"Pretty Ugly" - Debi"

"I show more favoritism to Hunner than Victoria," admits Debi, about how she treats her 8-and 7-year-old daughters.  "I'm

always telling Hunner, 'You're so pretty. You look just like Mommy' "She's just a loveable child." While she treats Hunner with love and respect, she picks on Victoria for her looks and the way she eats. "I'm embarrassed to be seen with Victoria. She's got her skin disease where she's polka-dotted and she's gained 50 pounds in a year," Debi explains. "When Victoria gets out of the shower I get upset because you can see her fat rolls and her big giant belly. It makes me sick … I've never wanted to be the ugly mom. I never wanted ugly kids."

Victoria realizes that she is being treated differently. "Victoria tells me all the time that I love Hunner more and I do more stuff for Hunner," Debi says, acknowledging that it is the truth. "Last year I signed Hunner up for cheerleading, not Victoria 'because Victoria was chubby.'"
Debi also spent $600 on a birthday party for Hunner while Victoria didn't get one at all; buys Hunner designer clothes and shoes, while Victoria's clothes come from Wal Mart. Hunner has her own room that Debi has put a lot of care into decorating, and Victoria sleeps on the floor in there because her room was given to her stepbrother. According to Debi, Victoria is "a slob and never kept it clean."

"Hunner's always loving. She's just my princess," says Debi. "When we go shopping, people will say, ‘She is so beautiful.' ‘How did she get so cute?' and no one ever says anything about Victoria." She turns to Dr. Phil for help. "Please help me understand why my daughter's weight and appearance bother me so much."

"What's your reaction to hearing yourself and watching yourself?" Dr. Phil asks Debi.

"I feel bad," Debi admits. "It makes me feel like a horrible mom."

Dr. Phil lists additional ways Debi treats Hunner better than Victoria. Hunner lives with Debi, while Victoria is sent to live with her dad; she gives Hunner hugs and kisses and paints her nails, while Victoria gets "no daily love;" she helps Hunner with her homework and Victoria has to do hers on her own; and Debi goes to all of Hunner's activities but only goes to Victoria's if she has time. "You're ashamed to be seen with your daughter," Dr. Phil makes clear.

"I never wanted an overweight child. I've always wanted pretty children," Debi explains. "I've always tried to be that perfect mom. I

just think she should be that kid too."


"Well lady, children aren't jewelry, they're human beings," Dr. Phil tells her, pointing out that Victoria didn't choose to have her skin condition.

Debi defends herself. "It didn't start getting where I didn't want to be with her until she started gaining all her weight. She sneaks food. Constantly," Debi says

Dr. Phil is in shock. "You buy the food, present the food, prepare the food and she's overweight and you're telling me that's her fault?" he questions. "Is it possible that she comforts herself with food because her mother treats her like a second-class citizen?" he asks. "Is it possible that she companions herself with food, loves herself with food, medicates herself with food because a hamburger never

rejects her? A bowl of ice cream never rejects her like her mother does so she comforts herself in the one way that she knows how."

"Yes. It could be," Debi resigns.

Dr. Phil asks, "What is your criteria?"

"She needs to lose weight. She needs to start caring about what she looks like herself," Debi says.

Reminding Debi that Victoria is only 7 years old, Dr. Phil tells her, "The most important relationship in any child's life is the same-sex parent." He asks her what she does to impact Victoria's self-esteem and self-worth. "Would you say that what you're doing is positive or would you say it's negative?"

"It's negative," Debi admits.

Dr. Phil tells Debi, "When you look at your daughter, you have a choice. You can either say, 'This is a young girl who has an involuntary skin disease and I either judge her and am ashamed of her for that, or I have compassion for her and I want to be her soft place to fall. I want to teach her that she is more than what she looks like on the outside. I want to teach her to take pride and exercise and

love herself.' Do those things ever occur to you?"

"Yeah those things occur to me, but it's a choice too," says Debi. "You choose to be fat or you choose to be skinny."

"She's 7 years old!" Dr. Phil interrupts.

"But she still knows it makes her fat when you just eat constantly," Debi refutes.

"You know that what you're doing scars her self-esteem, her self-worth, her being, correct? And you continue to do it yet you judge her because she continues to eat when she, at 7 years old, should know better? You know better and you're a full-grown adult and you can't do it. Why do you hold her to the standard that you can't meet yourself?"

"Because she should want to do it for herself," Debi replies.

"You should want to do it for yourself," Dr. Phil tells her and the audience applauds. "Do you not get the total hypocrisy in what you're saying?" Dr. Phil points out that the issue is her role as a mother. "What job in this world do you have that's more important than being a mother?"

"Nothing," Debi says, and Dr. Phil asks her how she's doing at it. "Not so good on Victoria," she admits. "She needs to think, 'OK, I'm not going to have friends if I eat this way. I'm not going to have anything if I act this way.' But she chooses to do it."

Dr. Phil can't believe what he is hearing. "Do you have first a responsibility to look at your daughter Victoria and find in her the God-given gifts, traits, qualities and characteristics that make her uniquely who she is?" he asks.

"I do care about Victoria. I give her baths. I take her places. I fix her dinner. I tell her I love her. I show her love, but not the same way I

show Hunner," Debi explains.

"Would it surprise you if I told you that the way you are dealing with Victoria is scarring Hunner as much as it is scarring Victoria," he asks.

"Yeah, it would surprise me," Debi replies.

"Hunner has said to us, 'Mommy loves me better because I'm prettier,'" Dr. Phil tells Debi. "Do you think that scars Hunner? To be taught that because you look better than this person, you are superior in some way."

"Hunner's not snobby," Debi says. "Hunner knows that to be someone in life you have to be pretty. You have to hold yourself high. You can't just let yourself be scum."

Dr. Phil asks Debi if she looks at Victoria as scum, and she answers, "No, but if she doesn't change the way she is, she's going to be."

"If you don't change what you're doing, she's going to be," Dr. Phil corrects Debi, and the audience applauds. "You are teaching her to be incredibly superficial."

Dr. Phil digs deeper and finds out that Victoria reminds Debi of her ex-husband, whom she says she hates. "Is it just possible that she is vicariously paying the price for your hatred of him because she reminds you of him in so many traits and characteristics?" Dr. Phil

probes. "Is it possible that she has become your dumping ground for all of the hatred and bitterness that you have toward him?"

"I never thought of it like that," Debi concedes.

"Do you get the fact that you have an incredibly shallow and superficial focus?" Dr. Phil asks Debi, pointing out that Hunner may grow up and not be as cute as she is now. "What's going to happen to her if she hits that awkward stage and all of a sudden thinks, 'I'm not so cute anymore'?"

"I'll fix it," Debi replies, and the audience gasps.

Dr. Phil offers Debi advice. "How about you teach yourself and these girls to look beyond the superficial and learn to appreciate, love and accept themselves for who they truly are inside?" he says. He suggests that Victoria acts the way she does because Debi does not teach her self-pride or to love and accept herself and hold herself to a high standard. "She needs to know that every time she walks out that door that there is at least one person in this world that loves her and thinks she is so special that she is just queen of the world." Especially because other kids may be giving her a hard time about her skin disease, Debi must be her daughter's soft place to fall. "You are joining the gang that's putting her down, and you have to change that," Dr. Phil warns. "I don't think there's a damn thing wrong with Victoria. I think what's wrong with her is that she has been invalidated by you. I think that's why she eats. That's why she's sloppy."

He offers to arrange professional help for Debi, Hunner and Victoria, noting, "You have two daughters, both in serious danger."