19 Year Old Daughter Trying Tough Love Being a People Pleaser Isn't Easy

Updated on September 24, 2009
J.F. asks from Vineland, NJ
19 answers

My 19 year old I think is very spoiled, hasn't ever taken well to the word "no" and confused over her recent decision to leave her out of state college and attend a community college until she hopefully has in place her new major at another college less distance than the last from home. She wants me to remind her of appointments and dates and when i do gets mad saying all I do is nag her. She constantly says her 2pm curfew is unfair because she had none when she was away at college even though I have explained over and over that its so we can get rest and not to control her. Recently I decided instead of staying on her about following up on her new college applications I would just give her a deadline date a month away so that she could just after report to me its all completed and she found that offensive. I know I spend too much time trying to explain all my rules are in fairness to which she disagrees. We are now at the point we can barely discuss anything let alone be in the same room without some petty disagreement starting. So what do I do to stand firm as a parent and not cave? It seems the second she says her and I have a strained relationship I find myself chasing after her, explaining myself and begging her not to throw ours away which she acts she has no problem doing if she decides she's had enough. Help I'm at wits end!

What can I do next?

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So What Happened?

Thanks for everyones thoughts and advise. So here is what happened I went out for the day with a friend to get away from it all. When I got home which was right around dinner time I found her cooking dinner for the two of us. My husband was at work. She was very quiet while preparing it and I thought I'll just go about my business and even if it's a silent dinner it would be hopefully a step in a better direction. After a few bites she started to open up to me where her head is and her concerns about what path she should take with college. She voiced that she does understand our rules and will follow them she just wants to sort out in her mind that this change in college majors is the last and best one for her and that is why she's been so stand off , and upset and impatient with me and rules and everything the past few weeks. That at 19 she doesn't want to tell me every thought in her mind. I explained to her, my short version, a relationship should be opening up not blocking out and that the deadline still stands along with our rules. We sat and talked about her fears of making right choices and ended both glad that we listened to each other. Since then I have been determined to give her some space and mind more of my own business and less of hers which I admit in the past haven't been the best at. So at least for now we have both brushed off the mess and moved on from this episode of mother daughter battles. One side note some of you I think didn't realize she does have a part time job along with her education. And for the advise on the book thanks I plan on going to the library soon to pick it up.

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answers from Allentown on

Hi J.,

Momma, Momma, Momma. Go to Co-Dependence Anonymous as fast as you can go.


Hope this helps. It is so difficult to be a parent of an adult child. We all go through it. Good luck. D.

More Answers



answers from Pittsburgh on

I think you have already gotten a lot of good advice. I would add a couple of things. A 19 year old should not have to be reminded of appointments and dates. Tell her that she is on her own here. Give her some good advice about how to handle them, and then let her suffer the consequences if she misses something important. One or two times of that will cure her.

Tell her that is she wants to be treated like an adult, act like one. If she doesn't like your rules, she is free to move out and pay her own way. Don't waste your time trying to explain yourself anymore. Tell her you love her, and want the best for her, but she can't keep acting they way she is.

If she doesn't want your help with her college applications, then leave it to her. She will find out the hard way that she needs to be more responsible.

Our 18 year old daughter lives at home, works part time and attends the community college. As long as she is attending college full time, she doesn't have to pay rent. But she is expected to help out at home, as much as her busy schedule will allow her to.

How do you stand firm as a parent? Just do it! You are not helping her become a responsible adult if you constantly cave in to her. I know how you feel. It is not easy at all. But it must be done.

Tell your daughter that adults can not do anything they want and they have to be respectful of other people, especially those they live with and live by the rules of the house or leave. It's that simple. College dorms have rules. Apartment buildings have rules, and roommates must be respectful of each other also.

My husband and I let each other know when we are going out and when we expect to return. If we are going to be really late, we call or text each other. If are out together, we keep in touch with the kids so they know when we will be home. I expect the same of my daughter. It's common courtesy.

I know it's so hard to let go. It's hard for her too. Part of her wants to be an adult and part of her enjoys the security of being a little girl and letting you do everything for her. But you aren't going to be there every minute of the day forever, and she needs to learn how to do these things on her own.

