Parents' Biggest Mistakes

Parents' Biggest Mistakes
Lena, mother of "the strongest boy in the world" worries that her son is picking up his father's bad traits."
Lena says that during her son Richard's 12 short years, he was horribly abused by his father. "Anything could make my husband angry. You could not open your mouth, otherwise, you'll be punished physically or mentally," Lena recalls. "It was a nightmare."
Her ex-husband will be released from jail in July, and she worries about what impact that will have on her family.

"Growing up with my dad was kind of scary. Especially when he was drunk, he was out of control. He just became like this dark, crazy person," admits Richard, whose father had him lifting weights at age 4. "I had to continue training even though I didn't want to sometimes. I could never please my dad. It was frustrating."

Lena agrees. "He was pushing Richard too hard," she says. "Every time he abused Richard, I would try to stop him, and he would turn to me and he would beat me. My husband broke my wrist and broke my nose."

Richard feels like the man of the house now that his father is gone, but Lena fears that her son is growing up too quickly. "Sometimes he can talk to me back," she says. "My only regret as his mom is that I didn't stop my husband sooner and get out from this really bad abusive relationship."Dr. Phil asks Lena if she's concerned about her ex-husband being released from jail in July.

She replies, "Very much. I'm concerned about my kids, and I'm concerned he will get out and he will find out where we live."

"Do you expect him to come back and try to contact you guys?"

"I do expect him very much because I know him very well. Nothing would stop him," she says.

Addressing Richard, Dr. Phil asks, "Do you worry about that?"

"I worry about that a lot," Richard answers. "If he gets out he will be looking for us. I know that. But I don't think the same thing will happen over and over again because I won't allow it."

Acknowledging that it's difficult for children to deal with adult issues, Dr. Phil says, "You were subjected to abuse by your dad, correct?"

Richard says yes, and explains that his father would sometimes beat him before weight lifting competitions.Dr. Phil points out that Richard has started behaving disrespectfully toward his mother. "You say some of the things she used to kind of hear from [your father.] What do you think about that?" he asks.

Richard tries to clarify. "Sometimes, I try, like, behaving but I don't know —"

Dr. Phil interjects, "We want to do more than try about the behaving, right?"

Richard agrees. "I love her really much."

Lena maintains that, for the most part, her son is well behaved. "He's an absolutely amazing kid," she tells Dr. Phil.

Dr. Phil points out that Richard may be trying to fill the void left by his father. "You say you kind of see yourself as trying to be the man of the house, right?" Dr. Phil asks Richard.

Richard answers, "After he left and everything."
Dr. Phil shows a clip of Richard's video. He will be featured in an upcoming movie, "The Amazon Kid," and is also shooting his own workout DVD for children with Hollywood trainer Bobby Strom.

"You are very focused, and you seem to me to be a really well-balanced young man. I think you have to be, particularly as you go into show business," Dr. Phil tells Richard. "And you need to remember what's really important and keep your relationship with your mom."

Lena is from Ukraine, a country where spousal abuse is commonplace. "It's absolutely normal," Lena says.

"If you need some resources on this, we can coordinate that for you," Dr. Phil assures her. "It may be possible to get some legal help in that regard where a condition of his parole is that he stays away from you. There may be an ability to restrain him from getting around you and making certain that someone is there to protect and guard from any problems when you're together."
"One of the things you'll learn as you get older is that parents do pass on to their kids their habits and their traits and their characteristics," Dr. Phil explains to Richard. "When you get old enough to think for yourself — and you certainly are — you have to stop and say, 'There are things about my dad that I didn't like, and I'm not going to repeat those things. I'm not going to speak disrespectfully to my mother. I'm not going to vent myself in anger.'"

Dr. Phil gives his own example of growing up with an alcoholic father. "I don't drink at all. Even since high school, I was always the designated driver," he says. "But I looked at what my dad did and I said, 'I don't want that in my life,' and I made the decision not to do it. And you have to do the same thing. You have to say, 'That was ugly when he did it, and I'm making the decision not to do that.'"

He acknowledges that Richard may feel some pressure to be the man of the household and support his mom. "Don't forget about being a kid," Dr. Phil cautions. "Because it's fun to be a kid and you only get one chance to do that."