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December 1st, 2009 by Dr. Phil

Shaping Your Kids

kids1After posting a blog item about how Robin and I raised our sons believing that they should be able to make their own choices, I got a call from a friend who said, “Yeah, Phil, but what if you can clearly see things that worry you? After all, you have often said their brains aren’t even finished growing until years later. What do you do then?” He went on to tell me about his 13-year-old daughter who, a few nights earlier, had drained a glass of milk at dinner and said with a proud grin, “Hey, Dad, I’m learning to chug.”

“It’s not the first time I’ve gotten the feeling that she wants to try alcohol or at least has it in her mind,” he told me. “So what do I do, right now, to keep her from gaining momentum toward a bad life choice?”

Good question! So, as a parent, what should you do when you see early warning signs that your child might be headed down the wrong path?

I strongly believe in prevention, early detection and early intervention. I’ve never been one to “freak out” on my boys, and I was not overly suspicious, although I had a clear-eyed awareness of how teens can make really bad decisions. I found that a slow and steady, sleep-with-one-eye-open approach always worked best. Let me use drinking as an example. Although I can’t say for sure why my sons never got involved in teenage drinking, I do know that one of the factors that kept them from indulging was knowing that Robin and I disapproved and furthermore, we were always watching them. When one of our kids came home, for instance, it didn’t matter what time it was, or what I was doing or what deadlines I was facing, I would stop everything, make eye contact and start a conversation.

A Young Jay and Jordan McGrawThat conversation might have seemed casual — just a simple back and forth about what they had been doing — but I was definitely debriefing and evaluating. I was making sure that pupils were not dilated and that there was no slurring of words. I had my antennae out for any warnings signs that they had been up to no good.

I always made it clear that for even just one slip, there would be consequences — there would be some sort of early intervention. They knew that it was up to them: mess up and pay a high price; don’t mess up and earn even more freedom.

If you see early warning signs, whether through their words, attitudes or behaviors, the timing is ideal to start a dialogue with your child — one that could very well last for many years … or at least until he or she is out of the house.

I believe freedom is an earned privilege, and my attitude was always that they were allowed to do what they could handle. Meaning: If I let one of my sons go out on a Friday or Saturday night without supervision, and he demonstrated that he couldn’t make mature, intelligent decisions on his own, then from that moment forward, his Friday and Saturday nights would be supervised. Just like that, his freedom was gone and not easily earned back. There was no question he was going to think twice before pushing his boundaries again!

What do you do when a warning sign first emerges? I’d love to hear from you, and I’d also love to share your ideas on the blog with other readers. When it comes to keeping our kids out of trouble, we can all use as much good advice as we can get.

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97 Responses to “Shaping Your Kids”

  1. Robin G says:

    I am a mom with quite a few kids, after doing a crappy job with the first few, I dug in and started reading and taking as many parenting classes as I could. I found on principle that has turned our family around and made the most impact of all. I call it 90/10. I think that someone just beat me to the punch writing a book. So here is how it works. 90 percent of the time you talk to the kids you value them in some way, notice the good in them, tell them your true feelings about them, (like you think they are so amazing and that you are the luckiest person in the world to have them as your child. that is how we really feel, right) and most of all 90 percent of the time pay attention to them when they want you to. When they come to you, most of the time, be there, be interested, be available. No one is perfect but they get that too. I can tell you that we have no trouble, let me say that again so I can let it sink in, no trouble with our kids, our older kids come home and actually enjoy it, and having grandkids, is well there just aren’t words! So now you have my 2 cents worth. thanks Dr. Phil for all your great stuff, we have learned alot from you!

  2. Linda Rose says:

    We raised five kids and for the most part they got through to adulthood without any major disasters. That said, what happened with some of them after they left home was another matter. They kicked over the traces and started drinking but not taking drugs. Other bad choices followed . But in a few years they came to their senses and all of them became responsible adults and all are professional people and do volunteer work in their communities. We held our breath for a few years and of course wondered what we did wrong? In the end they came around to how they were raised. The most important thing is keep the communication going starting when they are born and continuing for a life time.

  3. FosterBoys says:

    I employ the George Costanza approach to child-rearing. I do the opposite (in this case of what my parents did). So far so good.

    In all seriousness, if I thought this gig was easy, I wouldn’t be doing a very good job. The hardest were the early years (also known as the time when the boys were too dependent & unresponsive for Dad to participate in earnest). Once children become older, dads find their place. But if it weren’t for us Moms (the ones who love their kids and are good at nurturing), you Dads would not be reaping the benefits of such well-adjusted children.

    Not that you need to be reminded, of course.


    Growing up I noticed that since my mother trusting me felt so good that I didn’t want to lose it. Consequently, I noticed children of parents that were critical of them felt tried and convicted before even beginning and were very untrustworthy. I noticed too that it was a constant battle to not adopt that “I don’t care I’ll do as I please” attitude many young people had and made seem more fun than really was.

    I was often the teacher’s pet because I didn’t believe in disrupting class and if I got a note passed to me to drop pencils at 2 p.m. since we had a substitute teacher I didn’t participate.

    I’d say though that one of the single most important things to me avoiding drugs growing up was the Presidential Physical Fitness team that came to our grade school when I was in 6th grade. Exercise was a natural high. As well, seeing those commercials on TV with a fried egg “this is your brain on drugs”. Convinced me.

    Life is a team effort and not only does it take a village that village is us. The example each person sets, good or bad, is being watched. You never know when something you do is going to click with someone such as the young adults who came to our grade school with Presidential Physical Fitness awareness. Their interest in us made me interested in what they had to say.

    I think the Dr. Phil Show and The Doctors being on at night for a great FAMILY FIRST time would be beneficial to all. Instead of the Mickey Mouse Club of 60’s. The Scrub Club with the pass word “wash hands”. Or, the Getting Real Going Green Club with the password “Honesty is still the best policy.”

    As individuals and as a society we are setting examples and it is a win/win “one for all all for one” proposition for us to set positive examples of being good stewards of self, one another and the earth/environment. The goody two skates people of the world, like myself who didn’t drop pencils at 2 p.m., aren’t perfect either yet we aren’t the enemy since we believe the 4th R needed in schools is respect for self and others and the earth.


    Not only what examples are we setting as a society… what examples are we each setting individually. Learning how to behave with the most healthy and beneficial choices isn’t just something to be learned in school and something to be practiced a life time. Healthy choices and exercise can be fun. Wishing everyone a responsibly healthy life one responsibly healthy choice at a time. Sometimes I think many of us were more mature as children so lets get back to our basics of behaving in positive ways setting a positive example to live by whatever age we are. G2G to Tour de’ Dr. Phil Show on my recumbent exercise bike with a side of weights I just began. You are welcome to join me.

  5. Laura Arnold says:

    I was a single parent from the time my son was six years old. I was also a very overprotective parent due to losing my first child. I always would communicate to my son many important things such as not to touch drugs even if your friends are doing them, not to let peer pressure get to you, drinking parties have killed many teens, or how drinking and driving can kill people. When a child has a two parent home, it is very difficult because children are learning things from two different households. I could tell him right from wrong…but how much bigger is the motto that children learn what they live because once my son became an older teen (after 16) he started doing all the things I worked hard at teaching him not to do, but because of his father, allowing for him to drink here and there, also talked to him as if weed was no big deal, so he disregarded my feeling on the subject because he had his father on a pedestal. My son is now 22, he went through the phase of smoking weed with his friends, decided he no longer wanted to smoke, and when he turned 21, alchohol became more important. Should you say the drug of choice. I am not proud and felt like all my hard parenting skills went right out the window. I worry where this will take him in life. He has very good work ethics, but I still haven’t seen any motivation to better his life. I was also like you Dr.Phil with making sure he wasn’t out getting drunk but kids can sometimes fool the parents as I later found out. I was watching for alcohol, but he was stoned and it got past me because he knew how to cover it up well. Once he turned 18, he got his own place so I wouldn’t know what he was up to, and couldn’t tell him what to do. I envy the parents whose kids stay on the right side of the tracks, because that is all I wanted for my son. To do right in life.

