But his new book, "Family First," describes the plight of a young man close to his heart.
The book opens with a heartbreaking tale of a 12-year-old boy surviving in a very dysfunctional family. That boy is none other than Dr. Phil himself.
"I believe very strongly that a tough background, a bad background, a difficult history, is not something to be ashamed of, but it is something to overcome," Dr. Phil tells The Early Show co-anchor Harry Smith. "As we start into this third year, we're going to be focusing a lot on the parental legacy that we've all lived, the histories that we all have. And mine is colorful, to say the least. And so, I think it's important that I be honest and real about that, because I think you can overcome it."
As we look over people's shoulders and assume that they must have come from some loving situation, Dr. Phil says it is important to know that it's not always as easy as it looks. Kids in particular, Dr. Phil notes, compare themselves with others and end up feeling second best.
He points out families have their own distinct personalities. "There is a collective personality," Dr. Phil explains. "If you've got a parent, mother, father, and two children, that's four people; you have five personalities. That fifth personality is the collective personality of the family. And they have what I refer to in 'Family First' as a rhythm. Every family has a rhythm and that rhythm can be chaotic and sound like a pan rolling down a metal staircase, or it may be a smooth rhythm; but you do have a rhythm to your family and people need to understand what that is."
In writing "Family First," Dr. Phil conducted a survey of 17,000 parents. Here are some of the results:
- One third of parents responding to the survey said if they had to do it all over again, they would not start a family.
"What they're telling us is they don't feel adequate to do it," Dr. Phil explains. "They don't feel equal to the challenges."
- Fifty-three percent of parents indicated significant resentment in making sacrifices as a parent.
"People answered this survey anonymously," Dr. Phil notes. "That's where we get this kind of candor where they say, I do resent that I didn't get to go to college because I wound up pregnant. I do resent that I don't have the freedom because these children absorb time, money, effort and energy. People don't like to talk about that because it's not socially correct to do so.
"But you know that we get real on Dr. Phil, and as we launch into this third season, we're going to get people to talk about these things and come up with strategies to change them. I've never been more excited about a book I've done. I've never been more excited about shows that we doing."
- Twenty-nine percent of parents allow their kids to sleep with them, but don't know how to stop it.
- Forty-eight percent of parents said their own parents had too high expectations and feel this caused high anxiety for them as adults.
- Parents said their two greatest mistakes were being too lenient and taking out their stress on the kids.
In "Family First," Dr. Phil defines the following five factors for creating a phenomenal family. He also talks about them on the show:
- Factor No.1: Create a Nurturing and Accepting Family System
- Factor No.2: Promote Rhythm in Your Family Life
- Factor No.3: Establish Meaningful Rituals and Traditions
- Factor No.4: Be Active in Your Communication
- Factor No.5: Learn How to Manage Crisis
He also includes a list of "fun" things you can do to signify that things are going to be different in the house. These "outward" symbols are:
- Have kids switch rooms
- Serve dinner in dining room instead of kitchen or bar
- Paint living room or den a new color
- Get a different haircut
- Play music in house instead of constantly watching TV
- Rearrange the furniture