How to Be a Better Parent: Tammie

Where is the Love?

"My daughter, Davia, is a handful and a half," Tammie says about her 11-year-old. "She's disrespectful. She lies. She is spiteful, stubborn. She follows me around everywhere. She's just annoying. Davia is just very difficult to be around. I don't have an affectionate feeling toward Davia because of the constant anger that I feel toward her. When Davia comes to hug me, I hug her back, but I really don't feel like I want to. I feel like it's a struggle to give her a hug. I really don't understand why she feels it necessary to constantly give hugs all the time.

 

"The last time I felt affection toward Davia was when I married my husband. I really didn't know why or how, but I was able to hug her in pictures, and it feels like it meant something then. We even had to exchange a kiss for a picture, and it wasn't difficult to do. I feel differently toward my other children. I'm able to hug them, and love them, and play with them and show affection toward them. I really feel like I lost the mother/daughter bond that I so desperately want with her. I love her, but I don't like her."

"What's your reaction to watching yourself in that piece?" Dr. Phil asks Tammie.

"That's our life. It's not fun," she says.

"Anything about it bother you in particular when you see it from the outside looking in?"

"Yeah, the fact that I can't have feelings that I want to have for my daughter," she says.

"Your description of Davia is ‘annoying, weird, liar, relentless, stubborn and uncooperative,'" Dr. Phil says, reading his notes. "I find that astounding, that a mother would describe her child as weird and annoying. You didn't say anything positive about her at all … You say that hugging-wise, you're just not into it at all. You say you love her, but you don't like her. What do you dislike about her?"

[AD]"It's a loaded question. There's a lot," Tammie says. "There's just an overall disrespect that she's constantly giving us when we do so much for her. The fact that she finds it so easy to lie to us."

"What does she lie to you about?" he asks.

"Oh, just anything," she says. "I mean, it can be simple things."

"OK, well put your shrink hat on and be Dr. Mom for a minute," Dr. Phil says. "What do you make of this? Why do you think this has gotten so off track?"

"I don't think she gets the attention that she wants," Tammie says.

"I'm always interested in " particularly when I'm talking with parents when their kids are kind of out of control " the older generation talks about the younger generation as though we have nothing to do with it," Dr. Phil says. "She was born, and there was certain genetic encoding that was there, but from the minute she was born, you started writing on the slate of who she was. You started to write things on her, by the way you interacted with her, by the way you reacted to her. You said that she's constantly needing to hug you, and clingy, and in your face all the time, and when you're not paying attention that she's ‘Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom, Mom.' Any idea why she might do that?"

"Not really," Tammie says. 

"Well, in the last five minutes, you've said, ‘I don't like this girl. She's annoying. She's weird. She bugs me. I don't really like her.' And it's puzzling to you that she's constantly reaching, and clinging and trying to get reassurance?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Oh, sure, she wants my attention," she says.

"Well, do you think she senses the rejection? Do you think she senses the judgment, and the rejection and the push back?"

"I know she does. Oh, yeah," says Tammie.

"So, you don't think that has anything to do with it, though?"

"I'm sure it does, yeah. I know there are other things too. I'm sure she's not happy because her father is rejecting her too," she says. 

"We're going to talk about him, but he's not here right now. You are. So I'm talking to you about you, and I'm curious if you think you have ownership in this situation," Dr. Phil says.

"Oh, sure I do. I know I have a lot to do with it," she says.

[AD]"Well, you didn't offer it up when I asked you about it," he says. "Your primary role with her is rejection, and her primary role is pursuit. You're running, and she's pursuing. I'm curious if you really think you have insight about that, or if it's something you're seeing for the first time as I say it."

"I've thought about it. I've definitely thought about that. But I don't know how to get rid of this feeling," Tammie says.

"Well, we're going to get to that. The point is, you have to recognize that you have more than a little ownership in who she is becoming. Do you recognize that?" Dr. Phil asks. 

Tammie nods. "Yeah."

 

Dr. Phil says, "You don't care much for her father."

"Not really, no," she admits.

"Does she remind you of him?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Oh, a lot," Tammie says. "A whole lot."

"Think that might be part of this as well?"

"It's entered my mind, definitely."

"So, it could be that a lot of her issues spring from within you," Dr. Phil tells her. "And that's good news and bad news. The bad news is some of these issues come from within you. The good news is some of these issues come from within you. And the reason that that's good news is because the only person you have to be able to control to precipitate a change is you. Is that possible?"

"Oh, I want it to be," Tammie says.

"What do you think about this conversation so far?" he asks.

"I think you're bringing out a lot of me admitting to what I haven't been able to admit to, that it has a lot to do with me," she says, closing her eyes and struggling not to cry.

"Is that hard to hear?" 

Tammie nods and wipes her eyes.

"We've only been talking for about three-and-a-half minutes. How do you think this is going to go over the next several days?" Dr. Phil asks, regarding his parenting retreat that will follow. 

[AD]"Tough," she says, wiping her tears away.

"You up for it?"

Tammie nods.

"I mean, this is your shot, right?"

"It's my last shot."

"Because I'm going to tell you the truth as I see it. You don't have to substitute my judgment for your own, but I'm going to tell you the truth as I see it. And then you can either embrace it or not. That will totally be up to you," Dr. Phil tells her. "I have a lot of hope for you. I really do. You deserve some peace."