  6. Jennifer says:

    I myself came from a broken home. Mom kicked me out when I was 14 & dad abused me. Now that I’m now married w/ kids of my own. I’m doing the opposite of what my paents did. I broke the cycle of the abuse & alcohol. My kids were told from day one that we are there for them no matter what. My son who is 12 now. Is now starting to think he can talk back to adults. Which he is learning real quick thats not acceptable. My husband & I have figured out what means the most to him. Which is his video games & his friends. So we will ground him & take away his tv, dvd player & video games when he acts up. That gets him every time. He then straightens right up. It’s still amazes me how good kids can really be when you take something away from them they love. (HA) My daughter is what I like to call my angel child. She always good, straight A’s etc.. My son is the complete opposite. But he is only 12 I still have a long way to go. Hopefully his teenage years aren’t to bad. :-) Parenting I will say is alot harder than I’d thought it would be. I pretty much raised myself so raising my own kids is sometimes not so easy. I don’t have all the answers but I do try my best w/ them everyday.

  7. Heather Raye says:

    Thanks for this blog, Dr. Phil. I love what you said about stopping everything, making eye contact and starting a conversation. I feel like that is what was lacking with my parents and was a contributing factor that lead to my poor decisions as a teen and young adult. I also agree that “freedom is an earned priviledge” because that is real life. Due to my poor decisions, I learned that the hard way when I was convicted of 2 DWI’s and had to do jail time and lost my drivers license.

    I’ve come a long way since those days and my only daughter is about to turn one year old. I hope to always keep the dialogue open with her and following your principles of always being present and making sure she knows there are consequences for her actions, whether good or bad.

  8. Jen says:

    i always say… its TIME IN.. the time you spend with ur babies, kids, teenagers will encourage them to make GREAT choices.

    So many parents dont spend time with their kids, they do the minimum…. I hate when parents say “Teenagers dont want to be with their parents,” wel… my teenager wants to be with her parents…. So if your teenager doesnt want to hang out with you.. there’s a sign somethings wrong.

  9. Joyce says:

    I cant say I have any type of strategy. I have 2 grown daughters that I can say dont do drugs or anything but I sure didnt do a good job of teaching them respect, responsibility or anything like that. One is 29 and one is 26 and they both still live at home. While the 26 yr old (who has 3 kids) has to pretty much live here because I dont think she could do it on her own and being disabled.

    My thing is I now am raising my 13 yr old neice and I must say it is harder than with my other 2. She is a good kid, straight A’s and all that but she is very rude and disrespectful to me and I honestly dont know how to handle it. She figures that since I am not her real mom she can treat me like she wants to. It is hard because while I have had her since birth I do not have legal custody. If I do put my foot down she threatens to move in with her real mom. I know deep down that is not likely to happen since her mom doesnt want her and doesnt have hardly anything to do with her even though she lives in the same trailor park, it still worries me.
    When I tell her something to do or that she cant do something she will flat out tell me she hates me!!! I know most kids do that but it hurts.
    Shes not running around with boys, she is very well liked by all her teachers and is very popular at school but here she is a whole different child. Very rude, very disrespectful. What can I do???? I love this child so much… She has been through a lot with her real mom, and she just found out about a month ago that her real mom had been lying to her her whole life about who her real dad was. We went for a DNA test and it turned out that the man she claimed was Shawnas dad wasnt. That really hurt Shawna. She has me, and the rest of her family but she feels abandoned. How can I help her????

  10. Susan says:

    Dear Dr Phil,

    I love SEASON 8 and all your FAMILY SHOWS! Todays show ” How to get along with people” Did speak alot to the adults, but as always your focus is always on the children and I so I appreciate that about you.

    Your books for me were life savers.

    When a person comes from a dysfunctional family of origin they do not have the “laws of life” that a normal family that doesnt scream day in DAY out and who monitors your food intake and who abuse family pets by burying them alive in cement under the porch on a hot summer day and you days later heard the kitties scream for food and water…. FATHER, Has pornagraphy scattered about the bathroom which is allowed,THE MOTHER AND THE FATHER, Has active drug use by older BROTHER etc. This harmed me and my mind as you know but maybe just a normal bored internet scanner the work/the therapy/the repair of this particular damage has taken me YEARS. THANK GOD MY HEAVENLY FATHER HAS NEVER EVER LEFT MY SIDE and I have healed from my childhood.

    I only have complete empathy for anyone who has simialar childhood pains. Anyone who at all these days tries to interefere in my life, gossip, shame me,lay guilt trips etc they are placed on ACCESS DENIED STATUS.

    I AM SO PROUD of the parents you and Robin were and I. The message you gave your sons were you had zero tolerence for bad behavior and you and Robin I am sure layed out those rules!
    I am a momma of 3 BEAUTIFUL GROWN CHILDREN. I am so proud of the ADULTS they have turned out to be. They have such kind, giving souls. Two are attending college, One is married, One is engaged.
    This was the one thing in my life I did which the label was perfect and I say this not without mistakes, but to the best of my ablities and my rewards are boundless and endless nwith my children.

    I put the very best in me I had and I thank my HEAVENLY FATHER DAILY FOR HIS PROTECTION GUIDENCE AND LOVE for those sweet children!
    Now as for me and another thing you said today which was fantastic…

    I am re writing the script of my life….I go on your website…here and read your blogs, The drs…maybe one other…my email than I am off this darn computer and dreaming and doing bigger things…exercising NOT TWEETING LIKE 5,000 people, getting rid of ANY AND ALL NEGATIVE TOXIC RELATIONSHIPS AND EMOTIONAL VAMPIRES!Like you say too SOMETIMES PEOPLE CAN BE REALLY REALLY STUPID….I AM FEEDING MY MIND WITH THE WRITINGS of People like YOU!~and His Holiness THE DALAI LAMA and such…My depression days are over its time for me to be on THE HAPPY TRAIL….

    In real life I only speak with teenagers ONLY if I am friends with there parents. ONLINE On various websites I have been asked to be friends with kids under 18. I am actually uncomfortable speaking with kids online. Actually I had to on 2 sites do an Immediate report to techs S O S because some of these teenagers over the summer were speaking of wanting to kill themselves due to drugs and homelife and truly I AM NOT A CHEERLEADER< A PhD< or even a TRAINED Professional who would ever assume such a role.



  11. Anita says:

    I would like to share something that came as a total shock to me. When my mother passed away 3 1/2 plus years ago, my son, at the time, almost 20, told me that when he looked at his Granny in her casket, all he could think about was when she bought him cigarettes at the age of about 12. First off, I was a SAHM, and was around my kids all of the time. I never smelled cigarettes on him at that time, ever. My late parents lived across the road from me back then, and my son spent a lot of time across the road at thier house. If I had known that my mother had bought him cigarettes at that time, I would have spoken to her about it in no uncertain terms and would have told her to not DO that. It would have made me very angry.When she was layin’ in her casket, dead, all I could do after the initial shock, was to chuckle and think “How in the world did I miss that?” He said that my mother told him “Now, don’t you tell your mother about this!” and of course he didn’t. My mother was born in 1927, and was not a smoker herself, but was not teetotally against smoking. When my brothers were young, and smoked, she told me one time that one of my brothers would actually pick up cigarette butts off the side of the road and smoke them. (What a nasty thought!) Perhaps she concluded that if my son wanted to smoke and didn’t have cigarettes, he might pick them up off the side of the road. I have no idea what she thought, and it’s shocking to know that she bought him cigarettes at the age of 12. So, my point is, as diligent as I was, I had NO idea that my own mother bought my son cigarettes at the age of 12, until she was dead and in her casket and he confessed it. I was stunned! I can tell you this, I would never buy a kid cigarettes! And, as involved with both my kids as I was, I think sometimes kids can have secrets that thier parents don’t know about. Of course, when my son went to visit his Granny, it never dawned on me that he was going over to have a smoke!

  12. John says:

    Well the biggest thing is the kids learn what they (& you) live. Parents won’t sneak something by those eyes & ears of theirs, so they have to live as they would want their kids to.

    As for some for some of the other stuff, I would try to control how & when they would learn.

    When they were real small & I had a motorcycle I started it up enough to get the motor & pipes warm, then let them by it. They learned the easy way that the bike got warm, and what parts to avoid, instead of after a 100 mile ride when the pipes would have taken skin off.

    When they got older I had the wife buy cheap glasses for them to use. She commented that they would probably break them, and I replied that EVERY kid has broken a glass.
    I expect them to break some, but I will control as best I can what they break, that’s why I want cheap ones for them.

    Then when they make a mess, you tell them they have to clean it up, no big deal.
    And if its something they can’t handle, like broken glass when they are real young, then they stay there and watch while you help them with it.

    And as they grow up I try to anticipate the next set of problems that they will face…(cause we all been there…right?) LoL

    Kids WILL be kids, but any time you can keep control of something that could be a problem, you can minimize any damage. Physical or emotional.

  13. Jeanine says:

    First of all, it never ceases to amaze me these parents who say their child(ren) became unmanageable “all of a sudden” and never seem to realize that they, as parents and examples, have created the environment for a child to act out.