Do some fun stuff together, like shopping or go to the movies, got out to eat, get away from home together, away from the stress. Have fun as adult friends. Let her know you want to spend time with her. But at home, be firm and stick to the rules.



answers from Erie on

Draw your line in the sand. Let her know where it is -- do it when neither of you are upset or angry -- and YOU stick to the rules, too. You don't need to explain them. She's an adult living in YOUR home, and she needs to obey a certain number of rules in trade for room and board. If she doesn't like them, she can move out, or go back to a school further away so she is "on her own."

She is 19, and she's butting her head against the rules. Let her butt her head, but don't butt yours back. Just let the rule stand. It doesn't need explanation. It's a rule the ADULTS in the household live by. And that's that. As long as you aren't asking her to obey more rules than you obey as an adult, you are being fair. She'll catch on at 26. :-)

Sorry it's painful. Dealing with "adult" children who aren't behaving adultish is one of the hardest things to do as a parent. But remember, she DOES have options. She can live at home, or she can get a job and live on her own. When she decides to live at home, she has to also decide to live within the restrictions of living in someone else's house. (yours)

Sorry this is so painful.



answers from Philadelphia on

This book is meant for younger children than 19 but the concepts in it will be very helpful. I always have to remind myself to just use as few words as possible instead of lecturing and this book helps me do that...It's called 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children. Also the other book I recommend is How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk. You should be able to find both of them at your library.



answers from York on


As long as you continue to take responsibility for her choices in her now adult life, she will continue to rebell and your relationship with her will continue getting worse.

As a parent who ended up with a child in a "tough love" school away from home for 22 months, I can tell you without doubt, while I felt I was being a good mom with keeping my son on track with responsibilities, schedules, homework, etc., I never gave him the opportunity to experience the consequences of his choices/actions. During one of our first calls with him (he was away from 14 - 16 yrs. old) he clearly articulated that I never let him fail. What a shocking thing for me to hear. He surely had experienced much failure even with my dutifuly mothering. BUT, because I was always "on top of his things" he saw the failures as mine, not his, on a subconscious level. I assisted him in forming a belief that "someone (mom) will keep me on track so I don't need to for myself". What my subsequent training has revealed is that "behaviors will ALWAYS follow beliefs". So, he believed I'd handle his stuff and his behaviors were "do nothing". We, too, had constant fights and it has only been since the program we entered as part of the tough love school that opened for us how we were enabling our son versus empowering him to his own greatness - what ever that looks like for him - no us.

Certainly with your daughter being 19, it is definately time to give her the control of her life. However, as the parent, you have the right to share with her your expectations when she is living under your roof and if you are paying for college, what you expectations are for that. She should be involved in this conversation and have the space to explore options/negotiations. You should know in advance what your "absolute requirements" are before the conversation. If she doesn't like the expectations for when she comes home (curfew times, etc.) then she can choose to not sleep at home. There is nothing more important than being in a healthy relationship with our children, especially when they are adults - which she is.

Feel free to contact me. I'd be happy to share more with you including how to calmly and productively have such a meeting and setting of expectations.

Be well!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi J.,

You've gotten some great advice. Stick to the rules as much as you can, but make sure she knows you love her. When she whines about something you did or didn't do, you can remind her that you've done (or not done) it because you love her and want the best for her. Occasionally, whenever you can slip it in, let her know that you hope to keep the lines of communication open, as a relationship with her is important to you.

While my daughter is younger -- 14 -- it's been a bit of a transition for us. I've noticed that my daughter respects me more when I stick to the rules and don't let her get too nasty. Allow a little venting or keeping to herself, but not going too far.

I'm with you, "fellow" mom. I'm heading in your age direction and am hoping for the best.

