Return to Transcripts main page
CNN LARRY KING LIVE
Interview With Dr. Phil
Aired September 14, 2004 - 21:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, Dr. Phil says the American family is big, big trouble and it's time to get real and deal with it.
The one and only Phil McGraw will tell all about that and a whole lot more. He's here for the hour. We'll take your calls next on LARRY KING LIVE.
KING: It's always a great pleasure to welcome him to his second home, Oprah's his first home. His second home, LARRY KING LIVE>
Dr. Phil, began it's third season as a hit day time show yesterday. The author of four number one "New York Time" best seller. The new one is "Family First." There you see it's cover. Your step by step plan for creating a phenomenal family. He'll have a prime time "Family First" special, by the way on CBS on September 22.
And before we get into that, Oprah who got him all started into all this, kicked off her new season yesterday very, very generously, giving her audience boxes and saying one lucky member would find inside the key to a new car. Watch what happened.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OPRAH WINFREY, HOST "OPRAH WINFREY SHOW": All right open your boxes. Open your boxes, one, two, three. You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get a car! You get car! Everybody gets a car! Everybody gets a car!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Courtesy of the Pontiac Company and the ingenious of the Oprah people.
What do you make of that, Phil?
MCGRAW: I think that's a good audience to be in, don't you? I think we gave all our audience cab fare.
KING: I'm giving my crew -- I'm giving my crew tricycles. But I'm going to buy them.
KING: What do you make of that, you've known her so long -- know her a long time.
MCGRAW: Oprah has a tremendous giving spirit. You can look and say, well, she gave a bunch of people cars. I think what they actually did was a whole lot of research to identify people who were really needing a car and were really deserving of cars.
KING: People who had written in in the past.
MCGRAW: She always matches what she does to her audience. I think it's a tremendously generous gesture, and a lot of fun. Have you ever seen her have more fun? She'd rather give stuff away than anything in the world.
KING: It's always more fun to give.
MCGRAW: Absolutely. And she is a giver from the heart.
KING: How did she get Pontiac to do that? That's pretty persuasive giver too.
MCGRAW: Yes, Think About the advertising they've gotten, number one by being on the number one platform on television with Oprah. And then all the media coverage, we're sitting here talking about it, so it's the G-6 Pontiac.
KING: Not bad.
MCGRAW: Maybe they'll send me one.
KING: The Larry King Crew, any ways. OK, you've touched so many things in so many books. What led you to family, from weight to family?
MCGRAW: Well, These Are two things that have been -- weight and family are two things that have been really passionate interests of mine, because everyone is in a family, of course, and weight was a big issue in my family. And so I dealt with that because I thought it was a really urgent issue.
But over the years I've been doing television now, we're starting our third season and then five years almost with Oprah before that, the number one thing we hear are people from families that say what do I do with these kids. It's everything from my kid's a picky eater to they won't potty train to I believe my kid's life is in jeopardy with drugs, alcohol, sex, unprotected, pregnancy, all the problems in the home with one kid being dysfunctional or having a problem.
And the truth is, we go to school, and they teach us how to read and write, they teach us how to add and subtract, but nobody teaches us how to be moms and dads. Nobody teaches us how to put a family together. So, what I tried to sit down and take out of almost 30 years of working with people and working families, and just download all the experiences that I had, all the information that I gleaned through my training, experience that I had, that would impact families. It would give people a way to do it.
KING: Why use such a strong term as phenomenal? That's a strong word, creating a phenomenal family.
MCGRAW: It is a strong word. But that's not something just for other people. See I am an incurable optimist. I absolutely believe that families are in trouble in America. We've now become a 70 percent double income society, which means parents are spread thin. Are kids are getting amazingly bombarded by 500 TV channels, the Internet, all these things, that when I was growing up, we were watching "Lucy and Desi." I mean, Matt Dillon still has never kissed Kitty.
That's what we grew up. Now, on television and Internet, young kids, before developed and know how to take it are seeing sex glorified and glamorized. They're getting push with the glamour of drugs and alcohol and life in the fast lane. They don't know how to handle all of that. And we need to step up and be a strong clear voice in our children's lives.
KING: You can build to a phenomenal family.
MCGRAW: Absolutely, you can...
KING: From ordinary to phenomenal.
MCGRAW: Anybody that shoots for anything less than phenomenal family, says my kids are going to be mediocre, my kids are just going to have to take what comes. They are going to get the leavings in life. If you lover your children and parents do, you need two things to have a phenomenal family.