    I, unfortunately, was being raised by a mother with a rage disorder of some sort and had my head pounded into a cement floor, which I discovered the day after my daughter was born had caused a Stage 3 brain tumor. We were the ‘perfect’ family, very prominent, while behind closed doors was daily chaos with my mothers’ verbal, emotion, and physical abuse, and an alcoholic workaholic father who wouldn’t “see” what was going on. So I was terrified of even having a child for fear of continuing the abuse pattern. Luckily, I began seeing a psychologist in early college, and he told me recognizing the abuse was half the battle for me NOT to become an abuser. Also, since I was adopted, there wasn’t the genetic tie-in possibility either. But while I was pregnant I read everything I could on parenting, and while raising my daughter (her father left, being unable to cope with a six-month prognosis of cancer AND a new baby), I was frequently doing self-examinations – Did I want to yell? Did I want to hit?, etc. Thankfully, no.

    A few of the things I had either read or heard stuck with me, and helped immensely! The first was NEVER react to that first temper tantrum; show your child that was not the way to get your attention, because a child will test you, and keep on testing you, and if it works just once, you’ve just allowed a small seed of negative behavior to be planted. The second thing I learned was that unless the child was hurting themselves or others, just leave them be. They learn to live through experimentation.

    The third thing I learned was that my responsibility as a parent was to give my child roots and wings (as my daughter will turn 21 in February, I’m still working on the ‘wings’, and sometimes that seems harder than the roots were). The roots begin on the day you bring your child home from the hospital, because those little brains are sponges and notice everything you do or say. We lay down the roots a little at a time, teaching caring, empathy, responsibility, and how to see a decision through to its final conclusion and then owning that decision and consequences. We lay down roots by giving a child the choice and the specific consequence for their action and then by being consistent with the consequence. The roots for me were also the assurrance I gave my daughter that she could come to me for ANYTHING and I wouldn’t freak out over it…questions, experiences, friends, mistakes, ideas, etc., and that ended up being the same for the little gang of about eight to ten of her friends that seemed to hang out here more than their own homes from junior high even ’til today, when one of them might just come through my door and say “Hi, Mom!” I told her, then showed her, that as long as we could talk about it, she could handle it.

    I also realized that my child could not ever learn from my mistakes, no matter how many times I related my screw-ups. But as long as I’d left the door open for any discussion and didn’t tell her what she had done was “stupid” (kids are NOT dumb – they know whatever they did was stupid, and we don’t need to rub it in), we could talk about how the situation could have been handled better. Children do not need to carry negative ‘tapes’ in their heads saying “Oh, you can’t do anything right.” or “You’re so stupid/ugly/lazy/ungrateful”. Trust me, those tapes are almost unerasable and do so much more damage than we’re ever aware of when we create them.

    When my daughter was about 16, we had the opportunity to take the Myers-Briggs Personality Profile, and I’m so glad we took the time to do that. It showed us how our differences in personalities created discord between the two of us so we could understand the other’s needs and tendencies.

    Now I’m certainly not saying I’m a perfect parent – I’ve had to clean up my own backyard many times when my own upbringing brings out the worst of me. But I’ve given my daughter permission to call me on it when I’m “being like Grandma”, because I know I do do that every once in a while. I’m happy to say, though, that I have a kind, responsible, beautiful young lady (that doesn’t have tapes in her head) for a daughter who is thankfully looking forward to becoming a mother herself. So for me, that really validates that I must have done something right! IMHO, though, a parent has to start laying down the framework right from the get-go – not when the child hits puberty. I believe a parent’s job is to ultimately prepare their child(ren) to function in society, with their own set of morals, values, and beliefs. We’re the soft place for them to land when the world frustrates, disappoints, and generally kicks their butts.

    My daughter and I MAY have a little different viewpoint on life as a whole, as I have been fighting three types of cancer since she was born. I’m just so grateful that I got to see her grow up after beating two 98% fatal types of cancer, and for my daughter, I know watching her mom go through daily seizures and 24/7 horrible headaches for eight years and now watch me go through debilitating brain atrophy, loss of cognizance, and loss of vision along with bone pain hasn’t been an easy road for her. We find it a little amazing, though, that she literally saved my life just by being born, because it was the stress of a 26-hour-long labor that triggered my first grand mal seizure. Without that, they would have never have found the tumor in time, and I wouldn’t be here! Coincidence? We don’t think so.

  14. Sam says:

    I learned a lot from this article, especially about stopping your child at the door and taking note of their behavior. My son is only two, but I’m trying to learn everything I can in order to be a good parent for him. I spend every waking moment I can with my child because I enjoy him that much. So I really identified with what Jen said about putting time in. I know that when they are young and cute its easy to put all that time in, but its self serving time. the real work starts when they become teens.
    I can say that I will put the time in because your kids have to be the most important thing to you. I cannot imagine putting all this effort into my child then letting him get into trouble without me being aware of it.

  15. LindaRH says:

    Dr Phil, I totally agree with you on the waiting up and “debriefing,” but I would add to it. I think the fact that YOU were actively engaged in this practice made the difference.
    When I was growing up, my mother would do this, but she never said anything when I would come in late with alcohol on my breath, and she would never tell my Dad. My Dad never demanded a young man come to the door and “debrief” him before I could go out with him. I had some bad experiences because some of these young men knew I had no backing from parents that would hunt him down for mistreating their daughter.
    I distinctly remember being jealous of my friends that had parents that cared enough to be strict, even if they seemed embarrassed about it. The only thing that kept me sort of in line was the knowledge that if I found myself at the police station I was on my own.
    I have since forgiven my parents, they were products of their own imperfect upbringing, and they did very well in other areas. If I hadn’t had the experiences I did, I would not have known some of the signs I looked for to make sure my kids didn’t repeat my mistakes. I made damn sure they were never jealous of their friend’s parents, and I’m proud to say that many of their friends came to me when they were troubled.
    I’ve read a good many of your books and I’m sure you would say the same.

  16. judy swafford says:

    the bible clearly states raise a child in the way they should go and they will not depart from it. i believe this and most times when you see a child that wants to be numbed by alcohol or drugs they have some kind of family disfunction i`m sorry but our homes are classrooms what are we teaching our children and i don`t mean later on in life when they are teenagers and you have failed them and then see the light and come back and expect that child to be ok i mean sacrificing your own life and letting go of your bad habits the day they are born and making a choice to love them more than youself after all isn`t that what jesus did he loved our life more than his . also i`ve found open communication is key to a child they need to know they can tell you anything without judgement.. you need to be their safe place and home needs to be a santurary for them unconditional love…

  17. Kristine B says:

    Hi. I am 21 years old and I have a little sister who is 14 years old. And my mom lets her do what ever she likes. She takes my clothes, makeup, money among other things.. When i confront my mother with this se says that she has just given up. And when I get mad at my sister and yells at her, my mother says that it hurts her. That she gets chest pains and she is woried about a heart-attack. And then I say that its her fault for not standing up for herself and diciplining her daughter!
    But what can i do to help my mother with my little sister.?
    And what can i do so she doesn`t take all my things.??

  18. Carol says:

    First I have a complaint when I go to drphil.com and put in my username and password it keeps getting rejected and I am putting in everything correctly so I just give up.

    Second I just don’t get this at all the parents don’t have control over their children. I guess when I brought up in a different time because my mother had total control over what we did and who we saw no questions asked. My mother really had very tough brings us up meaning there were four (4) girls and one (1) cousin that was always there in our home.

    When I was nine (9) just turning ten (10) we had to move to the United States because my father became very ill from a stroke. He worked for the United States Government as a civilian helping to build the locks for the Canal Zone and he almost worked 24/7 and you can’t do that to long and smoke as much as he did and continued doing it. When we arrived here as Americans the United States treated us like garbage under their feet but the Cubans were coming at the same time in 1955. It took us a year to find decent housing an apartment because the “poor cubans” got them before we could get one so we had to live in a hotel near Biscayne Blvd.

    She did the best she could do under those horrible circumstances we finally found an apartment a one bedroom with four (4) girls and a father that was so ill that she had to take care of him 24/7 and have an outside job. We from very small we learned to respect our parents and we all knew they had absolute rule whatever they requested us to do we did no questions asked and that is the way it should be. We did not fear them we respected them because they were are parents even though my father was ill he was still the head of the household because my mother made him feel that way and that is the way it should be.

