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19 Year Old Daugter--Out Of Control


I am currently going through a similar situation with my 19yr old daughter. She, cheats, lies and steals. In 1 year she has had 3 jobs. She has taken our credit cards and charged on them and I have even caught her with some of my checks that she has forged. I am at my wits end. If I do not get some help I will be going to jail for slapping some sense into her head. I remember growing up when my mother would give us good wiping. We had respect for her–not to mention we were also afraid to do anything wrong. I have never hit my daughter because I have always felt that talking to her was better, but it does not work with her. I want to put her out so bad but it would be very difficult for her to survive her–the cost of living is so expensive my husband and I find it difficult to live comfortably. I don’t know what to do. I feel helpless. She says that she does not want to talk to a psychologist because they do not know anything. She said that she would rather die before she talks to another one. Sometimes I wish that she would end up in jail so that she realizes that what she is doing is serious. What can I do? I feel so helpless. Helpless

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From the recent E. Mails we have been getting it appears that many families across the nation are having similar problems with their older adolescent children. It is a painful dilemma that does not offer many happy solutions. The worst part of this turmoil and stress is that parents feel very alone with these problem children. It does not help much to know that other families are struggling if they are not part of your life and offer no support for what you are going through. That is why I want to make my first suggestion for you and many others in this way:

Al Anon and Al Ateen are support groups for those parents with children who are having alcohol and drug problems. How can this help you with your situation, I hear you ask? Well, the answer is that the problems are so similar that the same principle work and the families who attend these groups know this very well and provide the needed support and advice.

What is the advice offered by these groups? The answer is that they help families to stop "enabling" their children to continue behaving is destructive ways.

Now, hold on: I am not suggesting that these older teenagers outrageous behavior is the fault of the parents. Instead, what I and these groups is saying is that the most painful thing to do, and for which lots of support is necessary, is to put very real limits on the destructive behaviors of these young adults. The way to place limits on these young people is to insist that they no longer live in your house.

Your daughter is 19 years old and is no longer a minor in the eyes of the law. There is no reason for her to live under your roof is she will not follow reasonable house roles and societal rules. I hear your anguish when your report that you do not want to put her out of your home when the "cost of living is so high" and when you fear that she "could not survive." Well, that is what is referred to as enabling.

The plain and simple facts are that taking your credit cards and forging your checks are criminal acts for which she can and should be arrested. Otherwise, there are no consequences to her actions and she knows that. It would be tragic and ironic if you went to jail for hitting her instead of her going to jail for her crimes. You can call the police and have her arrested for theft and forgery and that is another simple fact. Talking does not help and getting angry at her does not help and your heartache and anguish do not help, but setting limits will help and either Alanon or Alateen will help because those people are going through the same thing. By the way, for all you know she may be stealing from you in order to purchase and use drugs.

If you cannot bring your self to call the police then you have no other option but to have her leave your house…now!, immediately.

No parent wants to put their nineteen year old daughter out of the house and it does feel like an awful thing to do. On the other hand, she is leaving you no choice. Do you and your spouse want to end up becoming ill over this? What about your lives and your right to live comfortable and to use the money you have worked hard to earn and save? If she wants money she needs to get a job and a place to live. Lots of young people find room mates to live with in their own, private apartments.

Everyone must follow the rules of society or they end up in prison. There isn’t a person I know of who is allowed to steal and forge and is allowed to get away with it. Of course you are angry and frustrated but, you are not helpless. Set the limits and set them now either by calling the police or putting her out. Then, attend support groups in your community.

This is hard to do.

Best of Luck and,

What do other parents think? Please write.

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  • Krystal

    I agree with the advice given. I know it is what works because I was an out of control 18 year old. I couldn't keep a job, I was stealing my mother's atm card and forging her checks. I wouldn't come home for days and I didn't bother going to school. All because I was smoking weed and taking heroin. I ended up moving out, and I was still stealing from my mother. I'd break in to the house when she wasn't home and steal things to sell. Eventually her boyfriend called the cops when I stole some money from him. They wouldn't get me out of jail. I hated them so much. Then when I was released my mother told me that unless I went to a treatment facility I was going to be charged with forging her checks. I could end up in prison! I agreed and I went. One of the first things you learn about is enabling. Even though it hurts, and I could see it hurt my mother, you HAVE to do. If the child doesn't suffer consequense then what keeps them from doing it again? Nothing at all. You send the message that it's not that bad, you don't like it but you don't do anything about it other then blow hot air, so whatever. I stayed in treatment for 3 months and I was soo sad to leave. I have an amazing relationship with my mother it's honest, open and I really respect the stand she took. If you want respect you have to enforce consequences.