Number 1, you need love in your heart that gives you the unconditional regard for your children. You have it. I've seen you with them, they have you wrapped around your their little fingers. I've seen you do it. You have that unconditional love, that's what you need number one.
And number two, you need a really good plan. I said it's hard to raise your kids by the book until there was one, so, I decided to write one. I think you need a good plan, and that's what this is.
KING: How many people really -- How many people sit down and say I'm, well, going to have a family, let's have a plan?
MCGRAW: I think an amazingly small number, because we are so reactive. I was working with two sets of parents on the show today, and -- wonderful, delightful people. And what they were saying is life gets in the way. You wake up and think, OK, I need to pay attention to my kids. I need to do these things. But the phone's ringing, the job's calling, bills to pay, errands to run, food to buy, clothes to wash. And so, everybody gets pushed down the list so much. There are five factors for a phenomenal family, and those are all do- able factors. I put them in the book. I listed every action step under each one to make it happen. KING: Now, we're going down over them. By the way the definition of family has changed. Family used to be -- thought of family 30 40-years-ago, mother, father, daughter, son!
KING: Now, could be one mother, could be a father, could be a gay couple.
MCGRAW: We have a high percent of divorce rate. A lot of those people get married a second time, so we now have blended families. So we have a high incidence of single parent families. We have high incidence of blended family, yours, mine and ours.
MCGRAW: Step-parenting completely different animal than parenting. We have gay families and they have the challenges of parenting of what are probably heterosexual children. So we have those particular challenges. And one of the things we're seeing more and more is grandparents raising their grandchildren because the parents flaked out along the way.
KING: So, the problem is compounded then?
KING: It's much more difficult than it was 40 years ago?
MCGRAW: It is much more difficult. Things are happening faster. and if we don't have a plan, then we're going to get in a mess. And I think that's where we're headed. So what I'm wanting to do is give people a plan.
KING: Is there rule number one?
MCGRAW: Rule number one is to have a plan. You cannot just be reactive. You can't get up in the morning and say, OK, I've got these kids, now, let's see what happens. You have to have a definition of success.
Most parents, what would you consider success for your children?
Would you have an answer to that?
KING: That they're happy, I would say. That would be number one thing to me, that they be happy, good kids.
MCGRAW: That is necessary, but not sufficient. See I put you in parenting school here. It's necessary but not sufficient. You have to have, I think, a very well thought out detailed definition of success for your children. And it'll be different for every child. But there are two common denominators, that I think every parent has to have in their definition for success for their children.
Number one, a commitment of discovering the authenticity of that child. Every child is different, they're gifted differently, they're skilled differently. You have to find out what each of your children are really good at, what they're called to do, what they're equipped for.
KING: At what age?
MCGRAW: And it won't be in your image. You need to start investigating it very early on, 2, 3, 4, 5.
KING: What -- I've got to get a break. What's the other thing?
MCGRAW: You've got to socialize your children. We're not raising kids, were raising adults. You have to socialize them. Teach them how the world works.
KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Phil. The book is "Family First." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: John sleeps on the couch, Katie sleeps with me every night. John has probably slept in this bedroom four, five times max.
MCGRAW: You sleeping on the couch?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCGRAW: How long have you been sleeping on the couch?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's not by choice, it's because of Katie.
MCGRAW: I didn't ask you why, I said how long.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Since we moved.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since we moved.
MCGRAW: Since you moved? Get back in your bed.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, sir.
MCGRAW: Get back in your bed.
MCGRAW: Get your 13-year-old daughter -- get your 13-year-old daughter out of your bed. She's not your best friend. You're not having a slumber party.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I know.
MCGRAW: She's your daughter, she's 13, she needs to get in her bed.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But she won't. She will not. MCGRAW: Would you like to know why she won't?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I don't make her.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: When I was on the phone, my sister came out screaming at me.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Our family has so much tension in this house, it's been total chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're all just falling apart, no one's getting along anymore.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Right now, I don't feel like this is my house.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I feel lonely, I feel sad, I feel neglected and I just feel unwanted.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I very much miss the times when we all got along.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: There will be a special connected with the book. It will be a prime-time "Family First" special on CBS on September 22. And we'll ask about that and its connection.
Let's go over the five factors. Creating and nurturing an accepted family system.
