Disrespectful Daughter

Updated on April 18, 2011
L.A. asks from Auburn, MA
16 answers

My 20 year old daughter attends a local university and lives at home. She treats and speaks me disrespectfully and I don't know how to make her understand that this is unacceptable. It isn't all the time, however, when there is an issue, the situation is unbearable. She screams, yells and swears at me and we currently haven't really spoken in a week. It's painful. Any advise?

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for your feedback ~ and with such quickness! I do know that I need to respond to her more effectively. It does usually end up in a yelling match. However, we do provide a roof over her head, her meals, we are paying for her college education, and yes, unfortunately, I had been doing her laundry. She asks me to do her laundry when things are going well, so, I do to help her out. She is maintaining a 3.8 GPA and signed up for 4 classes this summer so that she will just have Fall 2011 to complete her education for her bachelor's degree. She got engaged last Oct. and he is a medic for the Navy down in NC. I know
she is frustrated and would like to be with him. She works part time to pay for her car payment and car insurance. Basically she only makes enough to pay for those items so we don't ask for any room/board. We are trying to help her. She thinks she can say what she wants, when she wants to me and that is what is causing the issues here. The last blowout was over the fact that I went away for a couple of nights with a close girlfriend of mine and she thought I was going away with a different friend (not that it's really any of her business), and called me a liar. She blew the whole situation out of control and made it all a problem with my husband as well. She oversteps her boundaries and really do I really need to answer to my 20 year old? I don't think so. But, I could be wrong. To me, we provide her with all her necessities, love her unconditionally, drive her and pick her up at the airports when she is flying down to see her guy (and at all times of the night - last week, it was 12:30 a.m.!) I think I am very good to her. Perhaps she is a bit frustrated because she feels she isn't "growing up" by still living at home when most of her friends have been living away at school and learning to be on their own. She did go away freshman year, however, came home to commute for sophmore year thru today as she didn't like the food, the roommate situation(s), etc. We try to be a great support system, however, maybe we try too hard?? I don't feel she has any right judging me or my friends in any way. That needs to be a boundary. I am 48 yrs. old and have "been there, done that".

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answers from Anchorage on

Sounds like it may be time for some tough love. If she can not be respectful of you than maybe it is time for her to find a new living arrangement.

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answers from Houston on

Hi L.,

I have a question. Has your dtr. been like this for years or did it start with college? It is difficult to have a college student at home (have a son at home attending school) b/c this is the time in their life when normally they are out on their own finding their way into adulthood.
It's more difficult if they are at home and mom or dad is still treating them the same as a kid or teen. So, here are my questions for you... Do you ask her where she's going or what she's doing every time she goes somewhere? Are you still doing her laundry? Are you still asking her if she has her schoolwork done?
I guess what I am encouraging you to do is take a look at your behavior and see if she could possibly feel like you are not treating her as an adult. This age group highly resents "mothering" and will lash out every time. May I suggest that you sit down with your dtr. (if this only started recently) and talk to her. Ask her what you do to set her off. If she says that you are too controlling or condescending..take that as a hint!! She's wanting space to grow up! And, btw, that can be a good thing! Work together to establish what works for both of you...give and take. Let her know you are hearing her . Oh, and after you have listened to her, then feel free to let her know what bothers you and how it comes across.
Now, if she has been like this forever (so to speak) and you have done the above with her before....then I am all for tough love.
Hope this helps!

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

Show her the door w/ a suitcase of her clothes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You said that the two of you end up in a yelling match. To me that indicates that both of you begin to act like children. The way to win her respect is to remain an adult in your response. i.e. don't fall into the children fighting pattern. Do not respond to her statements, questions. Instead tell her that the subject is not open for discussion and then stop. If you have to, and I frequently do have to in similar situations, leave the room. Do whatever you have to do to not respond to her statements.

Remember that you are the parent and do not have to respond to everything she says to you. Maintain your cool. It will be difficult because you've developed a pattern of fighting. Do not fight, ever. Talk to yourself, reminding yourself as she begins her comments. Tell her to stop. If she doesn't, you leave the room. Do not allow her to intrude on your life, except in ways that you're willing to be involved.

