Family First: Follow-Ups: Tony and Tammy

Tony and Tammy
Dr. Phil follows up with two families whose households were in complete chaos.
Tony and Tammy came to see Dr. Phil to get their out-of-control parenting out of the ditch. With their fixer-upper house in shambles, and six people living in two rooms, they were all turning on each other.

Right after the show, Tony and Tammy held a family meeting in their hotel room. Sitting before their four children, they promise that things will be different.

An emotional Tammy says, "I want you to know that Mommy is not going to yell and scream at you like I did before. OK? It's all going to change today. From today on. And I'm sorry for how I've acted. I don't like the way I was. OK? Mommy's very sorry."

"Never?" asks one child.

"No, not any more," says Tony. "We want to change it. We want to make it all better."

Tammy embraces her daughter in a hug and says, "Mommy's not going to yell any more. Mommy's sorry."
But the real work began when they returned home. "I think we are getting a lot better, but we still have a lot to work on," admits Tammy. "The homework in the book has made us look at things differently. It's affected the relationships. It seems like we're communicating better. The changes in our house have been for the better."

Tammy has been helping the kids with their homework more, and delegating jobs to the children, so she's not overwhelmed with doing everything herself.

But Tammy knows there's more work ahead of them. "There's days that are really good and then there's days that I feel like I'm still going backward," she says, explaining that she struggles with not yelling and screaming at the kids. "I mean, we still have our yelling matches with the children. I try not to do it, but I still catch myself doing it. There is still chaos here."
Tony has also learned a lot from Family First. "The book has taught me ways to work with the kids so I don't have to go back to the Stone Age tactics of yelling and hitting," he says. "Don't get me wrong, I still get mad, but I'm trying to deal with it in a better way."

For example, Tony says, "The number one thing I'm taking away from the book is to stop and think before you react. The other day I found out that the kids smashed my PlayStation. Normally that is something that would have me smoking mad." But instead, Tony calmly talked to his children about it. "I think they were expecting me to blow up. After it was all done with, Ross stood up and hugged me and said, 'I love you, Dad.'"

Tony is also making a bigger effort to spend quality time with his kids. "The nights that I don't have to work, I sit down with them in their rooms and I'll read a book with them and tuck them in. I had zero problems with them getting up out of bed afterward," he says.

But he's still like to see more changes take place with Tammy. "She still gets p***ed off all the time," says Tony, explaining that when he called her from work, she was screaming at the kids. "It sounded like a war going off in there. And she told me that she had beaten Reagan's ass and put her to bed ... Tammy and I still need to work on talking out situations rather than just getting p***ed."
Dr. Phil addresses Tammy: "Why do you think you are so angry?"

"I don't get the same respect that he gets from the kids and I just blow," says Tammy.

"Assume with me for a minute that they're triggers, but they have nothing to do with this anger and rage that comes bubbling up. Just assume with me for a minute that it's not them, that it's just a huge overreaction to what's going on. What would it be then?" asks Dr. Phil.

"The way I was brought up," says Tammy. "The abuse and neglect."

"Aren't you doing exactly what was done to you? Haven't you been yanked up by the arm? Smacked and slapped and beaten? Way worse than what you're doing now? And you were powerless to do anything about it?"

Nodding through Dr. Phil's questions, Tammy says, "Yes. I was too scared."

"What did you do when you retreated to your room? When you escaped the situation and got away?"

"Just glad I got away alive," says Tammy. "Just go and hide and wait for the next time."
"How do you think these children feel now?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Probably the same way," says Tammy. "I've tried. There's days that I don't yell, and I try to talk to them in different ways and I am getting a better response from them on those days. But then there's days that I'm like that again."

"Isn't it possible that that reaction and rage is coming from the inside out? You brought it into the situation with you. It has nothing to do with what they do or don't do," says Dr. Phil.

Tammy agrees.

Dr. Phil turns to Tony: "Do you see why it is so critically important that you not be, in any way, abrasive, abusive, harsh with her or even around her?"

"Definitely," says Tony.

"Do you see that this is a woman who needs a soft place to fall?"

Dr. Phil turns back to Tammy: ""What would it mean to you to have that? To feel that?"

"Relief," she answers. "It's just too much to grasp right now. I couldn't imagine."

"Do you guys see that what we have here are four children who inherited this? They didn't choose it, they didn't want it." Referring to the promise they gave their children in the hotel room after their first appearance, Dr. Phil says, "Did you see the looks and hear the tone of voice in those children when you sat down with them on the bed and gave them what you so desperately want?"

Tammy says that whenever she raises her voice, her daughter reminds her, "'Mommy, you promised us you weren't going to yell no more.' It tears me up," says Tammy.

"You can have what you want and you can give it to those children. You guys can do this," Dr. Phil assures them.

Dr. Phil reminds Tony and Tammy about The Five Factors for a Phenomenal Family, including creating a nurturing and accepting family environment where everybody has a role and every role is acknowledged.

Because Tammy had a hard time with the chapter about family legacy, Dr. Phil asks, "Do you see directly how it's translating from what happened to you as a child to the very daily words, tone of voice, everything you use, each day now?"

"Yes," agrees Tammy.

Dr. Phil tells Tony that it's time for him to be a leader. When he sees that Tammy is having a difficult time, he should say, 'I have a chance to give her a gift here. I could scream back, or I could just walk across the room and gently put my arms around her and just be there.'

Tony vows he will do what it takes.