"My 6-year-old daughter is a mean, hateful little girl and has become an aggressive, nasty little bully," says Heather. "If someone was to see Montanna, they would see an angel face with a demon personality. She has babysitters who refuse to watch her, and she hits, kicks, and pinches her sister. Montanna has been removed from two different schools. She punches her friends and kicks her teachers. Once, when Montanna was at school, a little boy cut in line, and she scratched his face and drew blood. Montanna uses what she calls her â€˜devil's voice' where she actually talks as she thinks the devil sounds."
"She terrorizes my life," says Montanna's older sister, Konner, 10. "I'm really scared of her. She started saying, â€˜I'm the devil.' After she says that, she'll hit me. I cried when she choked me. I've cried when she punched me. If I'm talking on the phone, she'll get on the phone and scream. I'd love to have a sister that would hug me instead of hitting me and punching me. My mom never sticks to the punishments that she makes."
Heather admits that's true. "Montanna laughs at me when I punish her, because she knows that I won't stick with it. She walks all over me. I'm most afraid of the fact that Montanna is very strong. She knows what things are dangerous: knives, choking. She is so hateful." She cries. "If I lose Montanna to the dark side, I don't know what I would do," she says. "I feel like I'm ready to completely lose it. I want my little girl back. I don't want her to be the demon that she is anymore."
Heather reveals, "Montanna one time witnessed Mark grab me and choke me. I hold my ex-husband responsible. I think she gets a lot of it from Mark."
Heather and Montanna's father, Mark, had a rocky marriage and are now divorced. Mark admits he's probably the bad influence on his daughter. "Montanna, I think, gets her meanness from me," he says. Mark fights in Toughman competitions and admits to getting in fights on the street as well. "My daughter's witnessed me fight. She's come up to me, throwing her hands back and saying, â€˜Dad, you want a piece of me?'" Mark also plays fighting video games with his daughter and they watch fighting on television.
"Montanna has heard me call her mom a c**t, a bi**h. I think the impact of me and Heather arguing rubbed off on her," he says. "The other day she said out of the blue, â€˜Dad, you're a butthead.' So I've whipped Montanna a few times. I'll bust her butt with my hand, and I'll get a response by crying, or calling me names, â€˜I hate you!' None of the disciplinary actions seem to work. I ran into a father the other day, and he told me that my daughter was a f**king brat."
They both turn to Dr. Phil. "How can we help her change her behavior?"
Heather explains to Dr. Phil, "I personally think it's because I'm so passive, I just let her do whatever she wants. And she's the baby, so I haven't really taken the time to discipline her, because I don't want her to hate me."
Mark says part of the problem is that Heather won't spank.
"Well, because we made an agreement," says Heather. "I thought we made an agreement. I don't want her spanked, especially if I'm trying to get across to her that I don't want her to put her hands on people."
Dr. Phil notices tension between the couple. "And you two don't like each other."
"We can't get along very well," says Mark.
"Five minutes," says Heather.
"This is not about blame," says Dr. Phil. He goes over some of Heather's history: She lets Montanna walk all over her, she doesn't punish her because she doesn't want to be the bad guy, and she admits to hating Mark so she can't communicate with him enough to agree on a parenting plan. "You think she's just like her dad?"
"Oh, exactly. I do," says Heather.
"Whom you hate," Dr. Phil adds.
"Whom I hate," she says, clarifying, "I don't hate her, no. Her actions are like Mark's."
Dr. Phil continues with his summary: When they fight, they say bad things about each other in front of their daughter, Heather gives in to Montanna's demands and time-outs don't last.
He turns his attention to Mark: "You admit that you're scared of your own temper. That you're so big and so strong, that you're actually afraid you'll get mad and that you might go too far."
He agrees. "I don't want to hurt them," he says.
Dr. Phil goes over Mark's history: He swears and fights with his daughters, he fights with Heather in front of them, he has no regular schedule with his kids " sometimes they don't see him for more than a month. He asks Mark, "You said she just doesn't discipline them properly, she doesn't know what to do. If you're there 10 minutes every month, how do you know that? And how could you be critical of her if you're not there to deal with it?"
"I know she's the main authority because they're with her a majority of the time," says Mark.
"All right, look. I am sorry that you two don't get along," says Dr. Phil. "This relationship as husband and wife is over. Your relationship as the co-parents of this child will continue into the future. You can't change that. You might divorce your wife, but you cannot divorce your children's mother. You cannot divorce your children's father. And the two of you have to decide that you are not going to be so selfish as to run your own emotional agenda, that you're willing to throw her under the bus in order to serve your displeasure with each other."
"You fight in front of her. She hears you call names, scream, yell, slam things around, correct? Now, is it any puzzle why she does exactly the same thing? I mean, children learn what they live, right?" asks Dr. Phil.
When Mark tries to argue that Heather is the one who wants to fight, Dr. Phil says, "Do I need to go back over the names you have called your wife in front of your daughter? What you need to be thinking about is, â€˜What can I do to make this situation better?' The good news is, your daughter's not evil, your daughter's not possessed, your daughter's not even a bad person. The bad news is, if you continue doing what you're doing, she is going to be in constant conflict with authority. She is going to be in constant conflict, because she doesn't know her boundaries."
Dr. Phil recommends they have their daughter evaluated medically, to rule out any problems, but what he sees is a child who is modeling her behavior after her parents. "I don't ask myself why she does this, I ask myself, why not? It's all she knows. It's what she's learned. Trust me, she is looking for some boundaries, she's looking for some predictability, she's looking for structure." He tells Heather, "Your job is not to be her friend. Your job is to socialize this child. What you have is a child that's not very well socialized."
"No one will play with her," says Heather.
"That's why," says Dr. Phil. He turns to Mark, "And I don't know what your thinking is, of deciding you're going to be absent Dad. You need to plug back in here, and you need to plug back in with a consistent plan. The two of you need to make a plan, and you need to have enough emotional integrity to stick with it. Right now, you are rewarding and reinforcing bad behavior."