    We were taught right from wrong from a very early age and that stuck with all of us from very small. We could always ask questions if we saw something we didn’t understand and if were something bad my mother would explain it us and say never do that because it was wrong. She never ever told us she didn’t have time to speak to us even though she had to take care of dad 24/7 and work outside the home as a secretary/bookkeeper for a large church. The good thing is we lived behind the church where she worked so she was able to come home at lunch and during the day to take care of father but the bad thing I saw her age right before my eyes.

    We always did everything we could do to help her and we did our best not get her upset or do things that made her mad because she had so much to do and it was so hard on her. In those days TV wasn’t like it is today so played outside and invented things to do entertain ourselves and it was fun.

    We knew there wasn’t a lot of money but we still had a good life no matter where we lived and it was hard on all of us when had to move here to the United States because we weren’t really accepted here as we were Americans.

    The Cubans got everything such as food but they threw in the street because to them it was the wrong food but that food was the food we wanted and couldn’t get. When it came to medical help the Cubans got everything free but when I became ill with my appendix my mother went to same hospital that the Cubans went to and she asked for help for my surgery and they told her they were sorry so she had to go to a LOAN SHARK to get the money and it took her years years to pay that off and we never knew what she was going through NEVER she kept of that inside of her those kind of things were never expressed. We never heard a gus word in our home I would hear those kind of words at school at friends houses and I would ask my mother what those meant she tell me but she would always tell us don’t repeat them because they are not nice to say.

    She was our mom but she always was teaching us things of what is right or wrong and never really hit us unless we did something really wrong and we did our best not to do anything that would upset her because all of us respected to her because she was the best mom anyone could ever dream of having.

    She retired from her job at the church when she was eighty-one (81) years old she no longer drive that far and her knees were bothering her but she always kept that church afloat because as she said she would pay a little to Paul and little to Peter and that how she paid her bills at home but I heard that from very small I never really understood what she meant until I had to pay bills and it always makes me laugh.

    So when I hear these mothers complain about what they have to do or how much work they have I just want to sit them down and tell them what my mom had to go through and she never complained NEVER she did what she had to do and did it.

    I forgot to say that my mother worked for the church for over thirty (30) years and they could never find another secretary/bookkeeper like her and never replaced her NEVER.

    I just want to tell you a little story when I was small don’t remember the age but here it goes. My “boyfriend” at the time found a pack of cigarettes and we decided to smoke it in a half an hour so I took half and he took half and found a building to smoke them in but the building didn’t have a roof so know where the smoke went well my twin sister saw the smoke and followed the smoke right to me smoking and she ran home and told mom so I came in running and she asked me if I were smoking and I said “NO”. I had to have smoke coming out of ears so she told me to sit in the middle of the bed and kept asking me if I smoked I finally had to tell her the truth because I was going to vomate she never lifted a hand to me but what she did taught me not to ever fib again and don’t smoke because it is bad for your health I knew that because I saw what it did to my father but it was something to do but I never ever told her another fib because when you fib it has a way to getting back to you and not in a good way.

  19. Matamich says:

    I’m curious about your take on people who have no children and yet think they can judge our parenting skills and/or the way we react to situations and difficulties with our teenage kids. Everything changes when you have a child and even when that child is grown up, you still hurt for him, worry about him and feel for him. How can people who have not been through this or have yet to go through this (pregnant friends who claim that everything will be “different” for them and their child/toddler/teenager) even dare to criticize parents who are just trying their best to weather the ups and downs and raise good kids?

  20. Hello Dr.Phil

    Im writing to you, because I just saw one of your shows on the tv about parenting. Im 19 years old (soon 20), and Im from Norway, so sorry if there is any spelling mistakes.

    Once upon a time we were a loving family living on a small island called Sandøya. We have, my loving and STRONG mum who always took care of us, no matter what, who didnt yell, but talked to us in a ok way. Then we have my dad, who have a huge anger, he snapped at us all the time when we were kids, so we got afraid of him, we lost the respect. I also have a brother, and it is now the whole family problem starts. My brother have one of the strongest diagnosis of ADHD, and probably another sickness, but we never got to find out, because of the insanly bad system in norway + my dad.

    My brother has always had much energy and I remember when we were kids, all the kids were bulling around with him at school, to make him angry, and then they all laught. I always had to protect him, that was my role at school, “the protecting sister”. When I was 11, and my brother 8 we moved away from the island. We moved to a town called Porsgrunn, and then we could finally start over. We started on a new school called Borge, and it was the same thing going on there,kids were bulling around with my brother, kids are SO mean sometimes. after a year, my wanted to divorce. My dad flipped out, he didnt want to at all. And poor my mum needed to go through hell, same with my dad. And ofcourse us. We moved out, and we sold the house. Me,my mum and my brother moved into a SMALL appartment 65kvm, and we had to start over, but that didnt go very well.. My dad moved around 100meters from our appartment, started to go for walks outside our house EVERY single day.Looked into the window, checking if we had visitors. my mum got a boyfriend, and once he spit my mum boyfriend in the face outside our appartment. He were kicking our dore, sending us the must crewl text, about how s***kids we were, what a slut my mum was, and he wanted NOTHING to do with us ++.. I cant count how many times he told me and my brother to stay the f out of his life, and he want NOTHING to do with us. He has been the worst father.. This hell, with texts, on my mums, my brothers and my own phone every single day, aweful phonecalls, kicking and smashing on our door, yelling.. all this effected my brother, and he has been struggeling for so long. And + he has adhd.. He has never had a dad who have taken care of him, never had the dad-son relationship.. I feel so sorry for my mum and my brother, its been hell for 7 years. We lived in a small appartment, we had nothing, my father took it all. My brothers life was already ruined then.. And thats 7 years ago. he started to get more and more angry every day, we had to tie him up with rope in the beginning, he got SO angry, of small little things that others wouldnt even think of. I still have a mark on my leg, after he bit me between my pants. He has scared all my friends so many times, ruined my mums relationship to her old boyfriend, and also now the one she has now. He can not come to us anymore, cuz my brother will yell and beat him up if he does.

    I tried to tell you the story short, but now it all starts.

    We now live in a bigger appartment, we moved here for 2 years ago. My brother smoked weed before, he were in the worst surroundings.. He have had the control in the house since we moved out of our old house. He was then 9 or 10, and now he is 16, soon 17. He is yelling to my mum, and me, calling us hookers, sluts, fat, we are nothing. He is telling my mum she is a stupid hooker who is working on the train, and thats a poor stupid job. Making fun of my mum, who is working 100%, every single day, even tho she is coming back to hell everyday.. He have been smashing SO many things, you have absolutely NO idea. All our doors has been smashed, my mum bought new once, even tho she is too poor, and he smashed two of the neew doors right away.. He smashed my brand new computer i was going to buy from my friend, now its ruined and I need to pay 2500 kr for a computer that my brother smashed. My brother has been living with fosterparents for one year, he was running away from them many times. He has been on a institution, a psychic locked institution, about 3 times. and each time the stupid doctors been letting him out with my dad after ONE day, and he runs away, and he is coming home after a while. Then another time he got out, climed over the roof, and then he was living at a friend all summer. As the cops were looking for him. My mum wanted to get him into the institution because she wanted them to help him, and maybe find another sickness that can explain his thinking. cuz he is not seeing things as normal people do..My brothers been through alot, he have had a dad who never helped.. Once my mum were going to spain with her boyfriend, my dad was going to watch him, i knew it had to go wrong. My brother was there for one day, and he snapped for some reason, and my dad snapps back and he told him to f*** off and never come to his house again. And there i am, 16 years old, and need to watch my brother for two weeks alone in the house. Because my dad just said f*** it, when it was a dificult situation.. I told my dad, we have these situations EVERY SINGLE DAY, many times a day, and we been holding out for so many years, and you cant do ONE day? I must say, that just shows how weak he is. As you prob understand, we have had a turbulent life, and we havnt got the help we were suppose to get. You know what the children survises told us? There is nothing we can help you guys with. Because they dont have ANY program anything for kids like him here. They actually admit that.. And we never got the help, and most important, my poor brother NEVER got the help he needed. Now he is 16 years old, sooooo f up in his head, he have seriouse psychic problems, no real friends, he feel so alone, and he is not doing anything else but sitting home on his computer, as he have done for years.

