More Brats: Brittany

Toddler-Like Tantrums

"My 14-year-old daughter, Brittany, is a spoiled, rotten brat," says Mary. "Brittany has called me a bitch, told me to **** off, called us ********. Oh, wait, she also called me a whore one time, too. Brittany has punched me, kicked me, spit in my face."

Her husband, Rich, says, "Brittany's beyond a brat. She's out of control."

Brittany doesn't deny that she's hard to handle. "I'm a brat. I'm not going to lie about it," she says. "I get my way a lot because I have to have the last word. I might cuss, but it's not at my parents. I'm angry at the rules that they lay down. The chores take up too much of my time, especially when I have things planned. It just aggravates me." 

Mary is concerned that Brittany steals, smokes and wears tight-fitting clothes. The teen even called the cops on her father! "The last straw was when Brittany told the police her dad had hit her. When I saw my husband being driven away to jail, I was sobbing. I was crushed," she recalls. 

Rich elaborates on the incident. "I grabbed her by her sweater and she started throwing punches at me, kicked me like several times, yelled some obscenities at me, then ran out the door to the neighbors house," he says. "I never did anything to her."

Four months ago, Brittany was sent to live with Mary's grandmother, Marilyn. "I got a phone call from my daughter," Marilyn says. "She said, ‘Brittany can't stay here because Rich and I are going to get a divorce over this.' Brittany comes with a price. She's very high maintenance." 

Rich misses his daughter, but doesn't know wha
t the future holds. "I'm afraid that if Brittany does come back, I will have to walk on eggshells around my own home," he says.

"I want to bring her home. I know my mom can't keep Brittany forever," Mary acknowledges. "I don't want her to end up on the street, dead. That's my fear."

For the first time in four months, Mary and Rich see their daughter. Brittany comes out on stage and hugs her parents. "How does it feel to see these folks?" Dr. Phil asks her. 

"It feels great. I love them. I'm glad to see them," she replies with a smile.

"If you fight with them, and you're upset with them so much when you're together, why is it you miss them when you're apart?"

"Because I haven't seen them in so long and, I don't know, I just miss them," Brittany says. 

"How does it feel to see Brittany?" Dr. Phil asks Mary. 

"It feels good. I just want things to change," she replies.

"You've called your mom a bitch. You've said worse to Rich," Dr. Phil points out. "You've told them both to F off, to go to hell. You scream, bite and throw things. True?" 

"Yes," Brittany says. "It just happens because I get so angry, and I hold my feelings, and they build up. I let them all go, and I let them out in a very bad way."

"What do you think you're angry about?" Dr. Phil probes. 

"It's over things like rules and stuff, or if I don't get my way," Brittany answers. "Or my sister. I feel like she gets a lot more than I do. She gets more attention than I do."

Dr. Phil tells Brittany that when you choose the behavior, you choose the consequences. "When you crawl out your window onto the roof, you know that's wrong. If you go out and drink, or you smoke, or you cut school, or you're disrespectful, you know that's your choice," he chides. "You've made some choices that, after the fact, you wish you didn't make. Your behavior is absolutely outrageous. It is unacceptable and it needs to change."

Dr. Phil addresses Mary's mother, Marilyn, in the audience. "You want to see this change, right?" he asks.

 

"It has to, or Brittany won't be here," she replies. "She's a lonely little girl and she needs guidance."

 

"Do you have a theory why she's making the choices she's making?"

 

Tearfully, Marilyn replies, "She wants to be loved and she doesn't know how to get that attention. I hate to admit it, but I feel that she's just negative and that's how she's getting attention."

 

Dr. Phil observes that Brittany was behaving pretty well until she turned 9, then her life took a dramatic turn. He fixes his gaze on Mary. "You two split up, and [Rich] left and moved away. You got involved with somebody else, who told her for the first time that you weren't her biological father," Dr. Phil notes. "Somebody else made the decision to " very inappropriately, indelicately and without consultation " share something with her that is a shock. So she's in a new world, new environment, new people, her world just caved in and all of a sudden, 'Oh, by the way, he ain't your dad anyway.' And so everything is spinning around and she's like, 'What do I?' All she knows is, 'I'm really irritated. I am really bothered.'"

Dr. Phil turns to Brittany. "I don't think you know why you're so angry. I don't think it has anything in the world to do with rules. I don't think it has anything in the world to do with one of you telling her what to do or not what to do," he observes. "I think if you're angry, if you're irritated, if you're stressed, anything that is a demand on you is going to be a negative thing."

 

Addressing Rich, Dr. Phil says, "Have you ever sat down and really just talked this through?"

"I've tried. I've tried to talk to her," he replies.

Dr. Phil tells Mary and Rich that he wants to provide help for their family, but he also wants Brittany to reconnect with her father. "Do you know why Rich is so hurt that you've pulled back from him? It's because in his mind and heart, he's your dad because he chose to be. He's your dad because he volunteered for the job. It wasn't that he fathered you and had you. It was after the fact he said, 'I want the job. I want to be her dad,'" he explains. "I want you to participate in some conversations about this. Will you do that?"

"Yes," she answers.

 

Dr. Phil invites the family to extend their stay in town, courtesy of the show. "You can go to Disneyland. You can go to "The Tonight Show" or something. You can have dinner and spend some time here," he offers. "I'd like for y'all to have some relax time to close the gap before you get back to the home situation."