Holiday Horror Stories: Val

The Three Battlers

"I have 11 children. At Christmastime, we seem to have a lot of fighting in the home," says Val. "The arguing starts about six weeks before Christmas. My middle three daughters, Jocelyn, Rachael and Gillian are aggressive." 

Rachael says, "Around here, the holidays can be crazy and stressful," she says.

Gillian agrees. "All we do is scream and yell. We're fighting more than we're getting along," she says. 

Jocelyn shares her thoughts. "I'm probably the most vocal because I'm not just going to sit there and be miserable," she says. 

Val says her girls fight over petty things" peeling potatoes, doing dishes, setting the table and decorating the tree. "I call Gillian, Rachael and Jocelyn the three battlers. One of them always has a chip on her shoulder.  When you put the three of them together, they are wild," Val warns. "Christmas 2004, the girls arrive by having a fist fight on the front lawn."

Jocelyn says that's tame. "The worst one was when Rachael broke her finger," she recalls. "She was trying to get into my room. She stuck her hand in to stop the door ... and [her finger] broke."

Val wonders when the madness will end. "I do feel like I'm being ganged up on by those three girls," she says. "I dread the holidays. I feel like Christmas should be a warm, loving time and it's not. I'm fed up with it."

"The finger breaking thing was an accident," says Jocelyn (far left) with a laugh.
"I'm surprised more things haven't gotten broken," Val says. 

Addressing the three sisters, Dr. Phil says, "Does it seem like you're being selfish, self-centered and insensitive to everybody around you?"

"The whole family is like that. We're just the worst," Jocelyn explains. "We do have respect for each other to a point."

Dr. Phil reads a list of Val's grievances toward her daughters. "You fight about who's going to do the dishes, who's going to sit next to Mom. How old are y'all?" Dr. Phil asks.

"I'm 22," Jocelyn answers. Her other sisters are in their 20s as well.

Dr. Phil continues with his list. "How much money [you've] spent on what, who's going to decorate the tree. You've broken fingers, blackened eyes, bruised each other, broken things. Does that seem like reasonable, rational behavior for young women?" he asks. 

"No," the girls answer.

Turning to Val, Dr. Phil asks, "What are you considering now?"

"Dr. Phil, I'm old. I've had enough," Val replies. "In order to get some peace in my household, I'm seriously considering having Christmas without them."

Jocelyn says, "That's fine with me."

"That's what you did at Thanksgiving," says Rachael (center). "That's what you always do; you don't include us."


Addressing Rachael, Dr. Phil says, "Isn't the idea of people being social beings that we conduct ourselves in ways that people want to be around us? Do you think that you're conducting yourself in a way that makes people want to be around you?"

"I guess," she replies. "I really enjoy the holidays. It's just like when us three get together, it's a huge mess. We live together too, so it's like we're always around each other all the time. We conflict over the stupidest things." 

"What can you do to stop the fighting?" Dr. Phil asks the young women. "What can you do to make sure that doesn't happen?"

Jocelyn says, "Oh, I guess I can't talk."

"That's good. So, you would have to stop talking," Dr. Phil agrees. He turns to Rachael. "What could you do to keep this from going into a meltdown?"

Rachael replies, "I guess I could listen better, because I don't listen very well."

Gillian (right) says she can think before she starts an argument.

"What we have here is think, listen and shut up," Dr. Phil points out. "Do you think that you can do that? If you went into a situation where you had to get along for a day " no matter what anybody said. I don't care if they gave you a new watch and you two a lump of coal " do you have the ability to say, ‘Hey, it's OK. I'm just going with the flow'?"

The girls pause for a minute, and then Gillian speaks up. "Our parents don't get us anything for Christmas anymore except for a stocking, so we don't really have arguments about presents."

"But they're the only ones that complain about it," Val says.

Tearfully, Jocelyn says, "We're really the only ones that don't get Christmas gifts. She'll buy something for the older brothers. She'll buy something for the youngest, but not for us."

"So, basically, your conduct isn't working. You're not inspiring that giving spirit out of others," Dr. Phil observes.

"This is so not about Christmas. Do you get that? For you guys, Christmas is just a battlefield, it's a focal point," Dr. Phil tells the family. "All of the resentments, all the bitterness, all the sense of entitlement that's been violated, all of that just comes boiling to the surface, and then we get into what's called reflexive biting. You crowd everyone together and they just start biting each other all the time."

Turning to Val, Dr. Phil says, "You just need to stop doing that."

"What? Stop putting Christmas on?" she asks. 

"Stop having everybody together like that," Dr. Phil clarifies. 

"That's not fair," Val protests. "I had these children to have them all together [at holidays]."

Dr. Phil reminds Val that her Christmas get-togethers are turning into slugfests and name-calling events. "There are problems with these three having resentments about what's going on in the family. That may be worth looking into, and I'm happy to give you that for Christmas," he says. 

"Thank you!" Val says.

"If every time you get everybody together and it's a meltdown, then just don't do it," Dr. Phil advises. "The four of y'all should sit down with some professional help and negotiate some boundaries between adult children and their mother so you can have some peace. I will arrange that for you if you do it."

"Absolutely," Val says.

Dr. Phil tells Val that she shouldn't feel obligated to have her daughters together simply because of the holiday season.


"I understand, but then they don't get a Christmas," Val says.

Dr. Phil suggests that Val stagger the times throughout the day when she invites her daughters over. Turning to the siblings, he says sharply, "You guys are old enough and mature enough to come into your mother's house and be pleasant."

"She's always dismissing us. She doesn't want to listen to us," Jocelyn says. 

"The only person you control is you," Dr. Phil tells her. "The only person that needs to go in there and be pleasant is you. You have to choose not to react."

Val interjects, "I don't appreciate this [idea] that I sit there and do nothing. I bake nine kinds of pies, three kinds of potatoes; I do turkey, stuffing and clean it all up, just to give everybody a nice Christmas," she says. 

"You have children here with a sense of entitlement. They have a great deal of expectation about what you owe them and what you are supposed to do, and you can't live up to that," Dr. Phil tells Val. "You need to quit trying." 

"She expects respect from us, but she doesn't give us respect at all," Rachael argues.


"I so disagree," Dr. Phil says. "I don't expect y'all to agree. I expect you to argue because it's what you do. You want to control what people say, and what people think, and what people do, and you can't control what I think, say and do, so you're getting really frustrated with me."


Rachael says, "You've just seen us for 10 minutes. You don't even know how it is."


"I know. I'm totally out in left field, and probably don't know what I'm talking about," Dr. Phil sympathizes. "So, what you need to do is totally reject everything I'm telling you."


"I'm not trying to reject what you're telling me. That's not even it," Rachael says.


"You need to ask yourself whether your behavior is contributing to the meltdown. And the only person you control is you," Dr. Phil says. "You can choose not to react."