MCGRAW: Yeah, when you start looking -- parents often come in and say, OK, I got a problem, how do I fix this problem? What do I do? Give me a tool to stop him from drinking, or to get this child to potty train, or to get past this tantrum behavior. And there are tools. And I talk about them in the book.
The first thing you have to do is set up the backdrop against which you use those tools, and the first thing is to create a nurturing and accepting family system. That means everybody feels a sense of belongingness, everybody realizes this is my soft place to fall. And it's so important that you have that, because that's where the children get their security, that's where they find the confidence and the self-esteem as they go out into the world.
You have got to feel like you have a place you're supposed to be. You're accepted in your family system.
KING: Promoting rhythm in the family life. Meaning?
MCGRAW: Yeah, Larry, that is so important. Because when I say rhythm, I mean just that. It's almost like a beat you can hear. You know, when children are in the womb, it's the beat of the mother's heart that keeps them calm and secure in the womb. If you watch mothers when babies are born, animal kingdom and humans alike, when they hold their offspring, they instinctively hold them over their left side, that's where their heart is. It quiets the baby, that rhythmic.
The same thing is true in life. There has to be a rhythm. It can't be chaotic. There has to be rules. There have to be guidelines. There has to be a predictable pattern when kids know where the boundaries are, they know what the lifestyle is going to include, and they find comfort in that.
KING: Isn't that logical?
MCGRAW: It is very logical. But when you start competing with the energy and effort it takes to create that, with both parents working, with five televisions all on different channels, Billy running his stereo, two barking dogs, you know, something boiling over on the kitchen stove, all of a sudden that rhythm sounds like a pan rolling down the stairs.
KING: Establishing meaningful rituals and traditions. Make your own traditions?
MCGRAW: Absolutely. Some of the rituals and traditions are easy. Christmastime, going to grandma's house. All of those sort of things. But there are other things that you can do, and they can be by creating a game night sometime during the week, putting your children to bed at every night, instead of being in the middle of your favorite TV soap, saying y'all go get in bed and shut up.
That doesn't work. Go in and make a ritual out of it, where you go through the same routine. You sit on the bed, you read them stories, you rub their back, you talk to them. And this becomes in their emotional DNA that they will embrace and value as they go forward.
KING: Be active in your communication.
MCGRAW: We need to listen, and we need to talk. Look, parents sometimes say, boy, I don't know if I am going to be able to handle it when the big thing comes that I need to talk about.
If you don't talk to your children about things that don't matter, they'll never talk to you about the things that do. You have got to keep the channels open. You talk about TV, you talk about school. And you ask your child, what did you do today? Nothing. Where did you go? Nowhere. Who did you see? Nobody. And they slam the door and you walk off? Uh-uh. Turn back around and open the door. So often I've asked my son, Jordan, who is a senior in high school, what happened at school today? Nothing. What did you do? Nothing. But if I just keep on, it's not five, 10 minutes later he is a total chatterbox. This one said this to who; at practice we did this. Sometimes you just have to prime the pump, make a commitment to be active in your communication.
KING: You got to work at that.
MCGRAW: You do.
KING: And learning how to manage a crisis.
MCGRAW: Don't wonder if a crisis is coming. It's coming. I mean, you know it's coming. They're going to get bullied at school, they're going to get their heart broken. Their pet is going to die, the cat is going to eat the guppy and choke, and the cat dies, and then what are you going to do? There is going to be crises.
You need to have a plan for how you handle the crisis. And there are two very important rules for that. Number one, don't ever ask children to deal with adult issues, and don't ever give them responsibility for things over which they have no control. So you got to keep everything age-appropriate for your children, but have a crisis management program.
Know what your resources are. For example, if you're a single parent, create a relationship and rapport with the pastor at your church. Talk to friends and family. Figure out where if something happens, everything from needing immediate child care in an emergency to needing a man or a woman to talk to your child, to just having an objective voice. Talk to the teachers, talk to the counselors, talk to the principal, talk to the pastor, talk to your neighbors. Know who your resources are, so when a crisis happens you know how to reach out.
KING: We'll take a break. When we come back, we'll talk about Elgin -- is it Elgin, Texas?
MCGRAW: Elgin, Texas. Anywhere, USA.
KING: A little town outside of Austin that Dr. Phil has been working with, working with the whole town, in fact. Is that in connection with the special?
MCGRAW: No. It's in distinct connection with our season launch. It was our first show, and something we're making a big commitment to as this year goes on.
