When Does Discipline Go Too Far? Melissa

A Dr. Phil Exclusive Interview!

Melissa made headlines when she was caught on tape dragging her 4-year-old son, Riley, through a Verizon store on a monkey backpack leash. The video was uploaded to YouTube and sparked heated online debates about parenting and discipline.

In her first national television appearance, Melissa joins the show via satellite with her attorney, Wade Hoyt, and her mother, Nancy.

"Are you shocked at what's happened here? What's your reaction to what's happened so far?" Dr. Phil asks Melissa.

"This has been one of the most devastating things that has ever happened to me, my family, my husband's family," Melissa replies. She explains her side of the story. "When we were in Verizon, we had to wait so long [Riley] just fell over and said, ‘Pull me, Mom.' Instead of making a scene, I just pulled him." [AD]

"What was your attitude at the time you were pulling him?" Dr. Phil inquires.

"Nothing. He wouldn't get up," she answers. "I was just trying to appease him."


"Have you pulled him before around the house?"

"It's his toy," she responds. "It's always been used in airports. It's a game he and his dad have always played since he began to walk. It has a pad on it. He likes to turn over, put his little leg up " it's got padding on the back " hold onto the tail, and Dad pulls him."

"I think one of the things a lot of people were concerned about is that you never looked back when you were pulling him," Dr. Phil observes. "His head either hit or came awful close to hitting a corner."

"He was saying, ‘Pull me, Mom. He was fine. He was not crying," Melissa answers. She tells Dr. Phil what occurred when she finished pulling her son. "If you watch the whole clip, he climbs up my leg, and he stands up and lets me pick him up. But then he sits down, and he plays there for a little while."

"How did the police get there so quickly, Melissa? Were you aware that somebody was upset at the time?"

"No, sir. I wasn't aware."

[AD]"You've had people at the grocery store yelling at you and giving you grief about this, true?" Dr. Phil asks.

"Yes, sir. At the doctor's office. I'm scared to leave my house," she replies. "I didn't go out for two months. I'm scared to take my son out by myself. It's just been absolutely horrible for me."

"I think it is terribly unfair, the manner in which you're being characterized," Dr. Phil says.

"Thank you, Dr. Phil. I'm a good mom, and I had problems having my child. Therefore, I would never do anything to harm him," Melissa says, her eyes welling with tears.

Dr. Phil turns to blogger Rachel Campos Duffy, a mother of five who is a featured columnist for AOL's Parent Dish.


"Am I being too easy on this mother? What do you think?" Dr. Phil asks the mommy blogger. 

"When I wrote about it, we got lots of comments on the blog. People were concerned not just about that corner, but about potentially sharp objects on the floor or even just germs," Rachel replies.

"I can find no evidence whatsoever of this mom ever doing anything but being a loving and caring mom," Dr. Phil says. He turns to Melissa. "Do I think you made the best decision in the world? Not necessarily. I think if I got a kid on the end of a leash and I'm dragging him around corners, I think I would look back."

Nancy weighs in on the situation. "My daughter is a wonderful mother, Dr. Phil. I just want to tell you, I was there not five minutes after this incident happened," she says. "I love my grandson more than anything in the world. He was not injured. That rope was never around his neck."

Dr. Phil turns to Melissa's attorney, Wade. "Do you believe the state is seriously going to try and prosecute this mother for a felony?" he asks.

"I certainly hope not. At this point in time, there's just been an arrest. There's been no indictment," he replies. "I am very hopeful that after looking at all of the information and the evidence, and much more than a 13-second video, that they will elect not to do so, because I don't believe it's criminal."

[AD]"I agree with that," Dr. Phil says. He offers some words of encouragement to Melissa. "I just really hope that you don't give your power away to other people. We're in a society today where everybody has a camera, everybody has a video, and everybody can take a snapshot and take it out of context and sensationalize it."

Listen to Dr. Phil's own leash story!