As I was attempting to finish some of my spring break chores this afternoon, I dulled the boredom by listening to the Dr. Phil show as I sorted old clothes. I admit, I should have known better. I really am not a huge fan, but it was the best choice between the other network afternoon shows. The topic caught my attention, since he was advising a couple who had a young son with some major emotional problems. Throughout the show, the couple logged numerous stories about what this child had done in their home and how much they feared him. At first glance, the stories seemed outrageous; I couldn’t help but wonder what the future held for this boy and his family. The other siblings weighed in on what affect this child’s behavior had on them and their feeling of safety and security in the home.
I watched from the perspective of a mother who has experienced some similar issues- not to the extreme as this family deals with- but with the same feeling of total incompetence. I understand they are living in a place where you feel like you have tried everything; where nothing seems to work; where you just want to cradle your child in your arms and take away all their pain; where you feel so much worse for them than you do for yourself because at least you understand a reality that includes some degree of happiness.
Dr. Phil spent more time trying to show this couple what loser parents they were than trying to help them. Bringing on a relative who basically blamed the environment only fueled these feelings of inadequacy. Shame on you, Dr. Phil. Now I understand that the parents are not blameless, and that their actions do directly influence the behaviour of the child. But I also know that these people live day in and day out wondering when the next outburst will occur, how long it will last, and will it end up in full-blown restraint or not. They need you to, from the start, offer suggestions, instead of waiting until literally the last minute of the show to communicate how you can help them. You left them hanging until the end before you offered a branch of assistance. What you are doing for them is wonderful; I just wish you didn’t have to punish them before you offered it.