KING: Family is going to be the story this year on the "Dr. Phil..."
MCGRAW: It's one of the signatures. We're going to continue to do the things we have always done, but absolutely we're going to focus on family and parenting issues. KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Phil McGraw. The book is, "Family First: Your Step by Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have tried to give out some type of punishment, but my wife didn't back me up.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Because I overruled his discipline efforts, my husband stopped speaking to my son.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's been like this for a year now.
MCGRAW: You don't speak to him, you don't acknowledge him, you have no involvement with him whatsoever.
Let's hear what he said.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I don't think my dad thinks I'm a good son. I think he thinks that I'm a disgrace.
MCGRAW: You need to apologize. You need to look that boy in the eye and say, I have not been a good father to you. It isn't your fault. I'm sorry, and I am going to make that up to you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Phil is arriving under the absolute tightest crack security this side of Crawford, Texas and the White House. And he's on his way out. Elgin, are you ready for the one and only Dr. Phil?
MCGRAW: Is this killer security or what? Good job, guys! Good job!
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Who's your opening act?
MCGRAW: That's Chandler Hayes (ph) and can he hype something. I mean, boy, crack security.
KING: What's the Elgin story?
MCGRAW: Larry, one of the things we've done this year is to adopt a town, and what we've done is to say, look, we wanted to find a town in America that was representative of every town in America. Meaning that they faced all the issues. There's racial tension in the town, there's economic divide in the town, there is problem -- they have problems in the school with teen pregnancy and drugs and alcohol, all the things that you see in Anytown, USA. Domestic violence, divorce running at a rampant level. All the things that everybody deals with.
And we felt like, look, we've always dealt with problems. And we started looking for a town that said, you know what, we want our town back, we want our families back, we want our schools back. We want back all the good things that people used to say were taken for granted that are so elusive now. And so we looked around for towns in America that wanted to step up and be real enough to say, yes, we have problems, we're not ashamed of that. We're like every other town. But we want to do something about it.
And so we met with the mayor, the president of the chamber of commerce, the head of the school board, the principal, the judge, the chief of police, everybody, and they all got on board and said, absolutely, we want to become a working example for American towns. So, we're going in and helping this town deal with those issues because they say, we want our town back.
KING: Family by family?
MCGRAW: We're doing all sorts of things. We're doing educational programs in the town, we're working with individual families that are exemplars, we're working with the schools...
KING: How often do you go?
MCGRAW: A lot. We've had people on the ground down there for about a month and a half now. I spent three days there just the week before last.
KING: How did you pick Elgin out?
MCGRAW: Really, it became the most representative town. We looked at them all over the country.
KING: Is it a suburb of Austin?
MCGRAW: It's about 20 miles outside of Austin. And it is a delightful town. It's just -- it wouldn't be any different if it was in Illinois or Pennsylvania, Washington state, California. It's just representative of everything that's there.
KING: Is this part of your daily show?
MCGRAW: It is part of the daily show. It was our first show as we launched the season on yesterday and we're continuing to work with them.
KING: And what's the special? Is that a companion with the book?
MCGRAW: The special that we're doing on September 22, Wednesday, CBS, is a call to arms in America for people to get their families back under control, to recommit. If they've got a great family, we want to build on it, if they've run off on the ditch, we want to give them the tools to work on it. We made house calls in there. We got with real people, real issues in real towns in America and took a hard look at why these things are spinning out of control. Forty percent of eighth graders say they have easy access to alcohol and drugs. There is a runaway epidemic of oral sex in middle schools, not just high schools, in middle schools.
KING: How do you explain that ?
MCGRAW: Again, children are getting hit with things before they're ready to take care of them. We're seeing things on television, these things are being glamorized, they're being held up as though it's the cool thing to do and children are getting exposed to that before they learn how to make relationships, before they learn how to value themselves.
KING: By the way, for the new book, you did a massive research project. You examined family and parenting issues. 17,000 respondents.
MCGRAW: We did. We conducted what -- as far as what I've heard of is one of if not the largest sampling of parents in this research project from all over the country. We generated over a million and a half pieces of data in this survey.
KING: I understand you're going to interview the Kerrys. You already interviewed the Bushes. What's that for?
MCGRAW: It's for the show. It's for my daily show. I'm asking them questions that they don't get asked on the campaign trail. Everybody knows where each of them stand on gun control or where they don't stand or where they stand on one day versus the next. What they don't know is what are your family values? How did you handle discipline? What was important to you as a parent? How did you pick who your daughters would be allowed to date? At what time could they do that? Who was the heavy? What was your philosophy? What do you have in common with real people in America?
