Overprotective Moms: Ashlee Experiment

Overprotective Moms: Ashlee Experiment

Teresa says she would do anything to change her behavior, so Dr. Phil put her to the test. He decided to conduct a little experiment that started with a personal videotaped message:

"I've got an assignment for both of you. Teresa, you said the best advice I gave you was to let go some and give in a little bit. I'm going to put you to that test. Today, for one day, I want you to let Ashlee do whatever she wants to do. So that means she can ride the bus, go to the mall with friends and walk to Brandy's house all by herself. Teresa, you've got to promise to let her go."

Teresa watches the TV in disbelief, but Ashlee is ecstatic. Dr. Phil asks the excited teen to leave the room, then continues, "Ashlee doesn't know it, but we're going to let you watch from a surveillance van. You can't get out of the van at any point to talk to Ashlee."

Waiting for Ashlee's ride in front of the house, Teresa's face is full of worry. "I'm about to puke, Ashlee. You'd better not talk to anybody," she says, on the verge of tears. "There's weirdoes on the bus."

Ashlee explains how it felt seeing her mother so emotional. "She had tears in her eyes, and I was about to cry too. I was upset because I don't like her being upset."

After an emotional goodbye, Ashlee met up with a friend and headed to the bus stop for a trip to the mall. What Ashlee and Teresa didn't know is that a Dr. Phil staff member monitored Ashlee the entire time with a hidden camera.

"It was torture in that van, just sitting there [wondering] who could be lurking around the corner, or who could be watching her," Teresa recalls. "How am I going to know if she's talking to a stranger on the bus or not? People are beat up on a bus and nothing happens. I do trust Dr. Phil, but when he said that she was able to do whatever she wanted, I thought, ‘Are you crazy?'"

While watching the girls on the surveillance camera, Teresa flew into a panic when they got off the bus one stop early. "See? She doesn't listen; she can't do what she's told to do. I don't want to do this anymore … This is literally killing me. It's going to be dark soon. There's gang members that come here at night time," she says, crying.

Ashlee shares her thoughts after the experiment. "The whole time I was gone, I was thinking, ‘Is she freaking out?' But at the same time, I was like, ‘I'm here to have fun, getting to do something I've never done before.'"

"When Ash walked through that door after going on that bus and I saw that she was safe, I was just completely relieved," Teresa admits. "I want her to be able to do what she did today, but the fear still overcomes me."

Ashlee expresses gratitude to Dr. Phil. "Thank you for letting me have the experience to do it, because I know this probably won't happen for a couple more years," she says.

Dr. Phil assures Teresa that, based on footage from the hidden camera, nothing bad happened to Ashlee. "If you'd like to see it and watch it with your daughter, you can do that, at which time, you will want to look at her and say, ‘I am so proud of you for being a responsible young woman,'" he says. "There was nothing to see that would alarm you … She didn't flirt. She didn't talk to strangers. She conducted herself like you would want any young woman to do."

Dr. Phil reiterates that Teresa thinks Ashlee is less experienced than other 14-year-olds. "How is she going to overcome her naivete?" he asks.  "I think we need to be very protective of our children. You need to be very cognizant. You need to know where they are, when they're doing different things, who they're with," he explains. "You have to understand that this fear is all about you. It's not about her. But she's the one who's going to pay for it. You've had some situations in your life before where you felt out of control, panicked. And I truly believe that you are experiencing a degree of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, and that keeps coming back and haunting you, and you're seeing a snake under every rock. You're afraid of everything. You don't even trust your own husband to watch your daughter."

Teresa needs to learn some new behaviors, because she cannot watch her daughter around the clock. "There are a lot of things professionals disagree about in child rearing, but there's pretty much a consensus about this: Parents should be tuned in, and attentive and vigilant about what their kids are doing, where they are, and who they're with. They also believe the best way to protect your children is to prepare them to protect themselves," Dr. Phil says. "That's how you can best protect your child. All of your monitoring, all of your vigilance, in my opinion, is making her more vulnerable, because she's scared."


"That's why I need to know how I can overcome this fear so they don't get harmed," Teresa says. She still blames herself for briefly losing Ashlee at an aquarium when she was younger. "I was supposed to be watching her, and for a split second I wasn't, and then she was gone."

"And so the pendulum has swung all the way over to the other way where you've got her on a short leash. You understand the day is going to come when she is going to get off the leash? And when she does, you're going to say, ‘I did not listen. I did not prepare.' I truly believe that you are experiencing some anxieties and some Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that you need to resolve personally," Dr. Phil explains. "I'm going to offer to arrange for you to have some professional help in doing that. The good news is, this is such a resilient, delightful spirit, that I don't think she is a crippled young lady at this point, mentally, emotionally or socially."

He also offers to get Ashlee involved in Impact Personal Safety, which provides personal defense classes over a six week period with a padded mock assailant.