Online Parent Support Chat

17.11.08

She has poor self-esteem, a negative outlook on life, and takes no responsibility for her lack of happiness or anything else...

Some background info: she is not completely wild: doesn't touch drugs (some social smoking and drinking but hasn't become a problem), does not steal from me or anyone else, not a criminal but nevertheless has some severe problems from my viewpoint. I am a single mother (never any father contact or involvement until a year ago when they started talking occasionally on the phone) and she is my only child. I was the "hero" growing up and she is the "scapegoat."

The specific problems I am dealing with are rudeness, not contributing to home care & not picking up after herself, being out very late and often not coming home at all, dishonesty, occasionally wearing too sexy clothes, and the biggest problem for me is hanging out with unethical and loser 'friends' that often treat her horribly (including her boyfriends). She has poor self-esteem, a negative outlook on life, and takes no responsibility for her lack of happiness or anything else.

She has repeatedly stated that she hates being home (she says it makes her depressed). She hates both our apartment itself and spending time with me at home and unless i complain and force her she is almost always somewhere else. She has never invited her friends home except the few times I made her and that was years ago. Our apartment is normal, clean and furnished with food, tv for videos and video games (no tv service) - that's not the issue. She says her friends hate me and think I'm crazy (even though I've only met 2 or 3 of them briefly). She says no one she knows has restrictions. This may be true as the kids she hangs out with are delinquents or close to it. She also says that every one she knows' parents buy them their own cars and give them everything they want. This is probably not true as many of her friends/acquaintances are just getting their driver license at 18 or 19 or still don't have it although there are some 'spoiled rotten' ones too. Her argument for years has been that I disrespect her by having rules and don't giver her anything a parent should. My argument back has been that her friends are losers and she shouldn't compare her situation to theirs and that if she was behaving ethically and respectably, I wouldn't be so restrictive.

She moved out with her boyfriend a couple months ago - that only lasted a month as they broke up but I had no control at all then. She works about 25-30 hours a week and dropped out of community college when she moved out saying she didn't need school to be successful or happy and that I don't know what makes her happy. She is back at home now and pays for her car payment, gas, clothing & entertainment.

Because she is much more independent than an under-18 child would be, I'm not sure what kind of rules I can reasonably ask of her and I don't know how to enforce them. Currently, her rules include:

1. curfew of 11pm on weekdays and 1am on fri/sat
2. introducing me to all her friends and giving me their phone numbers
3. keeping me informed about where she is and who she is with
4. spending time with the family (me) including frequent family dinners, and other things that we arrange ahead of time
5. taking on half the household work (there is only 2 of us)
6. being productive (work, school or some community involvement)
7. being honest and respectful to me
8. being in school and getting good grades (A's & B's)
9. taking care of her stuff (bedroom and car mostly)

Needless to say, these are not happening. Partly I'm not being explicit about our family time and household requirements and partly their just not getting enforced. But she argues and disagrees with most of them too. Number 1 she is just relentless about how wrong it is. 4 she says she is never home so isn't making the mess. 2 & 5 she says I'm just a control freak and think I'm god judging what makes her happy and what constitutes good people to hang out with, etc....

She says she doesn't want to tell me what is going on in her life because I will nag her, rant about the jerks she is going out with / hanging out with, or especially when she is younger, get involved to help her. She used to throw fits when I said I would offer talk to her teacher about someone who mistreated her at school or talk to a kid's parent or anything like this. ( I think now this is because there was dishonesty in her description of things to me - she has seen herself as a victim for a long time).

That is pretty much the situation and background here. So far your descriptions are spot on for our situation, especially for the more authoritarian type parenting, and I have definitely gone back and forth between the passive and aggressive responses. I guess the three main questions I have are:

1. What kind of rules can I reasonably have for a 19 year old with quite a bit of independence?

and

2. What are appropriate and workable means of enforcing them?

and very important to me,

3. How can I help her choose better friends and stop hanging out with the low-life?

I don't know what I could take away from her for disciplinary enforcement. She bought her ipod, cell phone (I pay the bill) and car, internet access and video games she could get at a friends house so I don't think taking these away would be workable. Grounding seems inappropriate for her age and probably not enforceable either. What do you recommend?

One last thing, she doesn't like to be hugged or touched. I've had to force her most of her life but now that she's older she gets really nasty when she is mad at me and aggressively refuses any affection.

I feel like this is the last chance I have to help her have better self-esteem, a more positive outlook and future, and for us to get along and be happy together.

My Out-of-Control Adult Child

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