KING: And Kerry who has step-children as well.
MCGRAW: That's right. It's a blended family.
KING: Are they going to play back to back? One, day one, one day...
MCGRAW: We're going to do one one week and then one the next week. I think -- and they're both coming up fairly soon.
KING: We'll be right back with Dr. Phil McGraw. The new book is "Family First, Your Step by Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family." We're going to go to your calls right after this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGRAW: I've got a question for you. What if, as you sit there tonight, something in your life is missing? What if there's something you can do where you can have a phenomenal family, where your kids can be healthy and strong and safe and secure? What if there is a whole other quality of life than what you're living right now? Would you want to know it?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: Before we go to your -- before we go to your phone calls for Dr. Phil, late today, the FAA said that radio communications were lost with high altitude airplanes in Southern California, forcing the agency to order a ground stop halting all airplanes headed for Los Angeles and San Diego. The FAA said that at about 8:00 p.m. Eastern time tonight, the radio communications system broke at the Los Angeles center, which links air traffic controllers with high altitude traffic.
Some 800 airplanes were in affected airspace at the time the communications system collapsed. The FAA said at least 200 planes have landed since then. The FAA said the problem does not present a danger for the planes or their passengers, but it did say that it's forcing officials to establish alternative ways of communicating with planes destined for L.A. and San Diego airports.
No word on whether your plane is leaving those airports, but no plane will be arriving, and we'll keep you posted around the clock on that.
And I'm waiting for some phone calls for Dr. Phil McGraw. His daytime show, "Dr. Phil," began its third season yesterday. He's the author of four "New York Times" number one best sellers. He's got a prime time "Family First" special on CBS, September 22. And his new book is "Family First: Your Step by Step Plan for Creating a Phenomenal Family."
One thing we didn't talk about and then we'll get to calls, gay parenting. What problems do they present in this modern world of families?
MCGRAW: Well, I think they present -- I think they're presented with some really key problems, because of the judgment of an awful lot of people that they have to deal with. And I think also, they have a duty and a responsibility to make sure that they expose their children to all different kinds of lifestyles, all different kinds of opportunities and experiences, just as any other parent does.
I think the main thing that I'm seeing is finally, finally, in America, we're starting to see a lessening of the judgment, a lessening of people who react to ignorance and a lack of understanding, so I think it's getting better.
KING: You said earlier, don't give children adult problems. Should the gay couple discuss homosexuality with a 6-year-old?
MCGRAW: Absolutely not. I mean, because it's just not an issue with them.
KING: But it will be when that kid goes to school, and... MCGRAW: There is a time, and it's a time when you start discussing birds and bees, you start answering questions that the child asks.
Children are a real good barometer of when you ought to do what you ought to do and how you should do it. Because by the nature of their question, you know what level you need to give your answer.
So meet them where they are, answer the questions. And if they come home from school and say, well, somebody says you have two moms or two dads, I have two moms or two dads, what does that mean? It's time to sit down and answer the question.
KING: Let's go to calls for Dr. Phil. Grenada Hills, California. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Good evening, Larry and Dr. Phil. I love you much, Larry, because you're from my hometown, Brooklyn, New York.
KING: Thank you.
CALLER: My question of Dr. Phil, it's a serious one, but I was told I can't (UNINTELLIGIBLE) a very long -- ask a very long question. I have a grown-up son, who lives out of the state, and he refuses to have any contact with me for the past nine years. It's killing me.
KING: Can you give us what caused it?
CALLER: Oh, well, it's a lifetime of problems. And what caused it? I can't say that in just one simple sentence.
KING: But there is estrangement?
CALLER: There is tremendous estrangement. I've written to him, I've left messages on his cell phone. He's ignored that. I read him a letter and the letter came back.
KING: One other question before Dr. Phil responds. Is he your only child?
CALLER: Yes. I'd lost two sons. He's all I have left.
KING: OK. Doctor?
MCGRAW: Well, first off, I certainly am sorry for your pain, and I can hear in your voice that this is something that is really creating a problem with you.
