Dr. Phil Gets It Wrong: Blended Family Discipline

Missed The Mark

I generally like Dr. Phil. I’ve never watched an episode, but what I have seen appears to be a calm, caring man with a heart for others.

While researching a topic on blended families for our next book, I came across this video. Naturally I had to watch. This is big-time syndicated television after all.

While I completely agree with what Dr. Phil said about pre-marital counseling, I do not agree with his position on discipling children as a non-biological parent.

In this short clip, Dr. Phil explains to each spouse that under no circumstance are they to discipline each other’s children. They should support the decisions made by the biological parent, but have no part or initiation in disciplining.

Law of Possession

The current cultural ethos reflects Dr. Phil’s advice. Only the biological parent has authority over the kids, and the non-biological parent is relegated to the role of babysitter or nanny.

When rules are broken, the stepparent should document and report the infraction once the biological parent returns home. This is absolutely contrary to God’s design for marriage – first, second or third.

Would you enter into a relationship where you are already relegated to a subservient position beneath that of children? Yet this is the standard for managing a home environment. Is there any question why second marriages fail 63% and third tries end 74% of the time?

God is very clear from the beginning that man and woman are to become one. One in all and everything they own, do, possess and desire.

That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

Genesis 2:24-25

This applies to property, problems, finances, children, hopes, dreams and all realities that each adult brings into a blended family scenario.

Civil Law

I clearly understand that civil law does not support what I just said. Most importantly, what God’s word says about marriage. Where God created marriage to endure through His holy covenant, man’s contractual marital agreement is wrought with escape clauses and protections for “just in case.”

God’s word says each spouse shall give of themselves completely to the other. Neither one shall have authority over the other. They are both equal. Different, but equal.

The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife.

1 Corinthians 7:3-4

While prenuptials and separate community property rules may apply, they are created for the impending failure of the marriage.

Stage Setting

God’s marriage model requires that you each go all in. There is nothing held separate or sacred from your spouse. Money, kids, and property are not meant to be held away from or over the other spouse.

Going into a new marriage with a “just in case” attitude is setting the stage for yet another failed marriage. Kids are in the top reasons people divorce as first families, and their role as catalysts in second and subsequent divorces become more imposing as they are placed as the priority in a family.

Set God’s hierarchy on display immediately. He is head of all. Parents come next, with the kids a close third. That is the only way remarried couples will succeed.

Trust Or No Trust

You trust your new spouse enough to marry them. You move into a new home, remain in one of the homes you had, open joint bank accounts, share passwords to social media and computers, introduce each other to your circle of friends and maybe even have additional children together.

You got it rock solid, right?

Then why don’t you trust them with your children? The law of possession applies across the board. Anything held back becomes an idol in your life and supersedes the place and importance of your spouse.

We always hear parents proclaim that their children are their life. Well, that’s a noble sentiment, but it’s not biblically sound or practically wise. Children are a temporary assignment. We were meant to raise them up and wish them well as they also entered adulthood as we all did at various years in the past.

God warns against covetousness. Giving the life God gave you to a child is an offense to the One who gave you life. Let’s take a look at Exodus. Seriously consider the role children play in a parent’s life. Loving and mentoring them is expected, but making them demi-gods is a risky situation.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me;

Exodus 20:3-5

Family As One

Discipline is about love. God is clear about this, and before you marry again and blend a family, you should be just as clear.

Because the LORD disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in.

Proverbs 3:12

You must surrender your children over to the authority of your spouse. If you cannot because of fear, suspicion or mistrust, then why are you in the marriage to begin with?

Your children have suffered from the divorce from their biological parents already. Studies show they will continue to be effected. But a healthy, loving blended family environment shows them a healthy relationship model. That model does not include hiding them away from your new spouse.

Sorry Dr. Phil

I’m still very much in favor of his advice for this couple to seek counseling. Since I’ve not followed this show or the couple, I can’t share what they chose to do, but for their 7 combined kids sake, I pray they sought Christian counseling.

Aside from that, Dr. Phil’s popular cultural method of one parent acting as a snitch on the kids, and having to endure bad behavior until the biological parent returns is what continues to support the 63% and 74% failures of second and third attempt at marriage.

Here To Help

Are you in need of pre-marriage counseling? We use the SYMBIS assessment as the most insightful self-survey tool for determining your strengths, challenges and marital readiness to move forward for the first or second or other times.

We are also certified as marriage counselors through MarriageToday‘s Marriage On The Rock ministry, and want to share this resource with you as our free gift to you. It will change your life, change you marriage and change your family.

God saved our marriage, and in that we are led to help other couples save, salvage or strengthen their own marriages.

I Am His,

Scott

About Dr. Scott Silverii

Christ follower, husband, dad, author and retired chief of police discovering the amazing side of a servant's life.