I Feel Like I Have Failed - - May 20th 2010


I too 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.  

My daughter decided to give up on school as soon as she went to High School.  I ended up letting her leave school 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 6 AM.  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 telephone bill, and put petrol in the car I bought for her so she could go 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 iIcould have imagined.  I asked her to pretty much stop using the car until she really needed it.  I cannot afford to run it.  Since then I have hardly seen her.  The car is as messy and uncared for as her bedroom and anything else and her 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.  I have had too much and I have gone nearly into a depression. I cannot take much more of her using me.  I have told her to pack her bags and basically bugger off. Then, I will cry myself to sleep over what will happen.  Will she live on the street, use more drugs,  have sex?  I cannot 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 to the the edge that I cannot take anymore.  She has also been cutting herself for a few years and she had promised to stop…well thats back now.

Is this to punish me or her self?  I can’t get her help as she refuses. What can iIdo?  I cant carry her there to therapy.  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. 

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Dear Mom of 18 Year Old Daughter,

I am positive that your story rings true for hundreds of thousands of parents in the United States, the UK and elsewhere. Who knows, probably millions of parents around the world.

You must understand that you did the best you could in raising your daughter. Now, at 18, she is in charge of her life and she is letting you know that. However, she is also manipulating you because she knows she has nothing to lose. Look at the situation: She is out using drugs, partying, probably having sex, having a “good time,” while you are at home suffering!!! Isn’t there something wrong with this picture? Yes, but too many of us parents allow ourselves to fall into this trap.

In my opinion, you need to set limits with her and be very concrete and specific with those limits. I agree with you that she MUST pay for her room and board while in your house. If not, she is to leave immediately. Where she lives is up to her. None of us parents want our children to be in the streets. However, sometimes that experience is the best teacher. Besides, she is not likely to be in the streets because she has friends, a father and a half sister. If they won’t help her, and I hope they won’t, then she will be in the streets until she is ready to come home and comply with your house rules and regulations. What are those rules:

She must pay you rent for room and board. she must keep her room neat and clean, she must help clean the house and she must be home by the time you set for her, and, SHE MUST GET A JOB NOW. She gets the car only if she works. Take the car away. Call the police, if you must.

In other words, Mom, you must stop beating and blaming yourself, and, you must get tough with her, but, in ways that are very specific and very concrete and no negotiations.

Best of Luck                       

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