Moms' Biggest Mistakes: JaVonna

Moms' Biggest Mistakes: JaVonna

"I'm a single mother raising two teenage kids. I work two jobs, seven days a week, to make sure Ashley and Justin have what they want," says JaVonna of her two teens. "Ashley and Justin are expecting way too much for Christmas this year, and I cannot provide what they need."

Some of the things on her children's lists are an iPod, a new computer, a monitor upgrade to 19 inches, a new cell phone, clothes, and an Xbox 360. Sixteen-year-old Ashley wants about $3,000 worth of gifts, and her 15-year-old brother's wish list contains about $5,000 worth of gifts.

As a single mom, $8,000 is way out of JaVonna's budget. "Recently, they have told me that if I can't provide the things on their wishlist, they would just as soon not have a Christmas. It makes me feel inadequate as a parent," she reveals. "It puts a lot of pressure on me. I buy Ashley and Justin things out of guilt. Eighty percent of the time, I try to get them what they want, but I spend many sleepless nights worrying about it. I want them to understand that life is hard, and no one hands anything to you on a silver platter."


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."

Dr. Phil agrees, adding that some companies aggressively market toys to children. But he wants JaVonna to take some ownership. "What do you have to do with this?" he asks.

"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."

"If they're spoiled, it may be the media that makes them want it, but it's we as parents that teach them that they're going to get away with that," Dr. Phil explains. "What would happen if you said no?"

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.

Dr. Phil sent Ashley and Justin on assignment. He had a holiday party for families and children displaced by Hurricane Katrina, and JaVonna's children had to volunteer for the day.

"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

dmits. "I was kind of dreading it because the costumes were a little embarrassing."


Dressed up like elves, Ashley and Justin sing Christmas carols, pass out gifts and entertain t

he young Hurricane victims.

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."

Turning to Ashley and Justin in the audience, Dr. Phil asks, "How did you guys 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.

JaVonna has never received a birthday card from either of her children. "I think it's time for them to create a new tradition that makes buying expensive gifts a thing of Christmas past," Dr. Phil tells her. "To start the tradition, Ashley and Justin put together their own homemade card."

He shows JaVonna a card graphic from her kids. "Now I see that giving makes you feel like a better person," Justin says. "Even though we haven't been able to get you a birthday card, we love you and appreciate you so much. We love you, Mom!"

"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.