Family First: Tony and Tammy

Constant Tension
Dr. Phil gives his guests the tools for a phenomenal family.
"If anybody walked in my front door, they'd see crazy lunatics running around, screaming. It's like a battle zone," says Tammy, who's tired of the chaos. "That's all I do, is scream at the kids. They're just out of control," she says.
 
Tammy and her husband Tony, who have been married for nine years, have four children under the age of 9. Tony, who used to be a truck driver, took a lower paying job so he could get off the road and be with the family more. "That has turned into a nightmare," says Tammy, explaining that they now live paycheck to paycheck, with the kids all sleeping in one bedroom. Because of the stressful family environment, Tammy admits that going to work is her rescue. "I dread coming home. I just want to go to the office and hide. And not come back," she says.
Tony works as a correctional officer in a stressful environment around hundreds of inmates. What makes it worse is while at work, Tony fields calls from Tammy, complaining about the kids. "What am I supposed to do about it? I'm at work," he says.
 
Tony and Tammy bought their house as a fixer-upper, but can't afford to fix it, so it's in a constant state of construction. "I can't handle coming home like that every day, seeing the place look like a disaster," says Tony. "I just explode."
 
Tammy says the children are learning from Tony's temper. "The kids have seen him throwing his fits and they're throwing fits now and starting to get violent with each other ... He belittles them, talks down to them," she says, but admits that she's at fault as
well. "They see their dad as hard on them, but he's the one that plays with them more. I'm the one that yells all the time. The kids don't know that I can be a nice person."
 
Tony and Tammy need a plan for their family. They turn to Dr. Phil for help. "The kids want to go live with our friends. I don't know what to do about it," says Tammy. "Our family is in total chaos."
Dr. Phil points out that they are both very critical of each other. He turns to Tony, "We asked you to rate yourself as a father. You said on a scale of 10 you'd give yourself a seven or an eight ... Are you serious?"
 
"Yeah," says Tony.
 
Dr. Phil is surprised. "You really think that you're just that far from being a perfect family leader, father and husband in this situation?"
 
"I feel that I'm a good father. I didn't say family leader or husband," says Tony.
 
Tammy says she rates herself as a three or four.
 
"You cannot change what you don't acknowledge," Dr. Phil tells them. "If you aren't willing to understand that you are toxic factors in this family environment, then you can't change it."
 
Dr. Phil brings up examples of Tony's parenting: "You admit you are verbally abusive with the children. You say you trash the children ... You use bad language in front of the kids and they model that after you ... You say you bring work home with you, and you know that you take your stress out on the children. You say you're a sore loser and when you blow, they better scatter because your temper is absolutely out of control when you get upset."
"True," Tony admits, also agreeing with Dr. Phil that he's not plugged in to Tammy's needs.
 
Dr. Phil turns to Tammy: "You say you yell, you scream, you spank the kids, you fight in front of them, that it's just a chaotic mess. True?"
 
"Yeah. And I don't know how to change it," says Tammy.
 
"You've got to get real about this because you can do this. You can have a phenomenal family ... First off, you've got to have a plan," Dr. Phil tells them. "The first thing it starts with, is you two have to call a truce ... Step back from it and say, 'You know what? If we've got problems, we'll deal with them, but the first thing we've got to do is put those children's interests above our own ... they are living in a toxic, chaotic environment and we're going to change that.'"
 
Dr. Phil explains that there are five factors for a phenomenal family. Number one: Create a nurturing and accepting family system. "It means that the family system is such that it nurtures the spirit, the body, the minds, the hearts of everyone in it ... That doesn't exist in this family."
Dr. Phil continues:
"It's an accepting family system, where everyone feels a sense of acceptance. And you have to make a threshold decision right now: Are you willing to put your family on project status? I mean it becomes your number one priority. All else doesn't matter."
 
Explaining that their home situation " with six people in two bedrooms " is unhealthy, Dr. Phil says, "It's called reflexive biting ... You're turning on each other! If you made a bad decision, then acknowledge you made a bad decision. If you have to abandon the damn place, abandon it. Find a place where you have a chance to thrive and survive. This is what I mean about having a plan. You know this, but you're not doing anything about it."
Dr. Phil explains the second factor for a phenomenal family: Promote rhythm in your family life. "That means there's a schedule, there's predictability, there's a pace. Everybody has a role, everybody has an identity. There are standards of conduct: 'We're not going to fight in front of our children. We're not going to allow our children to yell and scream at each other.'"
 
Tony and Tammy are given copies of Dr. Phil's book and instructed to do every assignment. "This is going to require that the two of you as parents have a private meeting every day about your family and about your parenting: 'What are we agreeing to? How are we going to conduct ourselves? What do we want for our children?' ... I have the steps and the points of exactly what to do. But you've got to be willing to do whatever takes. If it means changing jobs, if it means changing houses, if it means selling cars ... You have to be willing to do what it takes to save your family and save your children. I want those kids to say someday, 'I don't know what happened, but one day Mom and Dad got on an airplane and went somewhere. And when they came back, our world started changing.'"
 
At the end of the show, Dr. Phil and Robin offer to help Tony and Tammy get the construction on their house finished, so they can have one less thing to worry about.