Family First: Dr. Phil's Inspiration

Dr. Phil's Inspiration
Dr. Phil gives his guests the tools for a phenomenal family.
Dr. Phil shares his inspiration for his book, Family First: Your Step-by-Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family.

Dr. Phil: Let me tell you about a 12-year-old boy who struggled at a time in life when there weren't many resources to lean on. Being 12 is tough " I mean it's tough for anybody " and this particular kid had the unusual circumstance of having been uprooted, moved to a new town and living in a family that was so poor they didn't have money for clothes, they didn't have money for food, living in an apartment with no furniture, no utilities, and literally sleeping on the floor. This young man worked two jobs. He got up at 3:30 in the morning and threw a paper route and then he threw another paper route with his dad. If you didn't work, you didn't get paid, you didn't eat that day. This was a kid who grew up in a family with an alcoholic father, so the turmoil in the home was often ugly, it was often paralyzing, and it was often scary. Also I think he experienced a fair amount of shame, a fair amount of guilt that comes from being so poor. The mother, she worked hard, she sacrificed, she gave of herself.

I know so much about this young man because that young man was me.
Dr. Phil: I'm so passionate about families finding a way to survive " and in fact flourish " and just become phenomenal, because I'm a really good bad example.

I lived in a family in which there was a lot of love. My mother worked as a clerk, standing on her feet 12 hours a day, and then coming home and waiting on the house and taking care of everybody else for another six hours a day, and then getting up and doing it again the next day. She gave of herself thinking that it went unnoticed. It did not. I mean, if you had asked my mother or father, 'Would you die for your children?', in a heartbeat they would say yes, but the truth is, as a family, we didn't handle pressure very well.

My dad, with great regularity, you could predict he's going to be out of touch, he's going to get drunk. I knew my mother was checked in every single day. She was the one stabilizing force. I never knew whether my dad was going to be checked in or checked out. I had sisters who sought to escape that, so the first old boy that came along and told them what they wanted to hear, they were out the door. They were both married before they were out of high school. Then big blow up, tears, crying, yelling, screaming, annulments, divorces, all of that. I mean the family's just fractured; it's coming apart.
Dr. Phil: And I was probably the worst of the bunch. I was sullen, I was pouting, I was angry, I was uninvolved, I didn't want to talk about solutions, I didn't want to talk about anything " leave me alone. I didn't even walk through the house to leave, I'd go out my bedroom window. If I opened my bedroom door and go down the hall, there could be an hour of conflict and strife. If I go out the window, it's quick, it's clean, I'm gone, I'm on my own.

When I went out in the world, I was scared to death that people would know how poor we were, that my dad was an alcoholic. And there's always that underlying anger. I just knew something inside of me was just ready to blow. You wanted a fight? Just find Phil, he'll fight ya. I'd do anything to escape it. Roaming the streets at 3 and 4:00 in the morning " this isn't good for you. The fact is at the time, you don't complain about it. I'm not complaining about it now. It just was.

Thank God I found athletics. There was somewhere to be besides home. And so the good news " I was a pretty good athlete. And it was a place to vent a lot of anger. I mean, give me a sport where I get to knock somebody down and I don't get in trouble? That got me through so many different things.
Dr. Phil: Everybody did what they could, but it was a difficult time and we didn't have the tools to do anything about it. My father's leadership in the situation was nonexistent and my mother, all she knew how to do was love us and work her fingers to the bone. It's kind of like when your life's on fire, you don't do a lot of planning. We weren't going to figure out some way to make our family better. Hell, we're just trying to get through today. I don't want families in America to be in those situations and not have tools to do something about it.

Family First is so important to me because I think it's my chance to save millions of people from living things they don't have to live. What I became painfully aware of is that love is not enough. You can have all the intention, but if you don't have a plan, if you don't know what you need to do in this day and time to fend off all the attacks from the outside, to hold off the media onslaught, then you're going to lose the battle. And if you don't have those skills, you may very well be making decisions right now today that are scarring your children for life and their children after them.

Family First is designed to help those moments come into clear focus. I want to tell people about these things so they can go 'Wow, I can do this.' And is this the whole answer? No. But boy, it's a big start. Family First is the plan.