Look, the bottom line is, he's an adult. And the only thing that you can do at this point is to make him as aware as you possibly can that your heart is open, your mind is open, your door is open, and that you look forward to having some connection with him in the future. Because he's an adult, you can't force it. But what you can do is search your own heart to forgive him for whatever issues that are between the two of you, and ask him to do the same thing. One last piece of advice I'll give you is if you're having trouble getting in touch with him, if there is an intermediary, someone from the church, an aunt, an uncle, somebody that you know that knows him as well, then let them know what's in your heart, and let him know that you can and will be willing to start over. And perhaps it needs to begin with some boundaries and some very limited things. You don't have to solve all your problems the first time you get together.
KING: Seattle for Dr. Phil. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, thanks. Dr. Phil, I think you make a whole lot of sense.
MCGRAW: Thank you.
CALLER: And I appreciate that. I'd like your take on this kind of important issue to me. How is it that there are men who will jump out of airplanes, drive cars 100 miles an hour, and yet they won't necessarily face their fear of the emotional intimacy that is important to build a good family?
KING: Good question.
MCGRAW: Well, how did she get through? Listen, you're being hard on us here. But you're exactly right. Men often have a difficult time with that, because men don't practice these things. And I'm not trying to be defensive of men, but we have been socialized differently, and so we have got to make a commitment to do something different.
Women, when they get upset, have been socialized that you talk to your friends about it. If you have feelings, positive or negative, you share them with someone.
Men, on the other hand, in our generation, have been socialized that that's weakness, that emotionality is weakness. And that's just misinformation with guys. But if you can ever, ever, ever get them to acknowledge that it is not a weakness and get them to -- and they can do it in their own way -- men can be tender, vulnerable, caring and giving, in a different way than you might do it, but it's still there.
My dad was a big football coach, and, you know, a big guy and a strong guy and all, but there were ways that he showed who he was and how he felt. They were very different than my mother, but they were also very meaningful.
KING: Why is sensitivity an anathema to a man? Why is that bad?
MCGRAW: Well, because it leads to that vulnerability, that tenderness that we think men have been socialized to think means they're not ready for battle, they're not being tough, they're not being manly. There has been a social decision that men are supposed to be strong and tough and non-reactive. And I've said forever and ever, it's like the old saying, big boys don't cry, but men do. And they just need to learn the difference. KING: Texarkana, Arkansas, with Dr. Phil McGraw. Hello.
CALLER: Hello. Thank you for taking my call. I not only watch your show, Dr. Phil, I tape it every day.
MCGRAW: All right. I'll take that.
CALLER: I have my two youngest grandchildren are -- grandson 17, and granddaughter 14. They're A-students, they're in gifted and talented, they're absolutely phenomenal, but they're not made to clean the room. Is that OK?
MCGRAW: Well, let me tell you...
MCGRAW: ... listen, certainly, you need to have guidelines. But remember this: You want to pick your battles. And children need to respect the home, and they need to understand that if it gets done, they need to do it. But sometimes, we'll be really rigid in our expectancies of teenagers in particular.
Listen, the teenage brain is not through growing. The child's brain is not through growing oftentimes until early in their 20s. So their reasoning, their sensitivities, their abilities to predict the consequences of their actions are not as good as they will be at some time further in life. Does that mean that you give them a pass and they're not required to do certain things? No. But by the same token, you need to understand they do have different standards than you.
They are going to want to sleep more, they're very likely to want to clean less. So give them some hard outs. They got to know, all right, by the weekend, this has to be cleaned up. But again, pick your battles. It may not be the end of the world. And like you say, they're very gifted kids. If that's your biggest problem, go give those a hug and be real, real glad.
KING: From Olympia, Washington. Hello.
CALLER: Hi, love you both. Love both of you guys.
My family is totally beyond repair, so my question is to the diet sector, love your diets, have done everything I can.
But what do you do when you cannot afford the food because that good food is very expensive?
MCGRAW: Thanks for your question. The truth is high quality food, such as high protein food and the kinds of things that most reasonable nutritionists, we certainly talk about it in the ultimate weight solution would suggest that you eat, can be more expensive than some of the filler foods. But The Truth is it's not nearly as expensive as convenience foods that most people eat. And Because It's higher in nutrient and it suppresses your hunger, you tend to eat lower volumes of those foods. Research has shown it's pretty much a wash, if you plan well and prepare your own food, you can eat well for the same money that you can eat junk food for. And convenience food, something prepared is often three to 400 times what the ingredients cost if you go buy them at the store.
KING: Back with more of Dr. Phil who has seven tools for parenting. Parenting with purpose, with clarity, with negotiations, with currency, though change, and harmony and by example. All in the book, "Family first."
