Turning to Dr. Phil for advice, she says, "I've always given my children what they want for Christmas. Now they expect it. I think I've made a big mistake. Now what?"
"How did these kids get this way, in your view?" Dr. Phil asks JaVonna.
She replies, "I'm really not quite sure. I think a lot of it has to do with peer pressure."
"I don't know. That's why I'm here."
Dr. Phil gives her a skeptical look. "Mom, come on. You're working two jobs. Why?"
"Because I want to make sure that they have what they need — their basic needs," she concedes.
Dr. Phil takes her to task. "Their current wish list for Christmas totals $8,000!" he points out. "Those aren't basic needs ... Don't children learn what they live?"
"Yes, I totally agree with that."
When JaVonna says that she would feel inadequate and guilty as a parent, Dr. Phil chimes in, "Guilt and parenting don't go well together. If we parent out of guilt, it's like we're afraid they're not going to love us."
He observes that Ashley and Justin are good at receiving, but haven't mastered the art of giving. "In 15 years, how many birthday gifts, cards and presents have they given you?" he asks JaVonna.
"I can't remember any."
"Zero!" he reminds her. "But you're working two jobs to get them everything they want."
"I have to," she insists. "I have to make sure that they have what they need."
"I don't want this to just be semantics, because we're talking about the difference between need and want," Dr. Phil says. "A lot of what you do, you do it to get them what they want and not what they need, right?"
"That's true," she admits.
"When I first found that Dr. Phil was putting us to work, I wasn't very excited. Then when I found out what we were doing, I still wasn't very excited," Justin a
Dressed up like elves, Ashley and Justin sing Christmas carols, pass out gifts and entertain t
Ashley expresses gratitude that she was able to contribute. "There were kids that had lost literally everything that they owned, and it was just really great to give those things back to them," she says.
After the holiday party, Justin says that the assignment was a success. "It just fills something inside of you whenever you give something away instead of always trying to take," he says. "Now that I see how happy it makes them, it fills a hole in their heart because they really need this more than me or my sister do."
"Pretty good, I think," Justin replies, "because we just helped them out more than anything."
"Was it interesting to meet children that have lost their homes, their rooms, their beds, their toys, their mementos — virtually everything? What did you think about that?"
"I thought it was very sad that they lost everything, and I was glad we could help them," Ashley says brightly. "We could tell they really loved it and appreciated it."
Justin adds, "Even if we didn't get them anything, I still say they'd probably be happy that they got to come."
Dr. Phil is proud that the teens have gotten into the spirit of giving. "It just makes you stop and think of what you have that you take for granted, and you just feel funny complaining about things," he points out.
"It made me feel really great to do something good for somebody else," Ashley says. "Mom, we love you!"
Tears flow from Javonna's eyes as she watches the electronic greeting card. "Why does that affect you so much to hear that?" Dr. Phil asks.
"Because I don't hear it," she says.
Turning to her kids, Dr. Phil says, "What do y'all think about the fact that just hearing y'all say that you love your mom — that you put some effort and energy into that — affects her so much?"
"She realizes that we do love her and we don't really say it enough, I guess," Justin says.
Dr. Phil says that the teens have to be better about supporting their mother. "I watched y'all with those kids at that party. Y'all were really sweet and really helpful and really caring," he notes. "I know that's in you. This is a good place to invest some of that energy," he says, pointing to JaVonna.