Two days ago, the NBC Today show with Matt Lauer hosted Dr. Phil via satellite for an interview to gather his response to the YouTube video I’d posted about my daughter, Hannah. To be fair to Dr. Phil, I kind of asked for it. Two days earlier I posted the following on Facebook:
Dr. Phil: You've GOT to have taken a running jump way outside the bounds of sanity if you think I'd subject my family to your show. You've called almost EVERY day and you're now trying to track down my wife at work? Dude... NO. I can save you the studio expense of flying us out there. Your version is "I'm an uneducated over-aggressive father who doesn't understand how to raise my kids and you think my daughter simply MUST require years of intensive therapy for being subjected to such torture as losing her laptop." She doesn't need therapy, but she would by the time you finished with her!
Having had the chance to reflect on it a few days, I’ve decided that wasn’t the smartest thing to have said to a national media presence with the education and fan-base Dr. Phil has. Nevertheless, I seem to be learning repeatedly something I’ve been telling people forever; once it’s on Facebook, you can’t take it back. In my defense, people on national television have entire panels of people who are paid to stop them and say “No, you absolutely shouldn’t say that.” I am sans that particular advantage, so I’m just doing the best I can to muddle through.
Anyway, I was quite amazed to hear Dr. Phil, a CBS personality was going to be interrupting the normal Today Show lineup scheduled, just to weigh in on the video. I figured he was most likely going to do his best to throw me under the bus. It is to his credit that I have to truthfully admit, he did not. He didn’t agree with me on just about anything I said but he did so tastefully, which is more than I can say for a few of the panelists on The View a day or so earlier.
My YouTube Intro Response
I posted a YouTube intro earlier today where I briefly cover some of these topics, but this blog post contains all the nuts and bolts in detail. If you haven’t seen it, you can watch it below.
If you haven’t seen his excerpt, you can watch it below. (You’ll likely have to deal with an MSNBC ad first, sorry. I have no control over that one.)
Dr. Phil’s Broadcast on NBC
The first couple of minutes are commentary. The interview with Dr. Phil McGraw starts at about 2:43 seconds into the video.
You can watch it for yourself, but I’m going to respond individually to the things he says in his response.
His first analytical response is “This is a real mouthy kid; wonder where she got that?”
I’m not exactly sure how to respond to that one, but I think considering the emotional state I was in at the time, I did fairly well to be as composed as I was. I was mad, hurt, disappointed, and frustrated… but with the single exception of the word “ass” (which I’ve already said I regretted) I didn’t consider my response to be overly vulgar or “mouthy” as he put it.
15 Year Old Brain
His next comment, and I take a lot of issue with this one, is “That’s the problem here. She has a fifteen-year-old brain, where you can’t really expect her to be able to predict all the consequences of her actions and weigh this stuff out, but he got down to her level.”
Dr. Phil with all due respect sir, you are the second psychologist (plus one social worker) I’ve heard within two weeks state that by fifteen years old a child in today’s world can’t actually be expected to reasonably forecast the consequences of their actions. I fundamentally, and respectfully, think you’re off your rocker to think that. And if parent’s raise kids that way, we are in for a world of hurt when these irrational, unthinking kids take over our country in the next ten years.
Within six months of my daughter’s current age the NCDMV seems to agree that it’s ok to let someone this age get out on the street in a motor vehicle and drive our highways, but you think they’re too ignorant to be held accountable for their actions because they’re incapable of understanding cause and effect. Can we agree that the basic principle you’re arguing is that children her age don’t understand cause and effect, or consequences to use a different term?
I had to take a moment and go check for myself, but thank God not everyone agrees with you. Here’s a link to a 3rd grade class lesson on the subject. Here’s a link to a 5th grade class lesson on the subject. So if I had to argue the point, I’d say she’s probably been learning this lesson for the last 7 years or so (since 3rd grade) and that if she didn’t get it by now, she needed some additional help getting the (hollow) point driven home!
From another perspective I think the entire conscious decision to try to block her parents, block everyone from her church, and prohibit the post from getting out there to adults proves she had a PERFECT and CRYSTAL CLEAR understanding of the actions. She took preventative measures (she thought) to make sure we never caught her, but that her message was broadcast to a group of about 400 people. If only she’d thought to block the family dog’s Facebook profile…. I don’ t think that level of careful perpetration of her act can allow you to draw any other conclusion than that. I just don’t see it.
