New Year: Old Habits: Jessica

"I don't think it's a lot to expect my kids and husband to pick up after themselves, so from now on, it's either my way or eBay!" says Jessica. "It drives me crazy when things are left out."

 

The weary mom took drastic measures to get her family's attention. "I'm tired of picking up after them. Yelling doesn't work. Grounding doesn't work. Finally, I got completely fed up," she says. "So whatever was left out for a week got put into a box and sold to the highest bidder."

 

Jessica auctioned off clothing, games, toys and other items cherished by Aaron and their two kids, Joey and Taylor. "They thought it was a big joke at first. When I started showing them what they lost, there were a lot of tears shed," she recalls.

 

Shortly after the sale, Aaron learned his lesson, but their children reverted to their old ways. "Joey tends to leave garbage sitting out or video games. Taylor's room is the worst. Give her five minutes and it looks like a hurricane has hit it. There are school papers all over, clothing lying on the steps, cups on the kitchen table not put away from dinner the night before."

Now, Jessica has started another box of items to sell online. "Dr. Phil, my New Year's resolution is to teach my kids responsibility and respect, even if it means I have to sell their stuff on eBay again," she declares.

"You've just made every mother's dream come true," Dr. Phil jokes with Jessica. "How much did you get for the first batch?" 

"Three hundred and sixty dollars," she says proudly.

"What are you going to do with the money?" 

"I donated it to charity."

Acknowledging that the stunt briefly got the attention of her children, Dr. Phil says, "Why do you think it didn't stick?"

"Because children are children," she says.

 

"Don't you think that both of the kids are really disrespectful in terms of the way they talk?" Dr. Phil asks. 

"Oh absolutely," she says.

 

Aaron, who is sitting in the audience, agrees. "You just ask them to do anything and they have to argue about it," he tells Dr. Phil.

Addressing Jessica, Dr. Phil says, "Are you consistent with what you do when they are disrespectful?"

She ponders this question. "I believe I am consistent, but I think I'm to the point now where I'm running out of ideas," she admits.

Dr. Phil points out that Aaron changed his ways after his items were auctioned off, but the children didn't. "Why do you suppose that is?" Dr. Phil asks Jessica. 

"There are children out there who don't have anything. I think that they're so used to having these materialistic things, they just think Mom and Dad are going to go out and buy them more things." 

"I wonder why they think that?" Dr. Phil asks with a knowing smile.

"I don't know."

"I think what you did is a good attention-getter. But we need to add something to it here. Kids need to understand that there are standards of conduct in a family, and that they have to do what I call upstream management."

 

In Family First, Dr. Phil talks about each family member having his or her unique role. "There's a hierarchy within the family, and everybody understands where the power and the authority lie. What's happening here is these children have no responsibility whatsoever for the relationship they have with either of you," he explains. "They don't have the skill set to manage their mouths or their things."

Dr. Phil advises the couple to start having twice weekly family meetings that last for 30 minutes. "You two need to sit down and talk about three or four things you want to go over in that family meeting," he says. "Do it twice a week for four weeks and see what happens. I think you're going to open up a dialogue and some communication that will take a lot of the pressure off you."