Parents' Biggest Mistakes

Parents' Biggest Mistakes
Peggy feels like her parenting style has contributed to her son Kyle's weight gain.
Peggy blames her soft approach to parenting for her 15-year-old son Kyle's problems. She says he talks back, gets failing grades and has become morbidly obese. "I do buy junk food occasionally," she admits. "When I cook, I probably cook for four with the intent of having leftovers. But sometimes we don't have those leftovers if Kyle has a midnight meal."

Kyle feels unmotivated, and says he eats when he feels depressed. "When my weight and depression started, my parents were going through a custody battle and I started eating more," Kyle says. "I think my mom could be a better parent by making herself available. But that's hard for her being a single mother and working two jobs."

It's been a struggle to pay Kyle's medical bills, and Peggy says she's alarmed at how his health is deteriorating. "The doctors say that Kyle needs to lose over 100 pounds in order to be healthy," she reports. "His pediatrician has recommended gastric bypass. So if it goes down that road, I'm all for it."

Growing emotional, she says, "I've tried to do everything that I could to be a good mom, but I really feel like I've failed him.""You think you failed because your son has a bad attitude, poor health and he's overweight, right?" Dr. Phil asks Peggy.

"Yes."

"What you're doing is what I call guilt-based parenting," he tells her. "So when it's time to push him or require him to do certain things, you cave."

She agrees. "I do. I feel a lot of pain because he's been sick a lot and that's really hard," Peggy explains. She also feels at fault because there is no male role model in Kyle's life.

"So when you give in and let him do what he wants to do, what's the result?" Dr. Phil asks.

"He doesn't do anything," she admits. "Honestly, I have tried rewarding and I've tried taking things away. I have tried ignoring, and I've tried different things and still the result is the same."

"But you're inconsistent," Dr. Phil says.
Dr. Phil points out that parents will often overindulge their children so as not to appear mean spirited. "Aren't you really doing that for you and not him? Aren't you doing that to salve your own guilt?" Dr. Phil questions. "You're certainly not doing it to help Kyle, right?"

"Right. I never saw it as taking care of myself," Peggy explains.

Dr. Phil says that when it's time to discipline Kyle, there are "tapes" playing in Peggy's head that say, "'He's had no male leadership. He's in a bad spot. We live out in the middle of nowhere. There's nothing to do. I just feel so bad about this so I'm just going to let him do what he wants to do.' And then you feel better because you've let him do something, which seems to be a reward. Do you understand that it is not a gift to a child, a teenager, or even an adult ... to indulge them in a way that leads to a bad outcome?" Dr. Phil stresses. "What you're doing is de-pressuring yourself. You're decompressing because you're feeling bad about it, and you just give into him in the moment."

"Honestly, there are times that I don't know what to do," Peggy admits.Taking her hand, Dr. Phil places Peggy in front of Kyle, who sits in the audience. Noting that Kyle is considering gastric bypass, Dr. Phil asks him, "How do you feel about that?"

Kyle replies, "Everything else hasn't worked and so it looks like a really good opportunity for me."

"I don't like it. For some people, it is a good option. For some people, it is a sound option and it may be for you," Dr. Phil concedes. "But I want you to give me a chance first."

Peggy chimes in, "I would love to give you a chance."

Dr. Phil notes that Peggy has a hard time motivating her son to lose weight. "When it comes to your weight, you shouldn't have to rely on your mother to make decisions for you. Correct?"

"Yes."

"Isn't the truth that you don't like your body image?" Dr. Phil probes.

Kyle agrees. "I don't like my body image at all."
Dr. Phil explains to Kyle, "When your body image is not good, it does affect your self image. Your confidence goes down and you get frustrated, don't you? But the person you're upset with is you. And the person that needs to take control of this is you."

He points out that as a 15-year-old, Kyle doesn't buy or prepare his own food; Peggy does. Addressing Peggy, Dr. Phil says, "You're feeding him way too much, obviously, of the wrong foods, at the wrong times, in the wrong way. Now I'm not saying that so you can add to your guilt list; I'm saying that so I can require you to make some changes too."
Dr. Phil explains to Kyle, "When your body image is not good, it does affect your self image. Your confidence goes down and you get frustrated, don't you? But the person you're upset with is you. And the person that needs to take control of this is you."

He points out that as a 15-year-old, Kyle doesn't buy or prepare his own food; Peggy does. Addressing Peggy, Dr. Phil says, "You're feeding him way too much, obviously, of the wrong foods, at the wrong times, in the wrong way. Now I'm not saying that so you can add to your guilt list; I'm saying that so I can require you to make some changes too."