  • Anonymous-1

    I too have a similar situation. I have a ninteen year old son that does absolutely nothing each day but walk the streets and smokes weed. Whenever I talk to him it ends up in a fight. Often times he would either break something in my house or punch a hole in the walls. My house no longer looks like a home but just a house. The last straw to break the camels back was when he broke my coffee table and I called the cops. He is noe in jail. He calls me constantly saying that he does not want to be there and he finally get the message that I am no longer going to take his crap. Hopefully when he gets out he gets the help he needs to be a productive citizen. This he would have to outside of my home since he will not be living with me when he comes out

  • Anonymous-2

    I have a 19 year old daughter who has been stealing from me and my husbandon and off for several eyars. When I ask her why she does it, she will say it is because of the thrill and that we can afford it. Ther doesn't seem to be any conscience there. I thought we had nipped the habit in the bud with our last counseling session but just found 3 charges for video games on my charge card. My husband and I have decided to kick her out. This is very difficult for us since she has been in therapy all her life (was adopted from Russia at age 2) and does have some attachment issues. I feel at this point(with probably 20 or more therapist having worked with her since age 5 on)that we have no other choice. I will let you know how things progress. We love her very much but she needs to know this is not acceptable and she is not getting it.

  • Anonymous-3

    My 19yr old daughter has lived out of the house for over a year now and we did have a better relationship for awhile. I would help her financially every now and then until she went sideways on me. Her entitlement issues are off the charts and she is constantly trying to compare what she gets to what her brother gets (he is 22 and lives with her father). I just got off the telephone with her and 75 minutes later our relationship is not better. Why?? Because she admits she is angry, but fails to realize that she needs help. When I tell her she needs help she insists that she is not going to tell a stranger her problems and take pills. There are other females in our family diagnosed with Bi-Polar. She says that she insists that I tell her how wrong I am as a parent and how she deserves more than her brother. I don't give her money anymore and I don't to try reach out and have a conversation with her because she does not want to talk, she wants to yell. Honestly, I don't think I have the skills to help her and she is wearing out my nerves. My friends tell me to get a new cell phone number so she cannot contact me. I hate to do that because if there is a real emergency she will not be able to reach me.

  • Anonymous-4

    I to have a nearly 18 year old daughter. She is bright and intellegent, she has been the most important thing in my life for 17 years. We have always had a strong bond and close relationship, we have lived on our own for a good 4 years. I work full time and as most have a hard budget to follow. She decided to give up on school as soon as she went to high school,. I ended up letting her leave to find a job as neither of us could take anymore, she was miserable at school and i was sick to death of arguing every morning at 6am. i guess i gave up too. She worked hard and finally got a casual job. Great effort! the job went well for 9mths, she worked friday nights and weekends, pretty good for a teen i also think. As the job was only part time i let her off paying board as long as she bought her own clothes, paid her fone, and put petrol in the car i bought her so she could get to work. She was fired a month ago for stealing something as silly as a bra? She took 2 weeks to tell me. And i found out as she told her 1/2 sister who told her dad. We have now gone into the worst disaster i could have imagined. I asked her to pretty much stop using the car etc until she really needed it. i cannot afford to run it etc. Since then i have hardly seen her. The car is as messy and uncared for as her bedroom and anythin else, computer is wrecked. She has friends giving her money for gas to run them around. I have refused to give her money until she cleans up her act, cleans the car cleans her room and gets back to reality. I have also found evidence of party pills etc. I have had so much that i have gone i guess nearly into depression, i cant take much more of her using. I have told her to pack her bags and basically bugger off, then i want or will cry myself to sleep, what will happen. live on the street,? more drugs?, sex? i cant help but think it will be worse. I just lost it so much that i have thrown everything in her room onto her bed, i am so close the the edge that i cant take anymore. She has also been cutting herslf for a few years that she had promised to stop, well thats back now? is this to punish me or her self? I cant get her help as she refuses, what can i do? i cant carry her there? she wouldnt come out if i get someone to the house? I feel like i have failed as a parent, and i am going crazy.

  • Allan N. Schwartz, PhD

    Hi Mom,

    I will use your comment under "Reader Questions" tomorrow. There, I will talk about the problem and some possible things to do. You are not alone in this.

    Please look for the response tomorrow

    Dr. Schwartz


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