Dr. Phil talks to three families about their unconventional parenting styles. Are they too radical, or is there a rationale to their extremes?
Parenting with a Price?
Lana admits she motivates her 13-year-old daughter, Lizzie, and 18-year-old son, Lawrence, to get better grades with extravagant gifts including a $10,000 painting, trips to Europe and bat mitzvah that cost nearly one million dollars.
“My parenting style can best be described as loving and effective,” Lana says. “I believe in motivating my children by providing them with a very lavish lifestyle. If they do well in school, if they do their chores, then they can have a trip to Africa. They can go to Paris.”
But Lana’s sister, Natalya, says she contests the ritzy reinforcements. “My sister, Lana, super spoils her children to the point of no return,” Natalya says. “I call my sister a ‘mommy tampon’ because she tends to shove herself into every nook, cranny and orifice of her children’s lives.”
Lawrence, who recently started his first year in college, lives in a dorm, but also has his own penthouse two miles from campus and full-time access to a private pilot. In addition to his $2,000 monthly allowance, he and his sister have 24-hour bodyguards. Lawrence and Lizzie’s pet monkey, Mikey, also has his own bodyguard, butler, jewelry collection and trust fund.
“I think I’m a great parent,” Lana says. “If someone wants to know why I spend money, it’s because I can.”
Now seated with both women, Dr. Phil gets to the root of their disagreement.
“Mommy tampon?” he asks Natalya. “I’ve never heard those two words together in a sentence.”
Smiling, Natalya replies, “And I don’t know whether to be proud or ashamed because I have no idea where that [term] came from, but it is so the truth. She uses mind control, an extreme amount of money and bodyguards to just shove herself into every aspect of their lives.”
“Are you a helicopter mom? Are you really all over the place as she suggests?” Dr. Phil asks Lana.
“I’m not really a helicopter mom, but I think that in today’s toxic society, we should be aware of what our kids are doing and stay on top of them, and be aware of the social temptations that are out there. So, maybe I’m borderline helicopter mom.”
Dr. Phil quizzes Lana about her children’s bodyguards. “Are these bodyguards or spies?” he asks.
“I like to think of them as chaperones,” Lana explains, adding that even her college-aged son occasionally needs adults to help him make mature decisions.
“So you don’t have a lot of confidence in your children?” Dr. Phil asks.
“I have a lot of confidence in myself and my children,” Lana clarifies. “It’s the rest of the world that I don’t have confidence in.”
Lana also says she makes her children take assessment tests to evaluate their life progress and goals. She claims the tests teach her “the true nature” of her children.
“Do you need a test to know the true nature of your child?” Dr. Phil asks.
“Well, I know my children, but I can tell you that some parents see their children the way they’d like to see them and not for who they really are,” Lana says.
The millionaire mom also asserts that her sister, Natalya, is an out-of-control middle child who secretly envies her lavish lifestyle.
“You said, â€˜My sister is a mess. She parties late at night and dresses like a slut,'” Dr. Phil says, recounting a comment Lana made about Natalya. “She’s always doing the wrong things with the wrong guys, and looking for herself in the wrong places.”
Natalya flashes her sister a coy smile and responds, “Here’s what I think: Don’t hate me because you ain’t me! I’m younger and I don’t have a husband. I have two wonderful young kids. So if I can party all week and make it to work, [then OK].”
The two sisters continue to argue until Dr. Phil stops them and they return to the topic of Lana’s parenting.
Dr. Phil tells Lana that her over-the-top rewards may rob her kids of genuine motivation to succeed. “If you pay your children or give them massive rewards for performance, that’s what we call external or extrinsic motivation. The higher the extrinsic motivation, the less the internal or intrinsic motivation. A child is not going to develop a thirst for knowledge if his only motivation is to [gain material things]. And when that goes away, there’s no internal motivation. That’s a real problem with indulged children. Do you worry about that?”
“I disagree,” Lana says, explaining that her children are well-behaved and excel in school, so she feels confident in her parenting.
Dr. Phil leaves the mother with one cautionary thought, “OK, you disagree, but I really want you to consider what I’m saying because the research on this is pretty overwhelming.”
Lana stands her ground. “[My children] do what they’re supposed to,” she says. “And I really have no reason to think they’re going to grow up to be anything other than what they are right now.”
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