We'll be right back, don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The kids are constantly fighting. They pit us against each other. My oldest son, John, has a got smart-aleck mouth. He will tell me to shut up.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have a big mouth. I run it.
MCGRAW: Isn't it true those boys have told to you shut up and mind your own business?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. My oldest does that all the time.
MCGRAW: Tells you to shut up and mind your own business.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
MCGRAW: Talk to me about that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I have tried so many times to get my two boys, my best friends to that point, where they would listen to me in that manner.
MCGRAW: Look, there's blurred boundaries here. They're not your best friend, they're your children.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Inside of my house is absolute chaos.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My house is out of control, because my husband won't help parent.
MCGRAW: That's not communication that's just noise. These are bad people, these are people who have just lost there way. It's time for me to make a house call.
May I come in?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
MCGRAW: You need a really good plan. That's what I'm here to give you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: We're back with Dr. Phil, the book is "Family First."
Provo, Utah. Hello.
CALLER: Hello, Larry, to the neighbor and Dr. Phil.
MCGRAW: Hi, how are you doing?
CALLER: Fine. I adopted in 1983, a little boy who was developmentally delayed, who was four years old at the time. We were together a year and half and the adoption was not finalized. We got caught in a crossfire of agencies and he was returned to his home state. He's now of legal age. I kept track of him as much as they would let me, but have not been able to stay in contact with him. I have strong feelings of being his mother and want to re-establish contact, but don't want to hurt him. I don't want to upset his life, but yet I also on the other hand have this child saying, mommy, you never came to get me, why? I would like any suggestions you might have on either side, what to do or not to do. And also a way that I could write a letter to Dr. Phil.
KING: How do people write to you?
KING: That's easy.
MCGRAW: Yes, drphil.com. Thanks for your question. And I'll tell, one thing I want to you do, is watch my show tomorrow, which is on custody battles. And you're not talking about a pure custody battle, but you're talking about a child, as you say, that was caught in a crossfire of agencies and has now been removed from you. One of the things that I think parents have to do, and it's the same thing for you in this situation, is to put the child's interests above your own. You have to be a fiduciary. You've to say whatever is best for them. That's my calling. That's what I'm supposed do as a parent.
What I'm going to ask you to do is this, if you have a way to contact this young man. If you have a way to make information available to him, then you need to make that available to him in a way that you don't confront him. Get it to an agency that will agree they will contact him and let him know that your information is available, that your door is open, that you want to talk to him.
I think it's a real mistake -- you said you haven't seen him since he was 4 1/2. This is in '80, and that's 24 years roughly in there, so it's been a while. And he may be in a completely different place. Make your information known, but don't crash his life. And I know you feel the need to do it, but there's a right way and wrong way to do that. And again, watch tomorrow, custody battles will tell you how to protect children from getting pulled in these tug-of-wars.
KING: Camino, California, hello?
CALLER: Hi, thank you for taking my call. Dr. Phil, I was watching your show today, and your wife said you are sure that your children will have good memories of their childhood because of traditions. I tried to keep up traditions with my child and 3-years- ago separated from her father. And in the last year, received every other week custody, and it's impossible to do those traditions. And I want to know how to insure her memories will be good, because there's been so many more bad ones lately and she's now 12.
MCGRAW: Such a great question. And let me tell you that's it's going to take a lot of courage to deal with this. But one of the things -- in the book "Family First," I have a whole chapter on single-parent and blended families. And When You are divorced, trust me, your child has gone through a tremendous turmoil. I don't care if it was an amicable divorce or if it was an ugly divorce, those children have very specific needs.
And one of the things you have to do is identify what those needs are. They need stability, they need those rituals and traditions. And you say, since I only have custody every other week, which I think is a very painful way to share custody of a child, that seems to me to be chaotic in the highest order, but if that's what you have, you do have to have rituals and tradition in that we that you have her.
Rituals and traditions that have to do with how you eat dinner, how you spend your time, what you talk about, how she gets ready in the morning, what you do in the evenings, all the things you can plan for her to look forward to in the week that she's going to be with you. And have some routine and have some pattern in there. And remember, she has needs right now.
And absolutely, do not do anything that alienates her from her father, because the two of you can't get along and have had to dissolve your marriage doesn't mean he's not still her father. So you don't want to alienate her from him. But create patterns and create rituals, you can do it even though it's every other week.