At about 4:19 in the video Dr. Phil says “You never ever humiliate your child publicly. That’s just not something you do. You don’t ever do that. You’re supposed to be the adult.” Again, I’m going to disagree with you whole-heartedly. My JOB as a parent is to make my child a fully-functioning adult in the brief few years I have left to do so. My job is to love them. My job is to provide for them. My job is to teach them. Yes, parenting is a job.. sure it is. It’s a lifetime career choice people make and you don’t get days off. It doesn’t mean I don’t love my job however.
I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt that you haven’t done your research and read the other Facebook posts or talked to anyone related to the incidents because if you had, you would KNOW we tried the “adult” routes. Her mother tried the “adult” routes before she came to live with us. Everyone has tried the adult routes, the soft routes, the kind routes and everyone has done so unsuccessfully.
Every time some Facebook incident (as they’ve become known in our household) has happened, its resulted in a long, patient, probing conversation as to “Why do you feel that way” and “What was going on inside your head when you did this” and “help me understand where you’re coming from.” My daughter will gladly and truthfully tell you we’ve had these discussions repeatedly. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they don’t. After I tried it more than a few times your way Dr., I decided your way wasn’t working, so I tried it MY way. You know what? My way worked.
Matt Lauer goes on to read the analogy I mentioned about my own childhood experiences where I said if I did something in public, for example a grocery store, “I got my tail tore up in front of God and everybody,” but then says this example is a lot bigger than a grocery store. Mr Lauer, I respectfully disagree. It doesn’t matter. That’s my point.
The only comparable example I could give from the era of my childhood, and remember I’m only in my young 30’s so it wasn’t THAT long ago, considering the mediums available at the time for communication, would be that it’s the same as if I called up the local radio station, got on the air, and read those words out loud to the 150,000 listeners of the local station, or maybe stood on the side of the highway with a megaphone and shouted it at passing cars, or possibly painted it on a water tower. Regardless, the punishment has to fit the crime. If I’d have done that, my parents would have had me on the same radio station and you could have heard the spankings live over the airwaves. She chose the most public, damaging, long-lasting medium in which to broadcast it on the entire planet! She didn’t choose a private diary, or have this conversation with a classmate on the bus to school. She went out intentionally to the most public venue she had and used almost every nasty word she could think of.
A couple days later, after feeling that she had gotten away with it she made yet another post picking on her brother in fairly un-nice terms. A few days after that she made a post on her Facebook wall (privately blocked from the same aforementioned people) calling another girl in her school a couple more inventive five letter words.
Keep in mind, I didn’t air all that on the video, because I was angry enough over just this one post to not need any further reason to be upset. The point is; she felt it was OK to start posting worse and worse material on her Facebook wall, in public, for other people to see. It was escalating and doing so quickly. So I stopped it, cold. You can dislike anyone you want, and you can even publicly say so, but if you live in my house you’d better not do it with language like that!
It wasn’t the sentiment I was against at all. Some people think we were upset because she was mad about doing chores. Of course she is. They’re CHORES! Otherwise, they’d be called fun. Duh!
Children have feelings and they SHOULD be able to release them comfortably without fear of repercussion. I know that better than most because I had a father who wasn’t that way. And I’m the luckier for it because I had a mother who WAS open to discussions about that kind of thing. With my kids I consciously compensate for it daily and try extra hard to be sure my kids know they have the right to feel angry, upset, mad, hurt, scared, happy, whatever… and that no one will pick on them for having “feelings”… but there are appropriate ways to disseminate those feelings productively in a manner that begets understanding. This wasn’t one of those ways.
Anyway, Dr Phil then agrees with Mr Lauer and says “Just because their parents humiliated him publicly; doesn’t make it right for him to do it. What we want to do is carry forward the legacies that are good, not the legacies where our parents made mistakes.”
What gives you the self-righteous audacity to assume my mother and father made mistakes raising me, or that any mother and father who spanks their kids, or publicly reprimands their kids, are making mistakes? I’m extremely proud of the fact that my parents raised me to say Ma’am to every lady I meet, Sir to every man I deal with, regardless of age, to stand when a lady comes to the dinner table, to take my hat off when I walk into a building, to open a door for any lady, young or old.