You can do her laundry if you want to do it. But do not do it if it feels like an imposition. When you do it anyway you're developing bad feelings that come out in other situations. It's much easier to argue with her when you're already feeling angry or put upon by other things.

Pick her up and take her to the airport when it's convenient. Allow her to find other transportation when it's not. Maintain your own life separate from hers.

It's all a matter of boundaries. She's crossing yours and you're allowing her to do so when you argue with her. Remind yourself of where your boundaries lie and you stick with them. Don't cross them yourself by giving her comments credence. You're doing that when you reply.

I've been thru this with my daughter and now at times with my granddaughter. We do teach them how to treat us by the way we respond or don't respond to them. At first I had a difficult time with my daughter because I wanted to convince her I was the mother. I finally learned that I can only influence how she treats me by responding in a manner that shows that I am the mother. I cannot verbally convince her of anything. When she criticized me for what I had or hadn't done, I learned to just stare back and not say anything at all. At first I had to leave her house. Now, I can change the subject and we can bypass the argument. We are two separate people who have a right to our own beliefs about certain situations. We don't have to convince the other one that we're right or that they're wrong. The situation is what it is. If it's about going out of town with a friend, my answer would be a mild, even somewhat friendly response of "it's none of your business." and then on to another subject or to another room.

It does take time to get comfortable with this way of acting but it will eventually be second nature and she'll eventually stop trying to bait you. You have to make a concerted effort to be consistent in not responding to her.

Once yelling or screaming starts, it's out the door I go. Keep your cool. Never yell back.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I like Laurie A's advice.


Your daughter, is LUCKY, to have a Mom like you.
She better start to appreciate that.
You care about her.
Not all parents are so nice.

Next, she is 20.
Don't do these things for her.
Just stop.
She has an attitude of 'entitlement.' And this is learned.
Undoing it, is learned as well. And will not be pleasant.
But if she does not learn how now, it will get worse.
One day she will not have you or Dad to fend for her.
That will be a rude awakening for her.

I have a sibling that was so arrogant like your daughter.
One day, my Dad died.
Only then, did she learn to appreciate her family and parents.
That is a hard lesson.

Parents are not there forever. They have lives too.
And responsibilities for their own roof over their heads.
Teach her that.
Show her that.
Tell her, ALL that an ADULT does and is responsible for daily SURVIVAL.

SHOW her, all the BILLS you/Dad have to pay, daily.
SHOW her how much all of this costs, in money and in sweat and work.
SHOW her, reality.
SHOW her, life.
SHOW her, what goes on behind the scenes, for ALL that you have to do for HER survival.
Don't be afraid, to show her, these things. These aspects of LIFE and surviving.

My kids are 4 an 8. And I explain these things and show them these things, already.

Tell her to grow up, she is engaged already.
If she wants to be grown-up, then act like it.
Or she will be a childish Wife and Bride. And high maintenance for her Husband.
She is 20.

Tell her to get a JOB.

You don't make her understand her attitude is disrespectful, you TELL her that.
Over and over, if you have to.

Is she really ready to get married?
She can't manage herself.

Example: she came back home because she didn't like the food or room-mate situations.
Ahem. That is really a lame excuse.
That is college life. There are room-mates. There is school food.
That is just the way it is.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

Have you asked her what her problem is?

Ask her why she thinks she has a right to yell at you?

Ask her if she screams at her friends or allows them to scream at her?

Let he know you will no longer tolerate her treatment of you and if she cannot control her outburst, she needs to go to a doctor and find out what her problem is or be prepared to pack up and leave at the end of this semester.

Tell her No more screaming or disrespect will be allowed in your home towards you or anyone else in your home..

She is an adult and thus needs to act like an adult.

Even if she gets a room mate, they also will not tolerate those behaviors.

She could be pms ing enough that she may need to get on some meds hormones can reek havoc on behaviors and can go into aggressiveness, especially younger women.

