How to Be a Better Parent: Janice

Spoiled Tantrum-Thrower

"My son, Austin, is a temper tantrum-throwing 11-year-old who can't take no for an answer," Janice says. "He's spoiled. He's a big baby. I've gotten Austin iPods, video games, DVDs, computers, PlayStation games, cell phones. Austin already has four cell phones, and he constantly wants an upgrade. Austin weighs 185 pounds. He is a big boy for his age. Austin has a love for food. He wakes up in the morning thinking about food. When he's sad, it's about food. When he's happy, it's about food. When we go to restaurants, Austin always wants the most expensive things on the menu. He wants to have lobster. He wants to have a T-bone steak. I feel responsible for his size."

[AD]A home video shows Austin throwing a tantrum, crying and crawling behind the couch.

"When Austin has a tantrum, eventually he will cry himself to sleep," Janice says. "The thing that makes Austin most upset is the thought of me going on vacation without him. Austin absolutely throws a fit because he can't go. I don't have the strength or the willpower just to say no."

Janice tells Dr. Phil, "Before coming, I realized that the majority of it is my fault. He didn't just become this way. I allowed him to get away with those things."

"Well, you did more than allow him, didn't you? Let me tell you how this thing started: This is about the parents. This isn't about the kids. These kids didn't come out saying, ‘Give me an Xbox 360,'" Dr. Phil says. "They didn't come out wanting the most expensive thing on the menu. They didn't come out saying, ‘I get to go on all the vacations.' They didn't come out with a sense of entitlement. They were programmed with that, were they not?"

"You're right," Janice says.

"Did you program him?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes. I programmed his brother that way, and now that I see he's going down the same road, I'm trying to prevent it before he gets to the same extreme," she says.

"So now you want to drag him to the altar, throw him before [me] and say, ‘Dr. Phil, fix him and call me when you're done.' That would be perfect, right?"

[AD]"That would be ideal," she admits. 

"I bet you we could actually do that. I bet if you let me spend some time with him, I'd jerk a knot in his tail so fast, he wouldn't know which end was up and pretty soon he'd start acting like a young man instead of a whiney little kid, and he would be great, and you would come pick him up, and you'd take him home, and you know where you'd be in 30 days? Right back here, dropping him off. ‘Dr. Phil, it just didn't stick. You're not as good as I thought you were.'"

"You're right," Janice says, laughing.

"How many cell phones does this boy have?" Dr. Phil asks Janice.

"Four," she says. 

"And he wants another one."

"Yes."

"He wants a Sidekick. And he doesn't even use them, does he? Does he have anybody to call?" Dr. Phil asks.

"No," she says.

Dr. Phil points out that Austin doesn't come close to using up his cell phone minutes, and he has an iPod with only nine songs on it. "He doesn't even use it. He doesn't even want it. Now, what's wrong with this picture?" he asks.

"I'm not consistent," Janice says, "and he's raising me or something. I don't know. That's why I'm here."

"You're frustrated that he's so overweight, right?"

"Absolutely."

"Who buys the food?"

"I do."

"Who prepares the food? Who presents the food? Who's responsible for all this food?" Dr. Phil asks her.

[AD]"Me, me and me," she admits.

"Just give it up," Dr. Phil jokes. "You own this. You've taken that boy, and you have shaped him like clay into a mess you don't like, and now you're going, ‘Uh-oh. He's getting bigger. He's getting stronger. He's getting mouthier, and I'd better get this under control right now before I'm really in trouble,' true?"


"Yes," she says.

"Are you serious about this?" Dr. Phil asks her.  "Because this can turn around."

"I want it to, for both of us," Janice says.