In the late '80s, Brenda Thompson, the mother of R&B recording artist Syleena Johnson, became the first female police commissioner of Harvey, Illinois. The toughness she relied on to climb the ranks also carried over to her parenting. While Brenda remembers Syleena and her other two daughters having a childhood filled with sleepovers and closeness, the girls remember something very different.
In the above video from "Iyanla: Fix My Life," Iyanla Vanzant sits down with Brenda to help her understand what Syleena and her sisters struggle with from their childhoods. "The big thing that the three of them all have a clear recollection of is their mother calling them b*tches and h*es," Iyanla says to Brenda. "Today, one even shared with me that they were called the c-word by you."
Brenda doesn't deny these claims; rather, she explains that her inclination toward name-calling stems from experiences within her own childhood. "I have always -- from school, when I was little -- been bullied. By everybody," Brenda says. "To my defense, I cursed people out."
This defense mechanism doesn't seem at all unusual to Brenda. "Where I came from, that's just how you talked," she explains.
Iyanla doesn't buy it. "In all my fiber of my being as a mother, I cannot imagine looking my baby girls in the face and calling them 'b*tches,'" Iyanla says softly. "And I come up out of Brooklyn."
Iyanla explains to Brenda that calling her daughters names makes them feel the same was Brenda felt when she was bullied -- and the mother can't claim she and the girls were close when that was happening. "We've got to start telling some truths," Iyanla says to Brenda.
In the video, Iyanla gets personal and shares her experience with her late daughter and tries to encourage Brenda to confront both the truth and the pain she buries deep inside.
"You failed your babies," Iyanla says. "You've got to sit in that. And it can be healed. But you've got to tell the truth about it."