Be well, and good luck.



answers from Philadelphia on

J., Your daughter is 19 years old and an adult. You are being overbearing. While I understand the curse we mothers have of not wanting our children to fail or get hurt but you are not helping her grow into her own person and learn to live independently and be responsible. She will only miss appts. a few times because you did not tell her and she will learn to use a calendar or cell phone appt. gaget. While I think older teens still need our support, she is letting you know to back off. Before it destroys your relationship, back off and let her fall. She will get up. You have loved her and shown her the right way...she just needs to remember what she has already learned. Good luck and take care!



answers from Scranton on

Hold your ground! I remember being this age, having a cerfew when I was home on college brake and hating it. But I also didn't want my parents to stop paying for college, so I (unhappily) put up with it. Today (I'm now 40) I am very close with my parents, have been since I graduated from college. Your daughter is 19 years old and should start taking responsibility for herself. If you are paying for college, food, clothes, tell her your rules are the price she pays for living in your home for free. If she wants to make the rules, she should go rent her own apt and pay for college herslef. If she doesn't learn how to manage her schedule now, what will she do when she graduates from college? Do you want her to return home after that and live off you or be able to live on her own? I would start by making her take responsibility for those things that will have the least significant consequences if she does not do them. If she fails at them, let her suffer the consequences so she learns why she needs to meet her responsibilities. Make handeling her responsibilites a requirement for returning to state college. As for your relationship, as she matures, your relationship will improve. She will learn to appreciate your decision as she gets older. Right now she is still part teen part adult, and acting like it. Help her transition into being a respondible adult by expecting her to act like an adult. Child usually live up (or down!) to our expectation.

Good luck - just a few more years to go!



answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi J.!
I hear your pain in the statement "she has no problem throwing our love away..." and I just wanted to comment on that. I have raised five daughters and three sons, and I found that the separation between me and them was always more difficult with my daughters more so than with my sons. The deep bond that we share is painful to break and yet they have to, in order to establish their own identity. The reason she seems so careless with your love is that she knows she can always count on it. Two of my daughters didn't speak to me at various times in their adulthood, and I thought just the same way as you, "how easy for you to shun me now that I've given you all my best" But there is no need to torment yourself with those kinds of thoughts because they always come back to you... especailly when they have children of their own and understand a lot more than they do now. A word of wisdom from America's favorite author, Mark Twain goes something like this: A twenty something year old man was telling a friend about his father. He said, "When I was in high school, the old man was really stupid, it's amazing how much he's learned in just five years".
Good luck, you're almost there!


answers from Williamsport on

Any training on how to follow a schedule and meet deadlines should have been done years ago and can't be done now. If you did all that before and she hasn't retained it, your job is done. It won't be effective now, as you've seen.

She is an adult and should not be living at home blaming you for scheduling and curfew issues. But since she is in school and you have made that choice for her to be in your house, she does need to abide by your rules or move out.

For her to be expecting you to act certain ways pertaining to her life is a spoiled sense of entitlement that should not be allowed. Remind her she is not paying for her own place to live or supporting herself so if she doesn't like the way you do things, she should move.

I moved away from my parents when I was 17 to pursue school and work and rent and bills and all the adult things that come along. As soon as I was out of the house, all of our teenage conflicts (curfews, opinions, schedules, friends, WHATEVER) were over and I loved doing things my own way. Parents became more like friends and control battles ended.

You will all be happier if you cut the cord. It's not good for her to be lording over adults at her age rather than focusing her energy learning to support herself. The later she gets started, the more limited her life options and successes will be. If you do want her to stay, be tough, put down your foot-no abusing you in your house! Stand by whatever you say and don't participate in her trying to make you do things for her.



answers from Philadelphia on

I agree with most of the posts here. You need to stop explaining yourself. Establish the rules and stick to them. If your daughter wants to be treated like an adult, she will have to gain an understanding of what that means: taking responsibility and living within the limitations imposed by either you or herself. When I briefly moved back home after college, I went through a similar adjustment. My mother's response? "My house, my rules. If you don't like my rules, find yourself a new living arrangement."

No one can MAKE you stick to this. You have to decide to enforce the rules you find reasonable and fair. I would also hand her a calendar and clearly state that you will not be responsible for her appointments. This isn't punishment, you are teaching her to be a responsible adult and the consequences that go along with that. Stick to your guns and good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on

Hi J.,

I've been down this road twice now, as I have a 22yo son and a 20yo daughter. Both of these young adults have gone away to college and then come home, and found the adjustment to living at home again to be just that...an adjustment.

