dr. Phil chides. "I'll tell you where you get the most rebellion from children: in highly restrictive parenting or extremely over-indulgent parenting. Children rebel in the extremes of the continuum, and you've got it both."

"I'm just tired of being in a position where I'm not getting anything anymore. There's no emotional love," Loretta says, dabbing at her cheeks with a handkerchief. "You said, ‘You have to have a soft place to fall.' I haven't had one, so I guess I have leaned on [my daughters] way more than I should."

"It's not their job," Dr. Phil says.

He turns to Devin. "You are very defensive, because you've been under attack nonstop for a long, long time," he observes.


"Absolutely," Devin says.

"Many of the things you do are indefensible," Dr. Phil says. "You're not an evil guy, but you've got to be willing to hear and make some changes in what you do. Every situation needs a leader, and it's got to be you in this situation. You've got to decide you are going to disengage from the combat. You say, ‘I don't favor my 4-year-old son. In my perception, you do. I don't think it's even a close call. I'll tell you why you do. At this point, he loves you unconditionally. At this point, he thinks you're 10-feet tall. At this point, he thinks you get up every morning, 30 minutes before he does, and let the sun out. They, on the other hand, think you are an evil-doer, so you get rejection and criticism here. You get unconditional love from him. It's very natural that you would gravitate toward that, but you need to understand these children aren't finished being parented."

Dr. Phil says he will provide resources to help the family get back on the right track. He also advises them to watch the show several times to get a wake-up call about their right-fighting.