    For two weeks ago, he finally after so much, moved into a appartment, because we couldnt take it anymore at home.. He havnt been home more than two times. And Im actually glad for that. Today, I dont talk to my dad, not my brother either, we have no respect or will never forgive him for never being our supportive loving dad.. He was never there, my mum was.. And how he is handling my brother, just makes me wanna yell and knock him in the face. He never helped, he always ran away and let me or my mum be stuck with this.. It is soon christmas, my gramma is sad because me and my brother wont talk to my dad. My brother hates my mum because he had to move out, my brother hates me, and my dad. My mum cant talk to my dad without feeling hate and anger, same with me.. I must also tell you that this summer, my brother knocked me and my mum up in the house, and we still didnt get help. We both had to go to the hospital. He is treatning, and is using vilence when he gets angry enough. He have done it before, just not that much and so much anger.. We really need help, Im sad that we are such a splittet family. I remember when I was little and I said to myself, I am so lucky having a normal and loving family.. I should never had said that, cuz after that, everything went wrong.. I wonder of you dr.phil know about any program, any help for us and specially my brother. Everybody think he will end up as a looser, thats what he have heard his whole life, please help him show them that their wrong…There is no help getting here in Norway, please help us.. I hope you will answere and read this, and answere me. If you cant help us, I did atleast try.. Thank you dr.phil for reading this.

    Hilsen Pia Therese Måsø

  21. Fleur says:

    It is important to be involved in your kids life but I also think hovering over them 24/7 can cause problems as well. This can cause kids to rebel.

    Also I’ve noticed over the years how kids are usually more violent towards there mothers than dads. Kids often end up stuck with moms unlike with dad. Mom isn’t always the number one choice for being parent and so they shouldn’t hover over their kids and assume they know more about them than anyone else. Mothers often are more passive with discipline and behavioral problems. Kids can resent there moms trying to control them more easily.

  22. JN says:

    We adopted our son when he was a toddler and he has no contact with his biological family, including his half-sister. His biological mother is a drug addict with a history of violence. She has also been diagnosed with bipolar disorder (although, I have to suspect that smoking crack would mimic symptoms of bipolar. When someone goes to a doctor because they’re acting “crazy”, staying up for nights on end, and yet fails to divulge this little piece of information about the crack, I have to wonder about the accuracy of such diagnosis).

    His half-sister was diagnosed with bipolar and ADHD and before she was six years old, she was already taking heavy doses of medication for both. As far as I knew, and I did ask, she was receiving no counseling for her distressing home condition, which, I felt was certainly contributing to her behavior and her tantrums. Though she no longer had custody, biomom was in and out of her life, saying crazy things to mess with her daughters head, making her feel guilty for bonding with anyone else other than herself. She also threw terrible tantrums like the girl on the show today, but her biological grandmother responded to them with inconsistency and by giving her constant attention with questions during the tantrums like, “What are you doing?” In addition to strongly questioning the wisdom of administering strong drugs to a small child whose neuro-chemistry is still developing, I really think the environmental factors should have been better explored in the case of that little girl!

    Our son just started first grade and he has had a few behavior issues, but nothing like his sister. We recently purchased a popular CD program which has been advertised on infomercials. Our son didn’t act nearly as bad as the kids described on the CD’s, but, I strongly felt like my husband and I needed all of the skills we could get to best help our son. He is one of the sweetest little boys I’ve ever known, and, he wants to behave. He doesn’t like it when he acts out. I feel like it’s helped us a lot to be better parents and help impart to our son the skills that he needs.

    I really liked what you said about the importance of not labeling children. From the time we first adopted our son, even though he was diagnosed with shaken baby syndrome and developmental delays, my husband was adamant about not giving him any labels that would impair our son’s self concept. At 18-months old, he was very strong for his age, he had developmental delays, and he would hit because he had been hit. I did everything I could to tune into him and get resources to best help him ~ OT’s, PT’s, psychologists, etc. At times, like, at the McDonald’s Playland, there would be awkward moments. I’d get nasty looks from other mothers because my child was so loud and rough. They didn’t know that we were working with occupational therapists on his developmental delays. I knew that if I explained it, they would understand, but I didn’t want to tell my son’s personal business to strangers. At the same time, I felt compelled to remove my son from situations where he might be hurt/affected by others reactions to him. I was also one of those moms who was very careful not to let my son hit or push other children, either accidentally or on purpose. I simply wouldn’t allow him to get away with it because I expected more.

    Hope I’m not rambling too much. I think one of my other biggest concerns is the quality of the “help” offered. Overall, my son has received excellent help in the form of physicians, teachers, therapists, reading coaches, etc. However, not all of them know what they are doing. And, that, can make seeking help or exposing my son’s history to professionals a bit daunting ~ as evidenced by one particular situation that happened to us quite recently which isn’t fully resolved but will be quite soon I hope.

  23. Shelley says:

    Dr. Phil–I am a huge fan of your show and your website. Tons of information and it is ALL appreciated. My question is/was- what do you do when people get involved with your kids that do things differently than you do? My daughter (who is now grown and out on her own) came “out” when she was a Jr. in High School. To say this rocked my world is quite the understatement, although to others they say they were not surprised. The gal that my daughter was involved with I did not like. Even before I knew the depth of the relationship I did not like her and after several confrontations with this young lady in our home we told her that if she could not follow our household rules, she was not welcome here. Of course, my daughter was furious with me and this was just the start of issues with this “friendship” From that moment on, anything I told my daughter not to do, this person convinved her to do it anyway. On top of everything, several of my family members got involved and thought I was being unfair and began interfering. Once it came out the complete involvement of my daughter and this gal, things got worse. If I asked my daughter to be home by 11:00 (school night) it would be after midnight or later when she came strolling through the door. She refused to do her chores (we live on a farm and everyone has their set of chores) at 17 she refused to get a part-time job to help pay for her expenses (her dad paid for her car, I wanted her to earn her own spending money) she barely passed her classes in school and this was just the tip of the ice berg. Every time I tried to punish, my sisters told her I was overreacting and she would go to their house and they would let her do whatever she wanted. They thought that everything I was doing was because I was homo-phobic. Of course, this became a battling ram for her. Things really got bad when the young lady my daughter was involved with graduated from high school and went to college. The school was several hours away and it was not beyond my daughter to skip school and go spend the day or two with this gal. Not telling me where she was–her aunts would give her gas money and send her on her way. Or run our phone bill to several hundred $$’s per month (remember she didn’t have a job) One day she called this gal 31 times. My family would tell her I was trying to keep them apart and if it was a boy she was involved with, things would be different ( NOT!) This went on and on for well over a year when my husband (stepdad to my daughter) and I had enough and told her she was either going to stop with her ways or find another place to live. She didn’t want to follow the rules, so she moved out–right into the arms of my waiting family who really turned the heat up against me. She told them we kicked her out, that we verbally abused her, that we denied her privledges because she was gay, that we had different expectations for her than we did the other kids and on and on and on. They took it hook line and sinker and you know what–anything she wanted to do, they let her do. Dr. Phil, this was my dad and 2 of my sisters. They called me everything but a white woman. Now I will admit, that I probably did things wrong and said things, in the heat of the moment that I probably shouldn’t have. I even slapped her once when something came out of her mouth that I could not believe came out. Her being gay was a big deal, but that wasn’t the main point in my mind. I did have to come to terms with it, but it had no bearing on how/what we were doing in raising her. I gave her the same rules that I gave my son with his girl friend–only he accepted the rules and my daughter didn’t AND my family did not become involved to keep stirring the pot. Needless to say, my family and I do not speak to one another–I have 1 other sister that did not take sides and tried to speak some reason to the rest of my family, to no avail. Once my daughter graduated (barely but she did make it) and started at Jr. college, she realized how unhealthy this gal was for her and she eventually broke things off . Once that happened, my daughter came back to being herself and her and I have worked things out and are close once again–it took a long time though. As for my family, I just can’t forgive them for what they did. I tried to get them to help me with the situation and they stabbed me in the back, I feel. I do not believe my daugher ever lied to them and many of the things she said happened did happen, but I am POSITIVE she only told a very small portion of the truth, added some drama (which she is very good at) and they jumped all over it without questioning one bit. I love your saying, Dr. Phil, that no matter how much you smash that pancake it still has two sides–it is absolutely the truth! They STILL try to override my influence with my daughter, but I think she is smart enough to not get pulled into it again. I hope!