I say “yes ma’am” to my 15 year old daughter and “yes,sir” to my eight year old son because it was ingrained into me from the time I could form words! Do you know how they got that through the thick head of a teenager when that teenager was me? My mother verbally corrected me most of the time, or called me down for it, but my father (and man I can still feel it today, twenty year later) had this unique ability to simply flick me on the back of the head with his finger in such a manner as to make me think my bell had just thoroughly been rung! It left no long-lasting neurological damage (or maybe that’s why I stutter?) and had no effects to the negative except that when I forgot to open the door for a lady I instinctively cringed waiting for it to land… ooh I hated that. But you know what? I learned quickly and effectively and neither of them had to “hurt” me or “emotionally damage” me to get it through my rather-thick skull.
I’ll be danged if I’m going to sit idly and let you tell me that my parents were mistaken for raising those values up in their children. Now you’re treading on dangerous ground with me and I’m getting to where I’m just about out of respectful consideration, dude. You’re off your rocker. And I bet if NBC polled the same group of people that voted on the YouTube video, the same 73% of the American population would agree with me on this one!
The good Dr. Phil goes on to say that the end result is resentment on the part of my child towards me and that my actions did nothing to lower the resentment on her part.
I’m sorry. I didn’t realize that was the goal here. I didn’t realize the goal here was to make my child happy and resent doing chores less after her vitriol-filled post to the world. What the hell was I thinking? I thought it was about teaching kids respect for themselves, their parents, and for the rules. Maybe they don’t teach you that kids should respect their parents anymore, but mine certainly will respect theirs. They might not always LIKE us, but they’ll respect us.
And in case you’re curious, I’ll give you a few definitions for that word that we so freely toss around because I think maybe some people have heard it all their life and don’t really know what it means.
- deference to a right, privelege, priveleged position, or someone of something considered to have certain rights of priveleges.
- proper acceptance or courtesy
- acknowledgement, consideration, regard
- an attitude of deference
- polite or kind regard
- to treat courtesously or kindly
- Verb: to refrain from interfering with
- And the actual literal meaning of the latin word is “pay attention to”
Dr. Phil’s point here is there is nowhere to go from here, no punishment more severe than the one she’s received. Well, maybe you’re right. I don’t know what kind of thing will happen next. If we parents knew that we’d already have the answers ready. We do the best we can with what we’ve got and we ALL look back on things and think how we’d have done them differently if given the chance.
We actually had that discussion the other night. When I was out of town she called me on the phone and we talked for awhile and the conversation worked around to “When is my grounding over?”
I explained to her that it was over when she’d learned her lesson, however long that took. And I clearly explained some of the following rules and guidelines about how things were supposed to be done. On the particular issue of respect itself, my primary points were when we (her parents) felt like she showed us respect, her grounding would end. I even shared some pointers, such as “ending sentences with “Yes, ma’am” rather than “uh-huh” and when you’re asked to do something by your parents, you simply go do it rather than stomping off and being sure to “harrumph” loud enough that we are sure to notice your displeasure.
On the other hand, it could get worse if this lesson isn’t enough. I believe whole-heartedly in spanking a child, but because of Hannah’s age I just find it personally inappropriate for a grown man to spank a teenage girl her age. I’m not saying anyone shouldn’t spank their own child, or that they should, just that I take issue with it, so I’m left with other alternatives.
She’s still allowed her iPod for the moment. That’s something that could go away if things stay how they are and don’t start to improve. If it continues, she’ll be grounded to her room every single day until her attitude improves…
I have a very very patient child, and a very very intelligent child. I explained to her that she’s always looked at grounding like a jail sentence, not like a learning experience. She finds out how long she’s grounded and manages to find alternative things to entertain herself (drawing, writing, etc) until she’s paroled. She’s smart enough to know how to wait out her parents. She always suffers a little inconvenience but has yet to seem to actually learn a lesson from any of it.
So, if we don’t see the lesson has been learned, it will get worse. She’ll lose the iPod. Then she’ll lose the books, the colored pencils, the sketch pads. If I have to take every single thing out of her room except the four walls, bed, and dresser, so be it. Eventually she’ll have nothing to do but actually sit and THINK and use that great brain on her shoulders to see that it’s really easy to just say Yes, ma’am and No ma’am and to watch your language. The rules aren’t hard.
For the umpteenth time we covered chores and their role in acting like a team, where everyone helps everyone else out. Sure, she has to put all the dinner plates in the dishwasher sometimes. Get over it. Either me or her Mom just had to spend half an hour to an hour cooking the meal you just ate kid. You help each other out. My wife or I have to leave work early to get her to every single ball-game and band-practice that’s held after school. That’s a chore, but we do it because we love our kids and we’ve never told either of them they can’t participate in ANY school or social activity simply because it’s inconvenient for us. You don’t see me screaming up and down and saying ” I don’t want to have to drive you to band practice” do you? Everything in a family, and especially later in adult life and in adult relationships, is give and take.
