My Big, Fat, Spoiled Family Member: Kacedra, Gina

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"My older sister, Gina, is a shopaholic, and she is turning my 4-year-old daughter, Dawson, into a shopaholic as well," Kacedra says.

"I don't think anything will stop me from spoiling Dawson," Gina says.

"It's going to have to stop really soon because she's creating a monster," Kacedra says. She shows her daughter's clothing collection. "Dawson has so many things in her closet " brand new clothes that still have tags that her Auntie Gina bought for her, clothes that she cannot wear until she's about 6 or 7 years old. My sister will not stop buying for her." She opens Dawson's dresser drawers. "They are packed to capacity. When she was first born, Gina felt that she needed to go out and buy Dawson her ‘take me home' outfit. This is a genuine leather skirt that her Auntie Gina bought for her when she was 6 months old."

"Kacedra is jealous because I can buy the things for Dawson that she can't," Gina says.

"Even if I did have the time or the money, I still do not think that it's good for her to get everything that she wants," Kacedra says.

"When I spoil Dawson, it's a problem for her mother, not for me," Gina says.

"Are you concerned at all that she is getting spoiled and that she has an expectation that what she wants, she gets?" Dr. Phil asks Gina.

"Nope, because when we finish shopping, I take her home to Kacedra. She has to handle that," she says.

"Let me turn to you then," Dr. Phil tells Kacedra. "Having just said that, what in the world are you doing allowing her to do that with your child?"

"Well, I don't want to stop her from seeing her because Dawson is already attached to her Auntie Gina," Kacedra says.

"But that's not your problem," Dr. Phil tells her. "If she won't follow your rules and guidelines " this is a blatant alienation of affection." He tells Gina, "This is a competition between you two, and you gloat over being able to do what she can't, do you not?" 

"I don't consider it being a competition," Gina says. "I can do it, and she can't."

 

"‘I can do it, and she can't,'" Dr. Phil repeats.

"Yes. I have the time. I have the money, and then I have Dawson," Gina says.

"But you don't have sensitivity," Dr. Phil notes.

 

"Toward Kacedra? No, I don't have any sensitivity toward Kacedra," she agrees.  

"You see?" Kacedra asks Dr. Phil.

"I see! Do you see?" he asks in return.

"She is Dawson's aunt, so she is allowed to have that relationship with her. But there are boundaries that you just can't cross that she's doing," Kacedra says.

"That's right. That relationship is a privilege; it's not a right, and any member of the family, particularly extended family, friends, neighbors, whoever, if they're not being consistent with your goals, your compass, on what you want your daughter exposed to, then they have to fall in line with that or take a step back, right?" Dr. Phil asks her.

"Yes and no," Kacedra says. "She's a great aunt. I don't want to take away from what she has done for Dawson. It's just extreme now. Dawson is 4, so this has been going on since she was born."

"She's told you since she got here that she has a complete and utter disregard for sensitivity to you," Dr. Phil points out. "And you know that she's spoiling your daughter, right? You know that she's corrupting her."

"Oh, yes, I know that," Kacedra says.

"And it's your job to protect your daughter," Dr. Phil says.

"I do protect, but at the same time, there still has to be a relationship because she is Dawson's aunt. It just can't go too far."

Dr. Phil takes a deep breath. "OK," he says simply.

Gina says she spoils Dawson because she always wanted a little girl of her own. But the special treatment doesn't affect just Dawson.

 

"If you ask Dawson whom she'd rather be with, she'll answer her Auntie Gina," Kacedra says.

"Dawson wants to spend more time with me than her mother because we have more fun," Gina says.

"Gina does not spoil my other two children. This is strictly about Dawson. At Dawson's gymnastics recital, Gina presented her with flowers. She said, ‘That's my little girl. I was not going to let her be seen without any flowers.' Gina has a coworker who told me that she thought that I was Dawson's aunt, and that Gina was Dawson's mother," Kacedra says.

"When I'm out with Dawson, shopping, and people think that she's my

daughter, and they say how beautiful she is, it just makes me smile. I don't correct them. I just take the compliment," Gina admits.

 

Back onstage, Dr. Phil asks Gina, "What about the other two children? Do you think that it creates a problem for them when you come in and shower her with attention, and time, and gifts and all of that, and they're just standing there like ragamuffins?"

"Haven't thought about it," Gina says matter-of-factly.

"Well, think about it now," Dr. Phil implores. "I mean, do you think that would hurt their feelings? Or say, ‘What's wrong with me? How come Auntie Gina doesn't like me? Why doesn't she want to spend time with me? Why doesn't she bring me gifts? Why doesn't she come to my functions, my events?' Do you think it hurts their feelings? Let me tell you, it does."

Kacedra explains, "My son has said, ‘Mommy, is Dawson going with Auntie Gina? Well, can I just go just to get out of the house? I don't have to do the girl stuff. Can I just go with them, just to get out of the house?' And she says, ‘Isaiah, we're going to be shopping. You don't want to shop, do you?'"

"He's 11 years old, so he wouldn't want to go to the mall with us," Gina argues.

"Apparently he does! He's asking his mother if he can go with you!" Dr. Phil exclaims. "I think that's cruel."

"OK, so maybe I'll try it one time," Gina says.

Dr. Phil turns to Kacedra. "I think it's your job as a mother to say, ‘Look, you're not going to hurt my children's feelings. You're going to treat them all the same. You have a relationship with Dawson; that's fine, but you're not going to hurt my children's feelings. I'm not going to allow you to pervert her and make her think everything's just about being materialistic.' That's your job as a mother. And she said, ‘I don't care what you think.' That means she disrespects you as a mother, and you've got to stand up and say, ‘You will not do that.' I don't care if she is your big sister. You are your children's mother, and that's where your loyalties lie, and that's the new role."
"But shouldn't she be happy?" Gina asks. "That's less that she has to do for Dawson."

"She can be happy if you are doing it consistent with her values, you are treating the children with equality, you are contributing to the situation," Dr. Phil says. "But let me tell you: Indulgence can get to the point that it becomes a contamination, not a contribution, and that has crossed the line."

"So I should spread it amongst the three of them then?" Gina asks.

"That's her decision to the extent that it does not cause them to become a way [she] doesn't want them to become," Dr. Phil says. "And you don't do it as a way that highlights her financial limitations. If you were really doing it for the children, you could say, ‘Here, Kacedra, give this to the kids. It's not about me. It's about them having something I want them to have.' But you don't do that. You make sure they know it's from you, which tells me it's about you as much as it is about the kids."