Stage Parents
Dr. Phil talks with parents who are determined to have their children make it as beauty queens and actresses.
"I will not give up on my daughter's acting career, even if it hurts us financially," says Michelle, who started pursuing an acting career for her daughter Ashley when she was 3 1/2 years old. After two and a half years, and approximately 15 auditions that are hundreds of miles away in Los Angeles, Ashley has yet to book a job. "I really feel it's going to take one casting director to be like 'This kid has it.' I believe that every no is closer to a yes," says Michelle. "I see Ashley as a movie star in 20 years. I believe she could win an Academy Award."
Pursuing stardom comes at a price. "We've spent close to $20,000 on wardrobe and pictures and
hotels and gas," she says. In order to go to a recent audition, Michelle didn't pay the rent so she could have money on the road. "Ashley's career could ruin our marriage. I'm putting us in the poor house."
Michelle's husband, Jon, agrees. "Right now I'm $15-$20,000 in debt just from acting," he explains, noting that Michelle has many credit cards in her name and probably some he doesn't know about. "I hope Dr. Phil can help Michelle realize that what she's doing is bringing the family apart more than bringing it together."
Michelle asks Dr. Phil, "My daughter has what it takes to get into show business, but how do I get her there without destroying my marriage?""You say, 'My daughter has what it takes.' How do you know that?" Dr. Phil asks Michelle, whose daughter has never even gotten a callback.
"It's in her blood. I can't quite explain it. It's who she is. People are just drawn to her," Michelle says.
"This was something you decided you wanted her to become, and you decided it's in her blood," Dr. Phil clarifies.
Michelle disagrees and explains that they were approached to do it and she figured they should give it a try. "She loved it so we've stuck with it," Michelle says.
Dr. Phil asks Jon for his opinion.
"I think it's been going on a little too long without anything coming back. I've put a lot of money into it, a lot of time," he explains. "We're away from each other quite a bit."
Dr. Phil introduces Paul Peterson, one of the original Mouseketeers who grew up acting on The Donna Reed Show. He is now
the president and founder of A Minor Consideration, a non-profit group that protects child actors. Dr. Phil asks him, "What are the chances of a random child, just someone from Northern California, becoming a financially successful actor?"
Paul says that only about five out of 100,000 make it. "Some of what I'm hearing today, it just makes me heartsick," he says. "I don't like to see children raised as ornamental women. I hate to see families divert resources that are better utilized in their careers so the children can enjoy the fruits of what the parents achieve." He explains that it is very hard to break into acting and even if you're lucky enough to succeed, it continues to be hard work. "It's show business, it's not show fun."
Dr. Phil wants to understand why Michelle is willing to jeopardize her marriage and financial security.
"I don't want to ruin our marriage over this, but I know my daughter has what it takes. She's been number two for a CSI Miami sitcom. I know she has what it takes. Casting directors fall in love with her. She has got 35 agencies that have given her callbacks that want to represent her. I know she has what it takes, but it's just hard when we're far away."Dr. Phil points out that they haven't gotten a callback in two and a half years and Michelle just spent $1200 for someone to take pictures. He asks, "Do you agree that this is your vision, your dream, your passion and not your daughter's?"
"No I don't because she loves it. I wouldn't do it if she didn't want to do it," Michelle explains.

Paul shares his thoughts. "Fame is a 24 hour a day job. There are consequences. Coming back to school you think it's cool that you have a national commercial running, and the next thing you know you've got a bloody nose because your friends don't like different kids. And it's very difficult for parents to understand that it's the child at the end of the day who gets recognized in the supermarket, not the parent."
"I don't want to be recognized," Michelle says defending herself. "If people started being mean to her, I would quit. I would not put up with a dead cat on my porch. My baby girl's safety is number one to me."
Paul explains that it is OK for parents to help their children, but they have to have their children's best interest at heart. "Parents can walk through this minefield, but you've got to be ready to quit," he tells Michelle.
"She absolutely loves it," Michelle says. "How can I take that from her when it's something she truly enjoys?"
"What does she love? She has yet to even spend a second in front of the camera!" Dr. Phil retorts.
But Michelle is unfazed. "Every no is closer to a yes," she says.
Dr. Phil addresses Jon. "Are you a passenger here?" he asks. "Why are you not just saying, 'This is ridiculous. This has gotten to the point where she is truant from school, we are in financial ruin here, we can't even know that we can buy her school clothes the way we're spending money on these auditions' ... At what point do you say you're not going to do this?"
"I probably should have already said it," Jon replies.
Dr. Phil gives his opinion. "This is all about you, this is not about your daughter," he says to Michelle. "When did a child start running the agenda of the family? The child can have a lot of passions, a lot of interests. And the fact that you are letting her tell you, 'I like going on auditions,' and therefore she's trading away her college education, her future ... you need to let kids be kids and parents be parents."
She is a kid," Michelle says.
"But you are not being the parent if you are allowing her to tell you that she wants to go do something that is going to wreck this family and create financial ruin," Dr. Phil continues. "It's your responsibility to take care of her and give her long-term opportunities. That's your job."
At the end of the show, Dr. Phil asks Michelle for her thoughts.
"Actually, my views have changed a lot on a lot of things. I've learned a lot today," she says, and the audience applauds.
"The important thing I want us all to think about is you want your child to be a star in their own life. It doesn't matter whether the cameras are rolling. You want them to be a star in their own home, in their own neighborhood, in their own school, where they just feel good about who they are," Dr. Phil reminds them.
"She already is a star," Michelle notes.