If she does chores WITHOUT being reminded to do them and does them consistently, sure she gets an allowance. She’s never done them more than about two days without having to be hounded, so no, we don’t reward that with an allowance. Sorry.. get over it. You’ll either adapt, or stay broke. Wait….. that’s just like real life isn’t it?
All you out there reading this should know by now, I did NOT intend for any of this to happen. In fact, no one in the history of internet marketing, has ever been able to just pull something out of their hat that went this obscenely crazy in a matter of days. That’s why it’s called Viral… it spreads person to person quickly. No one could possibly have predicted the interest this video raised. Am I sorry I made it and posted to my daughter’s Facebook account? No. Am I sorry it spread like wildfire and made my daughter’s punishment an international spectacle? Absolutely. No parent wants that for their children, but at this point; it is what it is and we have to work with what we’ve been dealt.
I don’t blame NBC for polling the viewers and I don’t have any real personal pride in the fact that it proved to favor my actions. Had I asked 121,000 other people out there what they thought I should have done as punishment I feel pretty certain that less than 10% of them would have actually suggested “Hey, you should go out there and fill it full of lead.” For whatever reason, one few moments in our lives here got put on a soapbox placard for parents across the world. My response to that is “Get off your butts and DO something about it!” If there was this much built-up frustration with parents on ANY scale (national or international) then this was a long time coming and if it hadn’t been me it would have been someone else doing something equally as drastic that would have ignited this powderkeg. But now that it’s been lit, take a stand for your rights as parents and put your kids back inline! We ALL need to. This is the generation who will be running the entire world within 30 years and they’re ONLY GOING TO KNOW what you taught them growing up. Every other action they make as an adult will be a formulated mental calculated weighted by the moral codes we instill in them now. No one’s going to do it for them once they’re adults and off on their own…
But anyway, Dr. Phil commented for the second time in 7 minutes that a lot of parents are voting vicariously because they wish they’d done that or because they’ve at one time or another fantasized about doing it themselves.
First, where does your assumption that these were parents come from? The poll didn’t ask that, though I think it should have. And he drops a factoid that 100,000 children born this year will be molested by their father before they’re 18 years old. First, that’s irrelevant to absolutely anything this article was about. Second, if that’s the case then most of these children are admittedly going to be raised by the young children of today which people like YOU have been teaching the “NEW” way to parent for the last fifteen years or so. The old-fashioned way, as so many like to put it, aren’t the ones having new children this year, so don’t lay that crap on us. I haven’t been the talking head on the air for the last decade telling parent’s how to be parent’s. You have! Other doctor’s have. You have entire talk shows about how to do it. Don’t blame me, or parent like me, that YOUR methods of child-rearing are producing a new generation of child molesters. That’s YOUR data.. and you’ve been the ones teaching it, so I’d suggest you leave MY kid alone and go spend some time addressing that on national television instead!
This is not the most horrible parenting thing that I’ve dealt with on the show.. THIS WEEK.
Ok. I think we should address this for just a moment, since you brought it up,sir. Your previous opinion was quite clear that you’re absolutely against any parent publicly embarrassing their children for any reason….
wait for it…..
no.. really.. wait for it…..
YOU HAVE A TALK SHOW ABOUT WHERE YOU GET PAID TO DO IT ON NAITONAL TELEVISION AND SHOW IT TO MILLIONS OF PEOPLE EVERY DAY…. PROFESSIONALLY!
If you were that absolutely altruistic and followed the premise you just disagreed with me on, you would have these children on your show in closed-door sessions, working with them as hard as you could to help them through hard times. You wouldn’t be dragging them out on a national stage and airing their problems in front of the world!
Since I was so adroitly quoted again and again in newscast after newscast for ONE video that ACCIDENTALLY made it out to 27-bijillion people, let’s look at your website.
You have entire categories of related matters where you encourage rude, spoiled, entitled people to come on your show so you can set them straight. Let’s quote:
Here’s one titled “MOOCHING Adult Child Doesn’t Get it?”
