Know-It-All Sisters: Jenna and Rob

Overachieving Sister, Underachieving Brother?

"My brother and I are complete opposites. I'm ambitious; he's lazy. I'm focused; he's distracted. I'm very driven; he's seems to have no motivation," says Jenna, 22, of her younger sibling, Rob, 20.


"I'm about two or three years out of high school, and I work at Dairy Queen," says Rob. 


"I can't even imagine being in my brother's shoes. He lives at home. He's 20 years old. He works a part-time job," says Jenna, who is a full-time student, works three jobs and volunteers. "I think he just lacks that work ethic."


"I want my son to understand that when you're 20 years old, you're no longer a teenager. We all would love to be kids again, but those days are over," says Karen, the siblings' mom. "I do not want one to be such an overachiever and the other to be such an underachiever."


"It kind of upsets me when people say, ‘Look what your sister's doing. You could be doing more,'" Rob admits. "My sister, Jenna, is definitely a perfectionist. She's always been an overachiever, and I've been trying to figure out what I want to do with my life."


Growing up, Jenna and Rob developed a close relationship. They played sports and hung out together. "College kind of changed things," Jenna shares.


"We both stopped calling each other," Rob recalls.


"My brother went to a four-year university for one semester. He was only there for the friends and the partying," Jenna says. "I think he's totally immature. He doesn't want to grow up."


Karen hopes Rob will change. "I would love for my son to mature a little faster than he is and become more responsible, and I would like my daughter to relax," she says. She asks Dr. Phil, "What do I do to motivate my son?"

"Motivate him to do what?" Dr. Phil asks Karen.

"Start a life of his own, and get out of our house and become more independent," she says.

"Are you just being a mom, or are you being an enabling mom?" Dr. Phil probes.

"A little of both," she admits.

Turning to Jenna, Dr. Phil asks, "What's your deal in all of this, Sis?"

"I know he's extremely intelligent. I know he has the skills, he has the abilities to be successful, I just think he needs something to push him to kind of get there," she says.

"You said, ‘I'm ambitious; he's lazy. I'm focused; he's distracted. I'm friendly; he's angry. I'm honest; he lies. I'm a perfectionist, and quality is not so important to him. I'm well-mannered, and he's rude. We're both intelligent, but I utilize [my intelligence], and he doesn't,'" Dr. Phil says to Jenna. He asks Rob for his thoughts on Jenna's comments.

"It's a little surprising, but I know I need to do a little bit more," he says.

Dr. Phil tells Jenna, "You dog on his friends, right?"


"I think he could improve on his group of friends," she says. "It sort of seems like they hold him back a little bit."


"You admit you're kind of a perfectionist, right?" Dr. Phil asks Jenna.

"Yes," she replies.

Dr. Phil addresses Karen. "The family dynamic is a really powerful thing," he says. "Kids will come into a family, and everybody finds a position. They find a role to take." The role of being perfect, motivated, A-student, go-getter was taken by Jenna before Rob was born, so he gravitated toward a different role. "Sometimes that role can just be different, sometimes it can have negative connotations to it as well," he explains. He asks Rob what his role in the family is.

"I like to have fun, but I still like to be serious," he says. "I just haven't found that thing that I can grasp that interests me enough to want to pursue it."

"What are you doing to find it?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Still looking," he says.

"It's probably not going to walk into the Dairy Queen," Dr. Phil joshes. "You've got to get your hook in the water where you can catch something that means something to you." He points out that there's nothing wrong with working at the Dairy Queen for the meantime, but most likely there's not a lot of room for career advancement. He adds that Rob is currently living with his parents.


"He does try to give us money for rent," Karen explains, "but then, within in a week, [he says], ‘I need $20. I need $20. I need $20.' So all the money he did give us, we end up giving him back, which makes it feel, to me, that I'm paying him to live with us."

"You don't like living with your parents," Dr. Phil reminds Rob.

"It's not that I don't like it. If I could be out, I would," he says.


"You would rather be more independent, right?" Dr. Phil asks.

Rob agrees.

Dr. Phil asks Jenna if she feels like she's the favorite child.

"I don't know if it's necessarily the favorite, but realistically, they kind of do have more to brag about in terms of what I'm doing," she says.


Dr. Phil addresses Karen. "She's not your favorite. You love these kids out of completely separate accounts," he says. "Loving one a whole lot doesn't deplete the balance in the other account. They're individuals to you and your husband, right?"

"Right," Karen says.

Dr. Phil asks Rob, "If you could write a life script for you, where would you be in five years?"

"Hopefully, established and on my way to doing bigger and better things," he says.


"The difference between a dream and a goal is a time line and an action plan," Dr. Phil says. He points out that Rob doesn't know what he wants to do with his life, so he must try different things in order to find out. Noting that Rob realizes he should be in college, Dr. Phil explains that during the first two years, he could figure out his interests. "At this point, you really don't have an action plan, and weeks turn into months, and months turn into years, and then you go, ‘Now, I'm behind.' What you really need are some short-term goals to just get yourself moving, at this point, so you can be proud of yourself." Turning to Karen, he says, "You don't need to kick him out. This isn't about punishment. It's about coming up with a plan, and then making sure that he stays involved in that plan."

"We've tried plans, and they fall through," Karen says.

"It's got to be his plan, not your plan," Dr. Phil says. "There are two things wrong when it's your plan; one: he's not bought into it, and two: you don't stick with it. You're inconsistent, and you cave in."

She agrees.

Dr. Phil reiterates to Rob that it's up to him to change his life by setting short-term goals, and he must acknowledge that he's not competing with his sister. In fact, he could call on his sister for help, seeing as she has created a path for herself. "Isn't it true that you really miss him?" Dr. Phil asks Jenna.

"Yeah, because I miss how close we were before," she says.

"Do you ever tell him that?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Not explicitly," she says.

Rob admits that he misses his sister as well.

Dr. Phil asks Rob, "If I got you some help to work out a plan to help figure out what you want to do, to figure out how to do it " what to do financially, logistically, educationally, whatever it was " would you embrace that and make a plan to move forward?"

"Yeah," he replies.