Tyler in the Middle
The custody battle between Devon and Bill reached an all-time low when the parents, while arguing over their 6-year-old son Tyler, tumbled into a heated wrestling match.
Dr. Phil shows the audience a picture of the incident. The photo, taken from video footage of the brawl, depicts Devon, Tyler's mother, pulling him by the arms, while his father, Bill, grabs Tyler by the waist, yanking him in the opposite direction. While Bill clasps one arm around Tyler's waist, he uses his free hand to push Devon's mother, Tina, to the ground.
Meanwhile, Tyler resembles a knotted rope in Devon and Bill's parental tug-of-war.
[AD]"I can not begin to tell you just how wrong this picture is on so many levels!" Dr. Phil exclaims. "This isn't what I call co-parenting. This is what I call a free-for-all.
With both parents onstage, Dr. Phil drills down to the root of the issue. "Can we agree that this is so wrong on so many levels?" Dr. Phil asks. Nodding, both parents admit they each contributed to the physical fallout over Tyler.
"I mean, look at this," Dr. Phil says, motioning toward the picture. He turns to Devon and asks, "When you look at that, what's your reaction?"
Shaking her head, she cups her hands over her face and begins to cry. "It breaks my heart," she says through tears. "I hate seeing Tyler like that. I never want to put him through that ever again. It was wrong on both of our parts. So wrong."
Dr. Phil tells Devon and Bill that their dysfunctional relationship robs Tyler of security and a stable home. "And what's grandma doing in there?" Dr. Phil asks, referring to the picture. Devon explains that her mother intervened to help Tyler, not to attack Bill.
Tina, Devon's mother, says Bill is often absent from Tyler's life. "Bill is not active with Tyler, and it's really sad," Tina explains in a video interview. "Bill doesn't participate in [Tyler's] sports. He doesn't call during the week to see how he's doing. I see Tyler cry, and he's confused. If it wasn't an every other weekend deal, I don't think Bill would even be around."
[AD]Tina now joins the trio on stage. Dr. Phil says that Bill denies Tina's claims about his parenting, and claims that he never put his hands around her neck during his altercation.
Returning to the image of the incident, Bill asserts that Tina was actually physically harming him. "If you look at the picture, I'm actually using the back of my hand, trying to get [Tyler] loose. At the time, [Tina's] arm was around my neck and she was trying to strangle me and keep me away from Tyler."
"It's not to keep you away from Tyler," Devon interjects. "Tyler was screaming bloody murder. He did not want to be with you, and you wouldn't let him go. He has bruises all over the side of him from you, Bill."
Devon continues to recount the incident and they quickly spiral into a shouting match.
Listening to the bickering parents, Dr. Phil finally cuts them off. "Hold on," he says, flinging both hands in the air. "Seriously, I am not married to you people, and I feel like I am."
Dr. Phil says he refuses to revisit every minute detail of Devon and Bill's arguments. "You don't want to waste your time with me barking at each other," Dr. Phil adamantly says. "You apparently have that to a higher art form. You apparently don't need to practice here. I'd be interested in hearing if anybody said to me, 'You know what, Dr. Phil? What can we do to fix this? What can we do to make this better for our son?'"
[AD]Dr. Phil notes that at 6, Tyler already suffers from anxiety attacks.
"At 6, you should worry about whether SpongeBob comes on before something else," Dr. Phil tells Devon and Bill. "You shouldn't be worried about whether your life is safe and secure. You've got to decide whether you are going to negotiate a parenting schedule. Every situation needs a hero. Be the hero."
Dr. Phil instructs them to squash their differences and draft a peaceful co-parenting plan.
"And if you can't be together, then get an intermediary where you drop the child off," Dr. Phil advises. "You don't have to see each other if that's what it takes, but a hush needs to fall over this child's life. There would be nothing better that could happen than for you two to go get that child, put him in a chair, and say to him together, â€˜Son, we want to apologize to you.'"
Dr. Phil offers to provide family counseling for Devon and Bill to develop better parenting skills for Tyler. Both parents accept, but Bill quietly says that he still doubts Devon will allow Tyler to attend school near his home.
As Bill explains his future doubts, Dr. Phil stops him and reminds him to keep an open mind.
Bill eventually concedes. Dr. Phil urges Devon to maintain the same openness. "Step up and be better for your child," he tells her.
"I will," Devon whispers.
"Then I will get you the help," Dr. Phil says.