Child Caught in the Crossfire
"I worry about my 5-year-old sister, Madison. She is out of control. She's always in the principal's office," Moriah says. "When she gets mad, she gets mad, and she will show you from curse words to hitting you. It makes me sad for her future."
"My little 5-year-old heard the word * when my wife said that to me. All of a sudden she blurted the word * to me," Willie reveals. "It was like, 'Girl, you cannot say that.' 'Mommy said it.'"
When the videotape ends, Dr. Phil turns to Willie and Lisa. "Do y'all think that there is not an impact of what you do to each other on these kids?" he asks.
Turning to Melissa, Dr. Phil asks, "Have you made bad choices in your life?"
[AD]Melissa explains that she had a baby at age 15. "I don't think that that was because of my parents. Maybe I was trying to find attention somewhere else," she says.
"When children grow up in high-conflict marriages " where there's yelling, and screaming, and fussing, and fighting and violence " it is unbelievable what happens to them if you look at it across time. They're so much more prone to come into conflict with authority because they have rage inside," Dr. Phil explains. "Girls act out sexually. Boys act out aggressively."
"I was a very mouthy kid. I was disrespectful. I was horrible," Melissa admits. "I was always in trouble. I was always getting suspended."
Melissa tells Dr. Phil that another issue affecting the family is her mother's gambling. Lisa refutes this.
"You know, Dr. Phil, I've been out twice in the last three weeks to play video lottery machines, and it's amazing that this is an issue when I'm not with him," Lisa says, indicating her husband, "but when I'm with him, and we go out with our friends and family, it's OK to gamble then."
"They feel like you go out weekly, that when you get paid, you blow 70 percent of your paycheck on gambling," Dr. Phil says.
"How long have y'all been married?" Dr. Phil asks Lisa and Willie.
"Twenty-five years," Willie replies.
[AD]"Twenty-five years?" Dr. Phil asks, incredulous. "Are you slow learners? After 25 years, wouldn't you say, â€˜This isn't working'?"
"It's hard for me to express myself [to my wife] because I'm not going to get anything said," Willie says.
Dr. Phil turns to Melissa, Moriah and Alex. "If things continue as they are, y'all would just as soon they shut this down, correct?"
"I would assume so," Melissa says.
Her siblings agree.
Dr. Phil says that in a high-conflict marriage, staying together for the children is not a good idea. Addressing Willie and Lisa, he tells them that they have several options for their relationship. "You can continue doing what you do, because you are addicted to the conflict. You are addicted to the rightness of your position. You can get a divorce and just shut this down," he says. "You can declare some kind of superficial détente, or you can really mature enough to fix this for your family."
Noting that Moriah has a 22-month-old son, Dr. Phil says, "If you love that little boy, and I can see and feel that you, then you take care of his mother. You're the only mother he'll ever have. If you don't value his mother, then he won't value himself. If you don't protect his mother, then she won't be there. You'll be emotionally bankrupt."
[AD]Dr. Phil gives Lisa and Willie a call to action. "This is a time to say, â€˜You know what? We aren't through parenting. It is time that we step up to do the right thing in the right way,'" he explains. "You may need to get a divorce, but you're not ready to get a divorce. You need to do some things before you make that decision. Right now, there's too much anger, there's too much bitterness, there's too much resentment, there's too much defensiveness, there's too much noise. It's time to decide you're going to put somebody first. Are you willing to throw in and get this family in the right direction?"
Both parents say they are.