The Wolfe Family
Four kids turn against their mother, accusing her of being overly controlling and making their lives miserable, as her husband wallows in the background.
Robbie Wolfe is a former rock n’ roll musician turned insurance broker. He and his wife, Robyn, have four children. The boys, Jeremy and Brandon, are musicians like their Dad, playing in full face makeup and low rise jeans at all the top clubs in LA.
The whole family agrees that Robyn is the source of their unhappiness. She yells at all of them to clean and do chores, but she doesn’t do any herself. She stays in her room day and night playing on the computer, watching TV or doing jigsaw puzzles. She is isolated from everyone and they are isolated from each other. They never do family activities or have meals together.
When the Wolfe family comes to therapy, the first issue they bring up is Robyn’s inability to leave her room and her constant yelling. Everyone agrees that Robyn yells at Robbie the most. Robbie admits that he doesn’t stand up to his wife because he’s scared of her.
Licensed marriage and family therapist Dr. Tara Fields, hopes that if Robyn gets out of her room and has a better relationship with her family, she won’t be so angry. So she asks the family to play volleyball together and share a family dinner.
The next day, the family plays volleyball but the older boys leave before the game is over. Robyn calls them and insists they come back for dinner. They do, but hate every second of it. They feel like their Mom is acting fake, pretending to be nice for the cameras.
In the second session, Jeremy, the oldest son, accuses his Mom of being fake. The two get into an argument and Robyn starts telling Tara how angry she is that Jeremy wears face makeup in the house. Jeremy tells Tara that he feels that his Mom is ashamed of him. He starts to cry. Tara points out that the way Robyn talks to Jeremy feels condescending and she asks Robyn to practice speaking to him with respect. She does and Jeremy agrees not to wear makeup in the house.
Tara then asks the parents to work together and assign chores for the kids. She wants them to work as a unified team, not as adversaries. The parents complete a chore chart and take it home with them. The next day everyone does their chores and has a second family dinner.
Although things are going well for the Wolfe family, Robbie feels uneasy. In the last session, he expresses concern that if he starts to stand up to his wife, she’ll blow up at him. Tara asks the parents to do a role reversal so they can experience how the other sees them. They do the reversal and Robbie (playing Robyn) winds up yelling in Robyn’s face.
The kids love this exercise and admit that Robyn yells even louder than that. They also reveal that when their parents yell, they threaten divorce. Kylie, twelve, admits that she acts out in order to distract her parents from fighting and getting a divorce. The family is stunned by her admission.
Robbie and the kids leave the last session feeling that they’ve finally told Robyn how they feel about her. Robyn leaves feeling that she’s failed as a mother.
Six weeks later, the kids are not only doing their chores but are now hanging out together. They feel unified in their pain. The only ones not getting along are Robbie and Robyn. They’re working on it.