KING: And do you talk about the week she's with him? Share experiences?
MCGRAW: I think -- sure, you do. I think that one of the things parents need to understand, is if you get a divorce, you haven't ended your relationship, you just redefined it. You're no longer romantically involved, you're no longer in a committed relationship, but you will forever be the co-parents of that child.
MCGRAW: So you need to share information.
KING: Back with more moments. Couple more calls for Dr. Phil. The special airs a week from tomorrow. The book is now out, "Family First." Don't go away.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's been so much bad behavior this last year. He would call me an idiot, he would tell me I did things wrong that were around the house, and he would criticize me in front of the children.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe there was nothing I've done as a father that was wrong, to the point of having my children taken away.
MCGRAW: Have you called your wife a (EXPLETIVE DELETED) and stupid and a f-ing idiot throughout the marriage in front of your kids?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.
MCGRAW: Did you read a friend excerpts from her journal over the cell phone in front of your son?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, I did.
MCGRAW: What are you thinking when you do that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm desperate.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MCGRAW: This was a kid that grew up in a family with an alcoholic father, so the turmoil within the home was often ugly, it was often paralyzing and it was often scary.
Also, I think he experienced a fair amount of shame, a fair amount of guilt that comes from being so poor.
The mother, she worked hard, she sacrificed, she gave of herself. I know so much about this young man, because that young man was me.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: You do this on your show and the special? Talk about yourself?
MCGRAW: That's on the show. Yeah. I talk about this.
KING: Why did you decide to do that?
MCGRAW: Well, I think that the history that hasn't been perfect -- and my parents were married for 50 plus years. Everybody thinks their mother is a saint. Mine is a saint. I mean, she is a terrific woman. And my dad had really hard times in his life, when he was afflicted with a terrible disease of alcoholism. And I'm not ashamed of that. I don't think a difficult background is something to be ashamed of. I think it's something to overcome. I think it's something to overcome and not make it a legacy in your own life. You know, I have Jay.
KING: How's he doing? He got a best selling book, he was on the show, "The Ultimate Weight Solution for Teens," got to host his show, "Renovate My Family."
MCGRAW: Well, you know, he just graduated from Southern Methodist University Law School, which is one of the greatest universities in the country.
MCGRAW: They prepared him so well. Yeah, right in Dallas.
SMU prepared him well. But I don't think he's going to practice law. And the next thing I know, he's hosting a prime-time series on the Fox Network, and they're just doing great, and he's having a ball with it. I have got one that's 17, who is a senior in high school, Jordan.
And I wanted to live a different life than I lived with my parents. They did the best they could with what they knew at the time. I now do the best I can with what I have. And you have to rise above your raising. The things that you don't like about it, you got to kill that legacy and move on.
The things you did like about it, embrace those.
KING: I only have a minute. Do you ever -- you're so successful now, and it's not financial I don't think anymore, do you ever think of just watching the dancers?
MCGRAW: Well, look, I think that it's very true that to whom much is given, much is expected. And I have been given tremendous opportunities in my life. I've been given tremendous blessings in my life. And you're right, I don't need to work anymore, and neither do you. But the fact is, I feel like I need to do something in this world that makes a difference. You know, if people can read this book, if they can watch the show with information we deliver to their living rooms every day for free and it can stop some turmoil, it can create some happiness, then, man, you need to stand up and do it.
KING: It's an honor knowing you.
MCGRAW: Larry, thank you.
KING: Proud to call you a friend.
MCGRAW: Same to you. Me, too.
KING: He hosted my birthday party last year, one of the great moments in television history. And one of the most shocking.
MCGRAW: Boy, did you work me hard? But we got you.
KING: Dr. Phil, the book -- you sure did -- is "Family First."
I'll be back and tell you about tomorrow night right after this.
KING: Tomorrow night, the cast of ABC's "Primetime," with Diane Sawyer and the group. We'll also stay abreast of Hurricane Ivan.
We have our own hurricane here at CNN. He has a name. Hurricane Aaron. Aaron Brown. Every night, at this time he storms in with his potpourri of people around the world, plus Kitty Kelley. It's going to be an interesting night on "AARON BROWN NEWSNIGHT," now. Mr. Brown.
TO ORDER A VIDEO OF THIS TRANSCRIPT, PLEASE CALL 800-CNN-NEWS OR USE OUR SECURE ONLINE ORDER FORM LOCATED AT www.fdch.com