“My 15-year-old daughter is a runaway and on the path to self-destruction,” says Laura. The last time her daughter, Kim, ran away, she ended up almost 2,000 miles from where her parents live, and she was gone for five weeks without ever calling home. “Kim came back this last time because I told her that if she didn’t come home, that I was going to see to it that her boyfriend went to jail,” Laura reveals. But Laura didn’t press charges because she “likes him.” Laura says Kim wants to drop out of school and marry this guy. “The only problem is that her boyfriend is already married.”
“I ran away because I didn’t feel like I belonged here,” Kim shares. “My mom gave me her word that the day I turn 16 she would sign the papers over for me and him to get married, and now she’s going back on it. If they don’t sign the papers, I’m going to leave. Being here is ruining my life.” Kim explains that she doesn’t get along with her mom. “She’s very overbearing, and she doesn’t treat me like I’m a human being. I can’t stand being around her,” she says, admitting to being a daddy’s girl.
Laura has tried to keep her daughter in the house by putting a lock on the outside of her bedroom door and screwing her windows shut. “The last time Kim left I just couldn’t go through the emotional turmoil, the roller coaster ride of trying to hunt her down and bring her back. This last time, I didn’t hunt for her. I just kept thinking, if there’s no news, then that’s good news,” Laura admits.
“My parents seem to just not care anymore,” says Kristen, Kim’s older sister. “I personally blame them for my sister’s problems.”
Rodney, Kim’s dad, says, “We can’t just ground her forever, which we wish we could. We’ve got to give her some kind of hope. “
As the family turns to Dr. Phil for help, Kim says, “I’ll listen to Dr. Phil, but I don’t think that it’s going to make a difference in my family, because they won’t change.”
Dr. Phil addresses Laura and Rodney, while Kim waits backstage. “This may help and it may not. I just don’t know. I can’t know that,” Dr. Phil tells them. “There are certain risks with this confrontation and everything associated with it, and I’ve got to have your blessing before we do that.”
“If she doesn’t get help now, she may die,” Laura says.
Kim joins Dr. Phil and her parents onstage.
“As much as you’re seen as the rebellious teen who’s angry and bucking the system, and bucking controls, the truth is, you’re really in a lot of pain,” Dr. Phil says to Kim.
“Yes,” Kim agrees. “I’ve just never had a really close relationship with my parents. They’ve never been really affectionate and showed me that they love me, so I ran away and I went looking for love in the wrong place, because I wasn’t finding it at home.”
“You have said that living at home is like being in hell. Tell me why,” Dr. Phil says.
“Because I don’t feel like I’m wanted there. I feel out of place. My mom, she’ll get angry about something, and she’ll take it out on me,” Kim explains.
Noting that Kim is having unprotected sex, Dr. Phil asks her, “How old were you when you lost your virginity?”
“I was 10,” Kim replies. Her mother put her on birth control at 12.
“Did you know this?” Dr. Phil asks Laura and Rodney. Laura says she knew but Rodney didn’t.
Cameras installed in their house catch a typical fight between Laura and Kim.
“When you yell at me, I’m not listening. It goes in one ear and out the other,” Kim says to her mother. “You’re like, â€˜It’s my way or the highway.'”
“I’ve never told you that,” Laura refutes.
“No, but that’s pretty much how it is,” Kim snaps back.
“I’m your parent. I’m the mom,” Laura says.
“I have to make my own mistakes,” Kim declares.
“You need to make your own mistakes, but you also need to learn from the mistakes that you have made. You keep running away, coming back home just to run away again,” Laura says.
“Why do you think I keep on leaving? Because I don’t want to be here,” Kim says.
“I think that you hate me. That’s what I think,” Laura says. “I don’t think you care about me or my feelings. I try to have empathy. I say I understand where you’re coming from, Kim. I’ve been young too.”
“Then why can’t you reason with me?”
“But ” ”
“That’s why we argue, because you don’t listen. You don’t listen! That’s why we argue. I’m tired of it!” Kim gets up and walks out of the room.
Laura comments on the argument. “That is the reality of my relationship with Kim. I just don’t see any way to fix it,” she says.
In another room, a tearful Kim says, “She says she understands, she has empathy for me. She don’t have sh*t for me. I hate being here, and I hate living here. Living here is like living in hell. None of them even f***ing care. My dad just sticks by her side and takes her side on everything even though she’s wrong. He doesn’t stop her from smoking weed when she’s buying it with his money. I keep leaving because of her. She’ll come up and get in my face and yell at me, and I’m tired of this sh*t. I can’t live here no more. I can make it better on my own.”