It sounds to me like your daughter wants all of the benefits of living at home without any of the responsibilities. I can definitely relate!

My daughter wanted no curfew, no punishments (such as taking her cell phone away), no chores, and to pay no rent, and to continue to be on our health insurance and car insurance(even tho she had 2 tickets and one accident that caused our car insurance to go up!). She would also call me in the middle of the day to ask me what we were having for dinner, or to complain about the lack of food in the kitchen.

So, here is how I handled it. I told her that she had two choices. Either she would pay rent, buy her own food, and pay her own car insurance and in that case, would not have any curfew or chores. I would still expect her to help out around the house with picking up after herself, keeping her room and bathroom relatively clean, and being courteous to others about having guests over etc.

OR she could live at the house for free, but she would be expected to help out ALOT around the house, help with transporting the little brother and sister to things they need to do/go, and telling us where she's going, when she'll be back, etc. (and I also made her pay her own car insurance just because her driving record made it necessary for her to need to own that consequence), cook for the family at least once a week, etc. Just like having another adult in the house to help out with everything.

My son, chose the first. He paid rent and the cable bill and helped out alot with yard work. My daughter chose the second and she is really stepping up to the plate. It is fabulous having another responsible person around!

I would tell her to get a Blackberry or a planner and keep her appointments straight herself, because that is what adults do. I would not give a 19 yo a curfew (its embarrassing to them), but put down a unbreakable law about drinking and driving that would be associated with some kind of consequence, such as so many hours of community service. Also, if she decides that she is going to stay out all night, that you either need to know in advance where she is going and who she'll be with, or you need a call (I ask for a text message personally) letting me know where they are and who they are with.

I am blessed. I have wonderful children who are truly a pleasure to live with...most of the time. But to be treated as an adult means you have to act as an adult. Don't let your daughter use your love and good graces to take advantage of you. Ask her to become the adult she wants to be, which means being responsible for herself. Otherwise, the priviledges need to go away (ie mom doesn't pay for cell phone, car insurance, etc)

Lastly, I just want to say that I personally feel that parenting the young adult is the HARDEST phase I've gone through as a parent. So hang in there and STAND YOUR GROUND!




answers from Philadelphia on

I'm assuming that like most young people she has a cell phone and keeps it close at hand. It should have a calendar/ alarm function. She can put the Appointments/meetings in the calendar and set an alarm to go off at a certain time before hand. I usually have it go off the day before and then reset it to go off about 1/2 hour before I need to leave for the
As for the curfew issue, let her know that your main concern is her safety and that you want to know she's ok. If she will be out all night staying at a friends that it will be ok but she should call you a a reasonable hour so you can rest peacefully. If her plans change later and she decides to stay (This is better than driving when too tired) she should still call. It is much better to wake up for a minute to answer the phone and go back to sleep, than sit up worrying about her.
Let her know that you will love her no matter what, and that it is the choices she has made the worry and disappoint you, not her. She may also need to take time off from school and work for a while to really appreciate the benefits of an education. If things are strained at home, Is there a relative that she is close to, who might be able to let her move in for a while and give guidance without the conflicts that you have at home. Kids usually behave better with someone else. Also have limits set ahead of time with the understanding that if she does not follow the rules, she will be asked too leave and go back home.



answers from Allentown on

Unfortunately it is a slippery slope that we walk as parents taking care versus enabling. You have to set boundaries and stand firm she is playing you and your emotions because she can. The reality is that she for all practical purposes is an adult. She just needs to start acting like one. Unfortunately you have to let her fall down and make mistakes while she is still young enough to recovery from them. I hope she is paying for school herself so that she can own her success but by the same token pay for her own mistakes. Trust me I watched my mother rescue my sister for years and until about 5 years ago was helping her raise and support her 2 children. Then because of a couple of moves and having multiple mortgages on several properties she was not able to help. That is when my sister started standing on her own 2 feet. She is now 30+ and could have been much more successful if my mother had done this only 5 years earlier for her. She is struggling as a single parent but she is owning her own success and believe me she is earning her own success.

Good Luck!