  24. Dr. Phil, I wish that you would consider a series on co-parenting children. There are so many families who are dealing with issues of separated/blended families. I am a stepmom to four beautiful children who have lived a life of emotional choas because their mom has used them to fulfill whatever her need was at that moment…power, greed, or control. Children have the right to grow up without being put in the unfair position to choose one parent over the other. My husband would always give in to her want at the time to keep her from disrupting the kids. Basically he wanted to be left alone and wanted for her to leave the kids alone. He couldn’t take her upsetting the kids. When he made the decision to take a stand for the kids, WWIII was on. She is very self-centered. She doesn’t believe that the rules apply to her and she would never be willing to treat anyone the way that she expects to be treated. I believe that a person cannot extend respect to others if they do have self respect. I am a custodial parent to two beautiful daughters. My exhusband and I have a completely different relationship with our children. I understand how much they need him and that does not threaten my relationship. My oldest stepson has been used as a confidant by his mom. He confronted me about some things that he was angry about and had been holding in for quite some time. We talked, and basically it gave me an opportunity to explain. We talked about many things and the most important point I wanted for him to understand is that the only difference in his parents situation and my children’s parents situation is that I chose to not involve my children in any of the the conflict or disagreements with their dad. Children need to be able to love their parents freely without any guilt or feeling like they are betraying the other parent. I am a child of divorce who never saw her father after the age of 8, a custodial parent of two beautiful daughters who love their daddy so much, and the second wife to a father has raised 4 beautiful children with an exwife who has made their lives a living hell.

  25. Tammie says:

    Parenting? I did it once, and now I am doing it again 27 years later. We got custody of the youngest granddaughter (18 months) and are trying to adjust. The “adults” in the situation make me angry because they are not stepping up to their duties and are quite easy to let grandma and pap do it. Mom has her own drug dealer living in the house and Dad has no drivers license, car or home in which to raise her because of alcohol. We took custody for her, not for them. The financial impact is hard, I had no idea how much daycare was costing these days.

  26. Lisa Leonard says:

    Sometimes i wonder, now that my daughter is growing up, if im doing the right thing. Samantha will be 9 tomorrow, and i worry about her attitude sometimes. She seems pretty hyper active to me, though i was never hyper active, i grew up with ADD. I always was pretty sure she would have some type of ADD, or ADHD, well I talked to a specialist, and she did end up having ADHD, and her doctor diagnosed her with it. So, now shes on meds,but everyone is against it,including her grandmom,and now she is tell me she doesent want to the meds. It is very frustrating, i notice a change when she is on meds, she listens, shes calm, she wants to do her school work, even the school has noticed a change. They just dont see it, because they dont have to live with it.

  27. I am in a same sex legal marriage and live in Brampton, Ontario, Canada (just outside of Toronto) and I have a 15 year old son who lives with my wife and I. My son can be 8 or 48 depending on the topic, the environment and who he is with. My wife and I are very involved in my son’s life and we make an effort to meet his friends and especially meet their parents particularly since the recent activity of choice is moving movie nights. I drop him off and pick him up even though it is just around the corner because I agree that it is my responsibility to make sure that he is safe and making great choices. Don’t get me wrong…his choices left up to him might not always be the greatest but we engage him in conversations that have him understand the impact of his choices on both him and the other people in his life.
    I have to say that I am inspired by the young man he is becoming and I get my job will never be over. I will always be his mother and we are friends but he is clear that when he doesn’t do what he needs to do or he makes a choices that doesn’t line up with what we have agreed on, I am mother all the way and there are consequences.
    I love your straight up approach to parenting and your boys are proof it’s worth the work.
    I follow all of you on twitter and watch the show regularly. I believe that not enough people truly parent their children and sometimes my son will share his disapproval when he has rules that his friends don’t have but he has a future they don’t have and he is clear about that.
    Thank you Dr. Phil and Robin for making a difference in the world…in our world and for being the compass that will have me keep on track with what I am committed to creating with my family.

    Sonya Anderson

  28. Mary Ely says:

    My parents were fairly strict while I was growing up. Everyone thought I was the good girl, and in most ways, I was. It was that good girl persona that allowed me to get away with a few things here and there, though. They would never believe that I would do such things(drinking, sex, drugs,…). The truth of it was that I just never had much of an opportunity to do those things. Like I said, I only got away with a few little things. My friends felt I led a sheltered life compared to them. This is where the problem comes in. Do parents sometimes hold the reigns to too tight? The reason I ask this is because when I left home and went to college I felt a freedom I had never felt before. Regretfully, I wasn’t responsible with that freedom, I went wild. I finally had my chance to experience everything I wanted to without the feeling of being suppressed by my parent’s punishment. I look back on those first college days now and realize what huge mistakes I made and the stupidity of it all. However, I also look back on it sometimes as the best time of my life. There is such a poignancy to the decisions made during that time in a youth’s life. Is there enough life experience for them yet to understand the impact of those decisions? There couldn’t be a saying more true than, “I wish I knew then what I know now”. I made a lot of detours and wrong way turns in my life as a result of decisions I made during my early college years. However, I learned from my mistakes and found my way back on the right path. I’m now happily married with beautiful children, and as of last year, I finally got to hang that bachelor’s degree up on my wall.

  29. Louise Carroll_Australia says:

    Hi Dr Phil,
    I am a Criminologist in Australia and have been working within the field of child protection for the last six years. My independent and professional research, including observations of interactions between parents and their children in the family household environment, has found, that it is necessary for a parent to be ‘psychologically’ present to the child when delinquent opportunities arise, in order for the child to make a conscious decision not to engage in the act for fear of disappointing their parent, feeling ashamed, of for fear of the known consequences of their behaviour.

    The family, is the fundamental institution for the socialisation of children. It is where children have the opportunity to have their essential needs met; love, happiness, affection and appropriate and consistent discipline. It is also where they can be taught right from wrong (via learned behaviours and parental teachings), learn the limits of socially acceptable and tolerated behaviour (and the associated consequences) and acquire the skills, knowledge and attitudes to live as adults.

    It is known that while family life has the potential to develop stable, honest and happy children, it can also stimulate dishonesty and misbehaviour. This is why education is integral for families, particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds (as evidence suggests that delinquent behaviour amongst children is higher in these zones), so that the children can be taught right from wrong and a positive bond can be strengthened between parent and child.

    Education (in schools, mother’s/father’s groups, community centres) is important so that inter-generational delinquent (and potentially criminal behaviour) is not replicated from negatively learned and normalised behaviour, “well my parents did that (stole, took drugs etc), so that’s all I know!”

    It is necessary for a parent to develop postive attachments and bonds with their children from birth. This can be achieved by consistently and age-appropriately disciplining the ‘wrong’ in the context of love and regularly praising the ‘right’ with rewards, which are not necessarily materialistic, but can be by sharing laughter, joy and love. These simple things can contribute to a positive attachment being developed between parent and child and the child then having their parent ‘psychologically’ present when faced with a choice to take the right or wrong path.

    Dr Phil, this is nothing new to you or to most Americans. However, I thought that simply stating this concept here, of having a parent ‘psychologically’ present (”what would mum think of me if I did this, she would be so upset and disappointed in me”) in a child’s mind, when faced with the choice of engaging in a delinquent act, could contribute to a family’s foundation as a basis for raising their children.

    I went to your live Brisbane show last year and thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you for making the trip all the way over here to share your wealth of knowledge.

    Regards, Louise

  30. Annette_RP says:

    As a parent, there’s always self-doubt and uncertainties of how to properly parent our kids. I shall surely note that dropping everything to make sure I communicate with my kid even if it’s just to ask how his day was is a great way of letting my son know how important he is to me.

    I’ve also always believed in raising an independent person with my son, by providing him with opportunities to make his own decisions.

    Loved the article! First-hand parenting will always be the best parenting.

  31. Ans de Scande says:

    Dr Phil, I am a mother living in South Africa. I have 3 most prescious daughters en 3 grandchildren. I wish I can share with you the pain caused by crime in our country. My eldest daughter now stays in Bunbury, Australia. You know how empty my heart is. 10000 Km away from me. She went through armed robberies and hijackings. The other two is still in SA. We are so very close to each other. Dr Phil please tell parents to love their children, show them you love them, tell them. We did that and still do it everytime we speak, phone or see each other. My heart is broken. Maybe you can do a show with SA mommies who share the pain of having children all over the world. I am so blessed with my children and wish I can show the most wonderful children and grandchildren. Ans de Scande

  32. Ruby Clark says:

    My boys are both still babies. I tend to look toward their future and how I can help them to become fine young men. I know in today’s society that raising decent children can be a huge challenge. There are so many outside influences that reach our kids today. I’m constantly asking myself how can I help them to become decent human beings. You often say “we are not raising children we are raising adults” So in parenting my children over the course of their lives I will always remember that. I always look to you for advice in how to raise my children because you always give such good advice and you have the exsperience of raising two boys and doing such a good job with them. So thank you Dr. Phil.