Back in the studio, Dr. Phil asks Rodney, “What do you think about your role in all of this?”
“Well, I work a lot so Laura has to deal with Kim and her brother more than I do,” Rodney replies.
Asked for her thoughts, Laura says, “I just want Kim to understand that we do everything that we do because we love her.”
“Are you smoking dope in the house?” Dr. Phil asks Laura.
“No sir,” Laura says.
Kim disagrees. “There have been times I have found it in her car,” she says.
“That was over a year ago,” Laura says.
Kim recalls another incident two weeks ago when her mother was yelling and screaming at her and then went to her friend’s house. “When she came back, her eyes were all bloodshot and she was trying to treat me like her baby.”
“Did you go get high at your friend’s house?” Dr. Phil asks Laura.
“Yes, I did,” Laura finally admits, explaining that she needed to do it to “chill out” and have “me time.”
Dr. Phil explains that when you have children they need to become the number one priority. “I hear what you’re telling me, and I listen to your argument, and I heard a lot of me, me, me, me in the argument,” he says pointing out that when Kim ran away this last time Laura didn’t even look for her.
“After doing it six times, it’s hurt me so bad that I’ve just got a shell around my heart as far as she’s concerned. She doesn’t seem to care that we’re frantic. We’re her parents. We love her, and something horrible could happen to her out there on the streets,” Laura explains. “We’re her parents, and we want to take care of her.”
“Then you’ve got to act like her parents,” Dr. Phil says, noting that he understands Kim is a difficult child. “But you guys have to understand, she didn’t give you guys the job of parents. There’s no window to go where you quit. When you had a child, God gave you that job. You can’t quit.”
Dr. Phil points out that Laura introduced Kim to her boyfriend. “You wanted her to meet a nice boy, but you didn’t want them to date,” he says to Laura.
“No. She’s not old enough to date. She’s only 15,” Laura agrees.
“You gave her birth control at 12. What do you mean she’s not old enough to date?” Dr. Phil asks. “You know she’s looking for a place, looking for a relationship.”
Laura explains that she wanted Kim to meet a nice guy. “This is a guy who is in the military. He has his head on straight. He’s graduated high school. He knows what he wants to do as a career, and most of her past boyfriends are thugs and gangsters,” Laura says.
“How long has Mr. Wonderful been married?” Dr. Phil quips.
“I did not know he was married,” Laura says. “When I asked him how old he was, I asked him if he was married and he told me no.”
Kim adds that he is in the process of getting divorced, but Dr. Phil points out that he is still married.
Dr. Phil addresses Kim. “You can be a complete and utter brat, true?” he asks her.
“Yeah,” she admits.
“You have some ownership and responsibility here, but so do [Laura and Rodney],” he says. He tells Laura and Rodney that they have made some bad decisions, but he acknowledges that they want the best for their daughter. He tells Rodney if need be he should work less, and if they need to, they should get a smaller house and have fewer cars so that he can be at home more.
Dr. Phil turns back to Kim. “I agree with you. I don’t think you should live at home,” he says. He offers to send Kim to one of the Aspen Education Group’s schools. “To give you a safe, secure, nurturing place to live and work on you.” He asks her if she wants to do that.
“I don’t think so,” Kim replies, lips quavering. “I want help for my family. I don’t want help for just me.”
Dr. Phil reiterates his point that Kim and Laura should be apart right now, because Laura is not in a position to deal with Kim. He offers to get Laura and her family help as well.
“I can’t put you in an apartment somewhere. You are a minor. But I can put you in a glorious, wonderful place that you’re not held prisoner. You can leave if you don’t like it,” Dr. Phil says to Kim. “It’s either that or you go home.” He tells Laura and Rodney that they can force her to go, but he hopes it doesn’t come to that. He addresses Kim. “You said, â€˜It is like living in hell.’ Then why don’t you take an opportunity? Make a responsible decision. Let me work on them and let you work on you.”
“I don’t want to go to a residential home for troubled teens,” Kim retorts.
“It seems to me to be excellent opportunity for you to call time out on your behalf,” Dr. Phil says.
Laura and Rodney say they support Kim going to the school. Kim says she will think about it.