M. R



answers from Pittsburgh on

My two cents.
SHE decided to leave her live-away college and return home. I don;t care WHO is paying for college, if she is living in your house, she needs to understand and follow your rules. She has no right to negotiate or challenge your rules for your house.
Write down the rules and give her a copy. I feel that, even at 19, if she breaks the rules, she needs a negative consequence.
I have a friend with a teen son and if he is not home by his curfew, the doors are locked and the lights are out. Harsh, but it works.
Look, your relationship with your daughter has most likely has had other tough spots before. It will survive this. My mom and I always got along better when I didn't live under her roof. When I came home from college, b/c I had transferred to a closer university to save money, I worked every day that I was not in class, I had to help out around the house, I had a curfew. I worked, paid my tuition, books, transportation (BUS!) etc.
You need to establish exactly what is expected (who pays for what, chores, curfew) and communicate it to her. If she does not like it, she is welcome to get her own place. Tough stuff, this "adult" life. She needs to get used to it sooner than later. I have a brother who STILL foots the cell phone bills for his kids, now in their late 20's. Hang tough and stick to YOUR rules. If you don't, you can't really complain about her behavior.


answers from Pittsburgh on

Hi J., Sounds like you are in a bit of a tough spot. You need to explain to your daughter that she is over 18 yrs old and is an adult and she needs to start conducting herself like one....or she can step out on her own! Sure give her a time frame, tell her to get a job (at least part-time) tell her that as long as she lives in your home she has to follow the house rules no matter how old she is! My oldest is 17 and will be graduating from school this year and we are already discussing the rules and expectations that will be in effect after she turns 18 and graduates. I'm hoping by having these discussions now I can avoid some fighting later. You need to sit down and talk to her when you are both at least somewhat calm...set your rules, keep them simple, and then follow through with them. If she doesn't want you to "nag" then she has to be responsible. If she doesn't want a "curfew" then she need to respect you and come home at a reasonable time. Once you both work through your rules then let the past be the past...start over fresh and don't discuss past "bad" behavior. One thing about us "girls" that we all need to work on is that we tend to hold gruges forever; something that men don't seem to do...and we need to do much less of. Remember in the middle of it all the goal is for her to be a strong independant woman. Hang in there, stay strong and good luck!



answers from Philadelphia on


I'm going through the exact same thing with my nineteen year old. You got to get tough. She went away for one year and then came back. We told her when she came back that what our rules were, we have younger children in the house and it isn't fair to them or us if she comes home late (we had a twelve o'clock curfew). We told her that she could either live with it or move out. She picked moved out (she moved in with her cousin and her family), which broke my heart, we were always very close until around 17 and she got a boyfriend we hated. Right now I am paying for college but nothing else and she is learning the hard way. But in the last month our relationship has gotten much better. I treat her like an adult and she is learning what that truly means. My sixteen year old daughter has learned a lot too, she says she does not want to go down that route. lol. Stay tough, let yourself cry when you alone and need too, and hopefully things will work out. Remember she is an adult now and the hardest thing is letting go but that is the only way she is going to become an true adult herself. Best of luck.



answers from Lancaster on

It sounds like she knows how to manipulate you very well- give her the deadile to get all the things done she is required to do - give her also the set of rules you have set for curfew, etc. If she doesn't like it, tell her tough - it is your house, your rules - her staying there (as an adult!) should not be a strain on you, and she should act like an adult and treat you and your household with respect.



answers from Philadelphia on

Well, when I went to college I had to live at home and pay for college myself, pay my car myself, pay my car insurance & gas, which means I also had to hold down a job at the same time as going to college (this was 20 years ago, but still...). My parents helped when they could and obviously I was still allowed to live at home rent free and I was on their health insurance. I didn't have a curfew that was really stated to me but I kind of knew not to stay out all night and worry the heck out of my parents, besides my Dad would have killed me! I agree with all the other posts, you need to tell her to either pay rent and she can do what she wants or to help out around the house and go to school and be a straight "A" student and maybe then no curfew, but still to let you know where she is because it is courteous and respectful to not make you worry. I still call my Mom when I get home from visiting her at her house (and I am 39 years old) I just wouldn't want her to worry :)

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