  33. Brian Powell says:

    As a single father, who brought up four children on his own and has one working as a marketing manager, one as a teacher and a third who works for the Ministry of Defence, while the fourth has just started college. I can say with absolute authority on the subject, that there is no single way to raise children. The reason is simple, children, from the very earliest of ages, are individuals and react to the same set of circumstances differently. I found this out very early on in my parenthood and I am thankful that I was sensible enough to realise it. I also found out that children don’t respond well to hypocrisy. I used this to my advantage by not insisting that they don’t smoke, or drink, or do any of the stupid things I did as a teenager. I told them how I grew up and in later years came to regret the things I’d done, just for the momentary pleasure of sticking two fingers up to the people who told me DON’T DO THAT. This worked with my three eldest but, unfortunatly, not so well with the youngest. She did slide off the rails for awhile but thankfully it only lasted for two years and she is now firmly back on track, having started college and doing a course in Animal Care, she also works one day a week in a PDSA shop as a volunteer. I am glad to say that I have great relations with all of my kids and we talk and see each other on a regular basis.
    It does make me sad when I see parents today, either keeping their child under tight strict control, or not giving a damn what their child gets up to. Both are equally wrong and both will end up losing all contact with their children but, worst of all they are not allowing their children to be children, or they are setting up the child to be taken advantage of in the non too distant future.

  34. Michelle says:

    Dr. Phil, I am a single foster mom about to adopt my two year old foster son. I’ve been a foster mom for a couple of years now and unfortunately my first foster son had to go back home, which just crushed my heart; however, God then brought my second one to me a month and a half after the first one left. I’m excited that we are about to start adoption procedures and can’t wait to make him legally mine. I’m doing the best I can raising him by myself but realize he will have questions about his parents as he gets older. I plan on telling him the truth one day when he’s old enough to understand and not get his feelings hurt about why his birth parents gave him up. He’s a very sensitive kid and I have to present the truth to him in a truthful yet “soft” way. I knew the first question I would have would be about where his daddy is, but I honestly thought I’d have a few years to come up with a way to explain his “Dad” situation to him. However, lately he’s been saying things like “I want my daddy” or he’ll see some random guy and say, “is that my daddy?” and I just say no baby but mommy is right here. Until now, that answer seemed to satisfy him, but he’s grown more curious. His best buddies all have dads and he sees them picking them up from school and I’m sure he is confused as to where HIS daddy is. This is where I need your help, how do I tell him, a two year old, that his dad chooses not to be in his life (his birth father signed over his rights) to where he will understand on his level and not be hurt? He is my heart and my world and I just want to protect him from getting hurt by the truth.

  35. kathy says:

    One key to parenting is not being afraid to look for and not being afraid to find evidence of bad behavior with your kids. And when you find it, act on it! Don’t pretend things will get better in time, they will work it out, etc. That is just abdicating your responsibilities! Teenagers having sex, drinking alcohol, using drugs, is NOT okay and parents should make it very clear from the time their kids are little, these behaviors are against the family (and church and law, etc.). I grew up being told you will not do….blah, blah, blah. And for the most part, I didn’t because it was ingrained in me, it would not be tolerated. Lucky for my parents they had basically good kids to begin with. It all worked out. I used the same technique with my kids and have, so far, raised mature, successful, well-adjusted kids (one is 30, one is 16). I have been known to call parents and tell them NOT to allow my son to be at their home alone with their daughter. I have received responses like, “Are you telling us we are bad parents?” My reply, “No, I am telling you I don’t want to be a grandmother yet and you are putting my son at risk!” Yes, I told my son not to do so as well, but we all know without supervision, kids are going to disobey sometimes. I didn’t care that I was embarrassing him or making the parents angry or whatever, I cared about my son & if that means giving a naiive parent a wake-up call, I am willing to do it.

  36. kathy says:

    I take issue with your advice on the biggest mistakes you are making with your kids episode 1/28/09. If kids won’t eat what is being served, quietly take away their plate and they can wait until the next meal. I dislike the arrogance of picky eaters. We are so spoiled in the USA, we turn up our noses at good, nutritious food because it may have an ingredient in it that isn’t our favorite, maybe the temperture of the food is too cold, or too hot, or one item doesn’t “go with” another item. I say, baloney! Eat what is served. If you don’t like it, eat only a small amount and wait ’til the next meal, maybe something more to your liking will be served then. That is how I was raised and how I raised my kids and NONE of us is the least bit picky nor thin! Ha! In fact, we all eat well rounded, varied diets. DO NOT give in to this unappreciative nonsense. Just be matter of fact, “This is what is for dinner.”

    I also had a rule, that if I was serving a new food, my kids had to take at least one bite of it before they decided they didn’t like it. Oftentimes, they surprised themselves and liked it. If they didn’t, they didn’t have to eat it. Eat the other items served during that meal instead.

  37. Renee Devera says:

    I have somehow been blessed with 3 great kids. I have never had a problem with them, in any way. They are 18, 16 and 12. My oldest son decided he was into the gothic style when he was in middle school. I didn’t like the look at all. Well, one thing I always tried to remember in raising my kids was how it felt to be their age. I read about the gothic beliefs and I was well aware of what I felt were warning signs that I should be aware of. We sat down and talked about why he wanted to dress in and portray himself in such a dark manner. He had normal answers, nothing concerning to me.
    At this point, I had done my research and talked to my son. I knew he seriously wanted this. After much thought, my response was…I know this is important to you and I will let you present yourself as you wish. It is a phase and I will be supportive as long as you make wise decisions. I will know your friends, as I always have. This is a one time opportunity and I am willing to allow you to make your own choices as long as they are thr right choices. By that I mean you know right from wrong and I’m telling you that people WILL judge you by your appearance. It is up to you to prove that ALL Gothic kids are not Bad kids. You also have to realize that people will look at you differently than you have ever experienced. You better not be rude. If you don’t like the looks you need to be willing to confront those people with a positive attitude and explain to them that you can’t judge a book by it’s cover. In doing so, you need to be able to back yourself up with a couple positive facts about yourself. Now, I need you to understand what will happen if you can’t live up to this. You will wear what I think is appropriate for a young man and I’m also telling you, after wearing what you want, you will look really funny in Levi’s and Polo shirts. With that we both laughed and he began his phase of dressing gothic. Some time during his junior year he slowly phased out of that and into the next phase…skinny jeans. I feel that if you are very up front about your expectations, your kids will do their best to live up to them.

  38. John Crippen says:

    CamerasForKids.info is an online program to extract children’s thumb from their texting devices and video games. On the site there’s photogaphy lessons, articles on science & nature, and event a section for little ones called “Herbie’s Hints”. Books on digital photography are also listed on the site. The hope is to get the creative minds of children active and create a sense of wonder of the world around them. The exercise used to do some outdoor exploring is a another bonus!

  39. prefer anonymous says:

    A while ago Dr. Phil did a show on unreasonable timeouts at school. At this moment there is a bill, HR 4247, the Preventing Harmful Restraint and Seclusion in Schools Act (also known as the Keeping All Students Safe Act), being considered in Congress. I hope that Dr. Phil will ask everyone to call their Representatives in favor of this. I am sure that the show must have helped form the momentum to get legislation introduced.

  40. julie mikus says:

    I have been a single mother of four for 18 years my children are 23,26,30, and 38.

    They are drug free,professionals or students. My rules never changed in 38 years and I told them that often. I taught them to question authority but also to put respect first. UNCONDITIONAL LOVE AND BEING THERE, ARE OF UTMOST IMPORTANCE. It’s a LOT of work but it’s your JOB if you choose to have children.
    We have shared dinner EVERY nite of their lives, and if you weren’t hungry you came anyway, my ex used to make them eat ALL of their food and that changed when he left. I find that a very CONTROLLING RULE which if you thought it through you’de realize there’s another way. Let them take their own portions and (witthin boundaries) their own menu. DO YOU LIKE EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have to say that the SIBLINGS kept and do still, each other in check. And the LOVE and RESPECT they have always shown me is incredibl. What goes around comes around. I LOVE MY KIDS

  41. Judy Yoon says:

    Hello, I believe that raising and teaching a child is the hardest thing I have ever done. I have battled MS for 18 years and that seems like a walk in the park compared to being a mom. It IS really hard to be strict and super hard to continue to be consistent day after day after day. My son is 2 years old however I believe that when he is older I can and will make sure that he understands the way life is and there is ALWAYS a consequence to his actions. Thank you for sharing how you and Robin were with the boys, it encourages me to keep going on being consistent, it will pay off. Thank you for your time. Judy Yoon

  42. Lisa Herren says:

    Dr. Phil
    Parenting question….We are fostering a child through a “prison-ministry” through our church & will have this newborn angel for about 2 years. Assuming the mother is paroled & completes her programs how are we going to transition, what will be a toddler by that point, back to her mother in a safe, healthy way? Legally she will be able to take her & run if she so decides. We know this would be detrimental to the baby as well as heartbreaking for our family. There are many “for-now” moms working in this ministry, which has grown way faster & larger than we anticipated. We are the mothers, as Sandra Bullock put it in her Oscar acceptance speech, that love all the children no matter where they come from. Us with our families assume all responsibility for these children (financial, emotional, etc…) because it isn’t state funded. The fact that their children aren’t in “state-custody”, we take them to visit their mothers regularly, send regular pictures, & talk with the inmates for regular updates-plus raise their children in a “God centered” home is why the incarcerated mothers are drawn to this ministry.

