Parenting Gone Bad: Becky and John

Drill Sergeant Dad
Dr. Phil talks with parents that take their discipline too far.
Becky says her husband John is a "drill sergeant dad" who wants to run their household, with three daughters, like a military base. "He will yell at them as though they're on the f
rontlines of battle," she says, pointing out that 5-year-old Sierra hides behind the couch when she hears him coming home. "I feel so angry at times that I want to take the children and leave."

John defends his parenting style. "Little kids need to know that there's a boss.

It's important that children obey and respect their parents," he says. "I definitely learned to be intimidating and in your face from my dad. He was an army drill sergeant. He expected me to be an example, and I expect that from my oldest child also."

Becky turns to Dr. Phil: "It's time to bust my drill sergeant husband. Can you help me?"

John wants to change his behavior. "I don't want to be like that," he says. "I'm seeing it come out in my daughter in the way she treats her sisters." Acknowledging that he was disciplined with intimidation, he adds, "I promised myself I wouldn't be like that ... I do want to change this. I don't like it at all."

Sierra is not John's biological daughter, but he doesn't want to treat her any differently. "I want to be part of her life more than I am now. I don't want her to grow up resenting me. I want her to be able to come to me with her problems," he says.

Dr. Phil looks toward the future, asking, "Isn't what you want is for her to feel really special and know that the power male figures in her life love her and cherish her and respect her, instead of her going out starved and hungry for male acceptance and approval, and therefore being real vulnerable?"

Dr. Phil suggests: "I'd like you to go home today, and it's not going to be easy, she's going to be resistant at first, but I want you to go to her world, wherever she feels most comfortable. I want you to sit down on the floor, and I want you to tell her how sorry you are for yelling at her and scaring her. I want you to tell her, 'I was wrong, and it wasn't you, and I'm sorry.'"

Dr. Phil asks John how it might feel if he said that. When he doesn't answer the question head on, Dr. Phil asks again, "How would it feel to you to sit on her bed or on the floor and start this off on the right foot? How would it feel for you to say, 'Daddy John is sorry. I have not been very nice and I really, really love you'?"

John replies, "I'd feel good about it."

Dr. Phil shares a personal anecdote about tucking Jordan and Jay in bed at night. He confesses that Robin did all the work to get them into bed, and he'd come in to say goodnight. "I got in a habit with our two boys that when they were at that age, every night when I'd come in and tuck them in, I'd always kind of tickle them a little bit and say, 'How do you suppose that out of all the little boys in the world, I got the best ones?' And they would just giggle and wiggle in those covers."

He tells John, "Find that special thing you can say to her from your heart."