Pushy Parents?: Ed and Diane

Pushy Parents?: Ed and Diane
Dr. Phil has advice for learning to bond with a child you don't like.
Diane and Ed met through a Barry Manilow fan club. After dating for a short time, Ed proposed to her with Barry Manilow's music playing in the background and they got married on his birthday. They have a son named Barry ... and they have high hopes for him.

"My son is a musical prodigy," says Diane. "When Barry was a little over 2, he heard his Dad playing a Barry Manilow song on the piano. He went over and he was trying to play it. We knew that he definitely had some musical talent." They took Barry to his
first Barry Manilow concert when he was 3 1/2 years old, and they started him with piano lessons at 4.

"I think that my son, Barry, has the ability to be the next Barry Manilow," says Ed. "He's really shy and that really bothered me, but put him onstage in front of thousands of people and he's like this totally different kid."

"Music, music, music. My gift is my uniqueness, my individuality," says 13-year-old Barry. He can play almost 1,000 songs from memory and he writes, arranges and sings his own music, although most of his interest lies with singing Barry Manilow songs. "When I'm, playing music, I become trapped within the song."

Although Barry loves his music, his parents say that other kids and parents are jealous of his talent and they taunt the family. "The bullying started because of all the attention that Barry was getting," explains Ed. "The other kids in our neighborhood have

vandalized our house. We can't even go for a walk around the block because they'll say smart remarks to my wife or Barry. When Barry wins competitions, it gets really ugly," Ed says. "Parents can say some very mean things: 'Stop peddling your kid.' 'What, are you living your dream through your kid?' 'He's not even that good.'" Ed defends himself saying, "I did not push my son into music."

 

"My parents have never pushed me to do anything that I didn't want to do," explains Barry. "People have accused my father of being a stage dad

and that really makes me angry because that is not true. They are the chauffeurs, they're my roadies, but that's it." Barry acknowledges that it's hard when others make these comments. "Having a gift for music, sometimes it can get kind of lonely," he says. "There are times, because of the harassment, I thought, 'What if I never played music?' I can't help but think how normal my life would be."

 

Diane turns to Dr. Phil for help. "How can I share my son's talents with the world without him being persecuted by his peers?" she asks.

"You say you can't even take a walk because your son is so talented that people resent it?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"He's been on TV a few times and he's been in the paper pretty often and the jealousy is pretty bad," Ed explains. "If they walk outside they'll call him names and such." For example, the neighbors will call Barry names and mockingly ask him to dance and sing for them. Diane says they do it in front of her as well.

 

"So tell me why you think that is," Dr. Phil says.

 

"Well it's just a buildup of jealousy and resentment that he's done so much," Ed says.

 

Dr. Phil points out that Barry is always singing Barry Manilow's music, which isn't particularly popular among kids his age.

 

"But Barry doesn't do this stuff in school. He'll do it places where people can appreciate that kind of music," says Ed, defending his son.

"Was this your dream or was this Barry's?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"It was Barry's. Barry was always into music. Everything was music. He was always playing the piano, he was always writing music," Ed says. "All we did was support what he was interested

in. If he was interested in rock collecting, I'd be doing that."

 

"You told a music teacher at Barry's school, 'I'm giving you my son, a gift you cannot comprehend.' And then you were surprised when they treated him harshly?" Dr. Phil asks Ed. "Do you think that would create resentment?"

 

"I thought she would be mature enough to handle it," Ed says, explaining his comment. "He's very gifted musically and he can help her out in the class if you need help."

 

Dr. Phil asks, "She was too immature to handle the gift of your son?"

 

"Yes," Ed replies.

 

"Is there a balance that's been missed here?" Dr. Phil asks.

 

"Yes definitely, but we did not choose this path. We did not sit him in front of the piano and say 'You're going to be a piano player,'" Ed replies. "If it was baseball, we would support that. But no one would say anything to me if I was a sports dad or the soccer mom."

"I think there's a difference between programming our children to do what we love, versus loving what our children do," Dr. Phil tells Ed. "He clearly has a talent for this. He clearly has a skill and an ability here, but I'm wondering if maybe you're creating some problems and backlash for him by being kind of militant about it. What ownership, if any, do you have in the fact

that he's getting pushed back from others?"

 

"The only thing that we can do, and the way it sounds like you're saying, is just not let him do music in front of people," Ed replies.

 

"Well that would be one option, but I think that would be a little extreme," Dr. Phil retorts.

 

"I'm getting real angry up here," Ed snaps.

 

Dr. Phil offers some suggestions. "Maybe the idea is get him around others that are similarly talented so he has somebody to play off of," he says. He suggests they get Barry involved with a place like the Juilliard School of Music, or any place where his talent will be appreciated instead of resented.

 

"He does do community theatre and such and he does meet kids who are like him and he does get along well with those. We're talking about the issue around our home, our own neighborhood," Ed explains.

"I want you to know that I think this kid is really talented," Dr. Phil tells Ed and Diane. He gave a copy of Barry's CD to Ron Dante, a renowned record producer who is

responsible for producing 10 number one hits with Barry Manilow.

 

Ron shares his thoughts. "For a 13-year-old boy, he has great talent," he says, noting that he still has a a few years until he comes into his own. "One thing I would say is that, as a record producer, I see a lot of young performers come to me and when their parents are too pushy or they control too much, I find that enmeshment hurts the child's development creatively. I like when they give them a little more space and they let the child find their own musical tastes and such." Ron also suggests that Barry play music with other kids his age. "It would be very good to form a little band and play other types of music. Get involved with some of today's music," he explains. "I think he's been a little isolated creating everything himself. He could use a little music feedback from other people and that would help him."

Dr. Phil mentions that his 18-year-old son, Jordan, plays bass and is really into music. "It's a real social thing for him. He has great friends and they hang together and they go do other things together," Dr. Phil says, suggesting that camaraderie like that could be helpful for Barry. "It could be a great social vehicle for him, because if he's out walking with six or seven other people that he hangs with and plays with and he has a peer group, then he's not such a target."

 

"We are working on doing that," Ed says. "We do have him working with some theatre groups so that he meets people, other kids like him."

 

Dr. Phil makes clear that most importantly, Barry needs to find some peers at his school. "He's at his school every day, all day, and if he can create some bonding, if he can create a peer group there, like a band that played at school functions," Dr. Phil suggests. "If he included others so that they were a part of it, instead of aside from it, then he might create a peer group that would help balance him out."