    Any advice, guidance or help you could offer in this journey would be helpful. -Lisa

  43. tisha johns says:

    im a single mom of 2 babys and there 16 months apart. i really feel like im in over my head not knowing how to raise them my youngest just turn 2 in jan. and i dont have a lot of problems with her its my 3 year little boy that always doing something to hurt others he hit me and my little girl all the tim he only hurts us and i feel bad cause im scared of whats around the corner when it comes to him. Hes just so angry all the time i have tryed everything under the sun to help him may i add in to this ive also been toled that he’s on the mild to mod. side of autism how do i go about helping him. cus im scared of what hes going to do when he gets older he already says he going to shout me or hes going to cut me im only 24 with very little hope i need help. thanks lots tisha

  44. Carolyn says:

    Dr Phil…I just watched the episode of Hannah “huffing” and I am greatly disturbed. I agree with Hannah that NO ONE WAS LISTENING TO HER, she was summarily dismissed on every level. I haven’t watched your show in a long time and I am sad to see it taking this direction. The PROBLEM in THIS case is the PARENTS. Did they take parenting classes? They are over controlling and don’t listen to their daughter who clearly needs creative outlets and not be forced into the over zealous religious practices that the parents enjoy. What pushed them to THEIR behavior? I am not defending the child’s toxic inhalation, but the drug abuse cannot be treated without treating the family!! Of course the people from the treatment centers want her to stay…..more $$ for them. It would have been more effective for all involved to have had people who had been in a similar situation and how they recovered than these so-called “experts” who work with numbers and academia and run a business.

  45. Rick says:

    I’m with Carolyn. Hannah says ‘no one is listening to me.’

    ….they make me go to church five nights a week.

    Adults might make other choices but a 15 yr old might find ‘huffing’ a reasonable response to this sort of control and pressure. There’s no defense for a drug habit but can others see
    that there’s much more to this story?

  46. mike says:

    Im a stay at home dad !!! Its most of the time the easest job Ive ever had. But it is a job. I can take my kids to the beach every day !!! My kids are 1,4, I think its easy to handle! Its all about being organized ! The 4 year old is our nieghbors we baby sit for extra money for a single mom. I have fun with it.

  47. Dottie says:

    Make sure you child has little free time that you are not montering, hopefully, without them fully aware that you are watching as closely as you are. Keep them busy with extra-curricular activities, & if they don’t express an interest in something particular, find one for them that fits their personalities. Aside from them being sick, insist they go to what you or they have signed up for. Be sure to know where you child is going, & for what purpose, each time they leave the house, & know what time they are expected to return home. If they don’t return at the agreed upon time, go get them, & don’t give them as much freedom to leave the house for awhile, until they show you can depend on them to follow the guideline you’ve set down for them. Once they turn 18, & finish or leave high school, the amount of influence you have is seriously deminished or gone.

  48. Donna Lee says:

    I get so annoyed with the people who just respond “In my house I tell them not to and they don’t!” What a load! I am the single parent (recently divorced) of a polite, respectful, pleasant, smart 16 yr old son. He doesn’t drink, but he does smoke pot. Am I ok with this? NO! Do I talk to him about it? YES Do I discourage him from doing it? Yes.
    I have confronted him with drug paraphanalia, and taken away his ATV privilages, grounded him, taken away the play station etc. Short of beating him, I am at a lost as to what to do next! I talk to him. I don’t yell, I don’t call him names. I don’t tell him that he is ruining his life, because I believe that many teenagers (myself included) use recreational drugs and as they age and the lure is not as attractive as when you are in the “teen” years, you age, mature, and get on with becoming a real adult with adult responsibilities and insights. I want him to understand that there is a reason that he is choosing to numb out, and to be able to develop the insight and understanding to recognize why he is choosing this behaviour! I know his brain is not developed enough to make the connections right now, but I also want to be able to give him the opportunity to “learn”. To learn about choices, to learn that :numbing out” does not solve proplems, it does not make things go away, to learn how to deal with whatever is bothering him enough rather than to take the easy way of drugs to escape the problem!
    I have had him to see a private counsellor during our divorce proceedings, and he bonded well with the counsellor. The counsellor said he was a smart well adjusted kid, who is 16 and making some poor choices.
    So…… what do I do about his poor choices? That is the delemma I am currently in. How can I influence him enough to alter his choices????? I am a firm believer thatthings will not change until the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same. I am terrified that he will choose to drop out of school, or move out, or do something stupid like attempt suicide or God forbid, actually commit suicide!!! He has voiced all of these options within the last 9 months. I feel like my fear is holding me captive in my parenting abilities……

  49. kristi liles says:

    I need some advice, and reassurrance. I have custody of my daughter during the school year, and my ex has her during the summer. We have never really gone by the papers, we have just gone on what our daughter wanted to do. About three years ago, my new husband and our three boys moved to pennsylvania. My daughter went with me. When it was her time to go visit her dad, she decided she wanted to stay with him. It hurt alot, but I let her. I just want her to be happy. She finally startted calling me and telling me she made a mistake, i regretfully made her stay since it was the middle of the year.
    Ok, fast forward to now. It has now been three years, i am back in oklahoma(only the past o8 mos), because my husband is in jail and has been for a year now because of his drinking. I have our three boys, the oldest is nine and the twins are four. I left my husband because of all the heartache his drinking caused, when he went in, I finally felt freedom, and so i told him it was ove., yes there was some domestic violence, but only when he drank , and he mostly broke things and yelled at me. I am not making any excuses for him, I grew up with it, and don’t want my children to grow up with it, but he seems like he has changed not just the jail house talk, but really changed. Our boys really want to go back to be with their dad, they miss him and I think I do too. I really want to give it one more chance, I came from a broken home, my parents got back together, only for his alcohol to kill him in a car wreck years later, when my youngest sister turned 10. I came back to oklalhoma because my daughter wanted me here, which I hardly ever see her, she is 13 when a girl really needs her mom, she doesn’t want me to go, but the boys want to go back, and i have heard about it every day since we moved back. I really need some help on how to handle this it is killing me the thought of leaving my 13 yr. old daughter behind, to make myself and my boys happy, because she makes me happy and it wouldl make her happiest if I stayed. I have only a month left to make my decision and i go back and forth everyday with my decision. I do love him, but i love my daughter as well as my boys and I am being pulled everywhich way what do I do????????

  50. Cheryl Campbell says:

    My husband and I did a great job. I am a high school teacher…and my mother did a good job. First, I have always been honest, open, truthful, and respectfull of my boys. As you, Dr. Phil, I have two boys. Even when little boys, I asked, not told, explained not yelled without reason, and spanked after I gave them the consequense in advance. They were told if you do this, then this will happen; it’s your choice. I let them control the situation; put the responsibility in their hands. I also did that in my classroom. Then it was the students choice to get the punishment. It made them think. I also preplanned and preached what would happen if… They had my trust until they broke it. I told them that they carried my husband’s and my last name, therefore, they represented me. If they cussed, I cussed, if they did something horrible, I did something horrible. Vise versa. If they discredited our name it would not be respected… We were a family, and I expected their best. Second, I never compared my two boys and didn’t let them fight. Today they are 23 and 25. Completely different, but very close. They are now, very good, stong men and I could not be more proud. No they are not perfect!

    But they were from old school parents…. I spanked (not a lot), no bruses…but explained why. They were more scared to come home than anything the school could throw at them. They warned students of mine at school…don’t make her mad!! I’m red-headed. If you asked them today, they would say we were fair, they didn’t get everything they wanted and the main thing I think my husband and I did right is we really enjoyed our boys!! They were athletes, good grades, popular. My oldest led his class to three district championships his senior year. In top 20 in his class, student body president… my yougest student body president, national honor society president, validictorian, led his basketball team to a state 3rd place championship. Both graduated from college out working.
    I also tried to raise them in a christian home! Important!

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