The description reads “Are you having trouble getting your ADULT child off his/her butt — to get a job and help out the family financially? Do they live with you now –OR are they about to move back in? Do you have grown children who are used to getting whatever they want and now — when times are tough and money is tight — they CONTINUE to spend? Are you frustrated?… sick and tired of trying to get it thru their heads to CUT BACK before the worst happens — repossession, bankruptcy, foreclosure… or losing it all? Does it drive you crazy when you catch your adult child using YOUR credit cards to get whatever they want… or taking cash out of your wallet without asking — especially if you or your spouse has recently lost a job? If your mooching 20-something son or daughter needs a SPENDING wake-up call from Dr. Phil.”
Well you’re dealing with people who apparently let their child grow into adulthood and into their twenties before figuring out that kid needed a boot up his/her rear end! Oh.. I bet it’s because at 15 years old their brains couldn’t reason it out, right? I forgot.
How about the “Husband with Bad Manners?” one that says “Does your husband have such bad manners it’s starting to affect you and your children’s lives? Does he constantly offend people by burping at the dinner table, picking his teeth, or chewing with his mouth full? Does he act rudely because he doesn’t care what anyone thinks about him? Has it come to the point that you don’t even want to go out in public with him? Are you upset because his bad manners have started rubbing off on your kids?”
Wow.. there’s a whole demographic that managed to probably go their whole lives without a spanking, and apparently there’s enough of them like that you can get a whole show out of it! I mean you’re beyond parenting now; you’re into people old enough to be married with progeny who didn’t learn things the “old-fashioned” way that doesn’t work. How much you want to bet most of the people who show up for that show aren’t 50 or 60 years old? You know why? Because that generation was taught RESPECT for themselves and for others and because that generation probably got popped in the mouth the first time they said something at the dinner table with a mouthful of food. (I know I got a few licks for that one before I learned, and it bugs the snot out of me to see it in adults or kids today. Ugh.)
I could stay ramped up on your show’s topics all day, but people who are interested can read for themselves. I’ll jump on over to your page titled “Parenting – Stop Spoiling Your Kids”
This page on your site says the following: (My personal comments are in red)
- Your primary job as a parent is to prepare your child for how the world really works. In the real world, you don’t always get what you want. You will be better able to deal with that as an adult if you’ve experienced it as a child.
Wow.. sounds like what I’ve been saying for years, and what my mistaken parents taught me as well.
- If your parent/child relationship is based on material goods, your child won’t have the chance to experience unconditional love.
Well… that’s not a problem in my house anymore. I took away most of the material goods so now all she can have is family time. No laptop distraction, no Facebook, Internet, TV, Twitter, Phone, etc. Now she hangs out and cooks with Mom, or plays in the shop with me, or plays with her brother. Again… I think my way worked with much less effort that yours does, sir.
- Don’t let your guilt get in the way of your parenting. “Your job as a parent is not to make yourself feel good by giving the child everything that makes you feel good when you give it,” Dr. Phil tells one mom. Your job as a parent is to prepare your child to succeed in school and when they get out into the world. “Kids have to be socialized in a way that they understand you work hard for what you get.” You don’t want to teach your child that they will get everything through manipulation, pouting, crying, door slamming and guilt induction.
Again it seems like we’re coming at it from the same angle here, sir. I don’t have perfect kids by ANY means, but I dont have those particular problems either. Another +1 in the column for the “old-fashioned” way in my book.
- Make sure your child understands the value of hard work. For example, Dr. Phil explains, “I always told our boys, ‘If you make Cs, you’re going to have a C standard of living. If you make Bs, you’re going to have a B standard of living. If you make As, you’re going to have an A standard of living.”
My daughter has made honor roll most of her entire school career, while being in advanced and Honors courses. So, I’d say to your standards she’s prepared for an “A grade standard of living.” You’re welcome…
The image on the left there is from your website. Let’s cover these.
Positive reinforcement – this one is kind of obvious and we do this to both our kids, both our dogs, and to each other, so I think we agree with you on this one.
Verbal Instruction – Sounds easy enough. In my case I was crystal clear when I said “Don’t ever do anything like this again or I’ll put a bullet through your laptop.” Was my problem not being clear enough with the ramifications of the actions we were discussing?
Establishment of Rules – Those are pretty easy. Curse words are bad. Everyone’s last name who is over the age of 18 is Sir or Ma’am as far as you’re concerned. If in doubt, assume they are older. Bedtime is 10 PM on weeknights. You sleep in your bed – you make it, etc. I won’t cover them all, but you get the idea.
Withholding Priveleges – Doc, I got that one covered, Sir, exactly according to your instruction. I’m permanently withholding my daughter’s laptop until she learns a few of the aforementioned lessons you’ve mentioned.