Parenting Gone Bad: Jason, Tressa

Spanking with a Spatula
Dr. Phil talks with parents who take their discipline too far.
Jason thinks his wife Tressa is being cruel and scaring their 5-year-old daughter by disciplining her with a spatula.

"It's teaching her what I need her to learn," Tressa says. "When I use the spatula, I see an immediate change in her behavior."

She says that they have tried timeouts, taking away television and grounding her, but none of them worked.

Jason believes in punishment, but he doesn't approve of spanking with a tool. He wants Tressa to stop using this terror tactic.

Tressa thinks that Jason is too easy on their daughter when it comes to discipline, and that he never accomplishes anything.

She says, "I'm not going to have a wild 6-year-old on my hands ... Spanking is appropriate and it's effective. It gets results and it gets the response that I want."

Dr. Phil asks Tressa about using a spatula to spank their daughter. "You say you do that because you can't hit hard enough with your hand? What are you trying to achieve here?"

"I want her to wake up," Tressa explains. "I just want a sting out of it. I can't get that with my hand."

"What do you think she learns from that?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Not to do the behavior because she doesn't want to go through it. She doesn't want to have that interaction with me."

"If she's learning from this form of discipline, why do you have to keep threatening her or hitting her?"

Tressa answers, "Well she's 6. These are behaviors that she is going to have anyway and I understand that."

Jason interrupts, "Exactly my point. She's 6! She's a kid. She should be able to be a kid."


Dr. Phil explains that at 6 years old, children have the ability to learn, and if the discipline is effective, then it will stick.

He says, "Let me be real clear. Don't hit your kids is my policy ... The problem is, violence begets violence. If you use violence with your children, there is a high likelihood they will use violence with others. There is also a real clear indication that these kids, if they get spanked, they think 'OK, I've paid my debt, so I can do it again.' When you inflict pain, you suppress the behavior immediately, but it doesn't generalize. They don't learn from that. They learn to seek pleasure and avoid pain."

Dr. Phil addresses Jason, "I'm not saying what you're doing is correct either, if what you're doing is saying 'Don't do that,' and she continues do it, and you say 'Come on baby,' and pat her hand."

Jason replies, "It's not like that. I give her more opportunities to correct herself. I talk to her. She's my friend."


Dr. Phil explains to Jason that overindulgence is a form of child abuse. It's a disservice to teach that to their daughter because it's not the way the world works.

He explains, "If you're teaching her that you get 10 warnings and some conversation before there are any consequences, then you're not helping her prepare herself. Children need boundaries, and they need to be able to predict the consequences of their actions with 100 percent accuracy."

Dr. Phil asks Tressa, "If there is a way to do this without inflicting pain, then do you believe that you should in fact do that?"

"Oh yeah," Tressa answers.

"You have to have age-appropriate expectancies ... You have to be willing to choose your battles. If you control the currency, and she can understand that it's immediate, it's swift, and it's highly reliable, then she will modify her behavior and she will learn from that," Dr. Phil explains.