Even in a dorm my daughter says they can all tell when they are about to start.. tempers get shorter, so they give each other warnings. Our daughter and I can get a little snippy with each other, but we have learned to say.. "Watch out, I am not in a good mood right now".. Or, "I am really not having a good emotional day" "I am on edge."

Remind her she can go to her room to calm down, she can go for a walk and she can take a nap. These are some coping skills.

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answers from Denver on

What is the underlying issue that is driving her behavior? Is she feeling unheard? Does she want/need more freedom about her decisions? Is she feeling trapped? Is she stressed about school and hitting feelings of "not good enough" or feeling fearful about failing? Is she hurt or upset by something between the two of you? Is it true that she "shouldn't" be disrespectful? What does it mean to you if she is "disrespectful"? What thoughts get in your way of setting boundaries with her? Do you guys have the proper communication tools to really hear each other and be heard?

Understanding what the underlying issues are will be key to finding a solution. There are some simple boundary skills that you can use when you are in the middle of things. You can simply walk away. You can make an agreement when you are both calm and in good moods, that you will each walk away when it is heated and come back together at another time to address the issue. You can get support for yourself to find what your underlying issues are and why it is so painful for you.

Do you have other areas of your life in which people seem to cross your boundaries when they are upset? Did you grow up in a home where there was a lot of verbal venting? Do you have a belief system that people shouldn't be angry or they shouldn't express their anger? Were you raised to be a people pleaser?

Does your daughter have any alternative ways to express her frustrations and anger such as journaling, shredding an old phone book, venting with a friend, etc.? Could your daughter talk to a counselor at school or some other professional to help her figure out what is stressing and angering her?

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answers from Detroit on

Amy hit the nail on the head,foot and tail!!!! you are supposed to learn to appreciate and be more respectful to your parents as you get older not the other way around. if she can't control her self when you guys are totally in agreement then it;s time for her to go. she has to learn that when you are in someone elses home you have to basically kiss some behind sometimes and act like you have some sense. so if she can't talk to like you are her mother then she needs to move out. plain and simple. still help her,love her, guide but she neds to go or get it together while she is in your house! best wishes!

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answers from Biloxi on

My father always told us that we were welcome to live at home for as long we wanted *but* we had to live by house rules. As we got older rules changed - i.e. curfews became non-existent once we crossed into our 20s, but courtesy remained - he asked that we call if we were not coming home so he would not stay up all night waiting for us. While we were in college he would not accept any money from us - so we "sneaked" groceries into the house before he made his weekly list and we literally stuck money in his wallet - it became a game. We did pay for our own college, tho' he helped as he could.

But we always understood how fortunate we were that our Father was willing to let us, as adult children, live at home. But we also understood that there were certain rules and expectations - we did our own laundry, we cleaned our spaces and the common spaces, we helped with yard work, we followed his rules while under his roof. I had it soooo much easier than many of my friends who were "put out" upon high school graduation, worked full time, paid their tuition, and attended college full time.

Your daughter is 20 - you are providing everything for her - I think she should treat you with greater respect. I know I may go against the grain here - but I think you need to set some rules and expectations, pick a calm, quiet time, sit down with her and go over the new rules with her. There must be consequences for bad behavior whether our children be 2 or 20. You need to let her know what the boundaries and expectations are. She does the have the option of moving out and paying her own way. Set consequences for her and stick to them.

My son is 14 - he went through a phase last month wherein he thought he could speak any which way to me, ignore his household responsibilities, his school responsibilities, and was behaving in a contemptuous, hateful manner. I sat him down, went back over the rules, explained that I had made a personal commitment years ago to never be yelled at, disrespected, or abused in my own home. I told him if could not live by those rules he was free to live elsewhere (his father's being an option). AND I meant it. He knew it - his attitude improved. I never make a threat that I will not follow through and he knows that.

You are not being unreasonable - you do not have to answer to a 20 year old whom you are providing everything for. Shame on her for her behavior.

You sound like a terrific Mom who is doing everything possible to help her daughter have a secure future. I wish you luck.

God Bless

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answers from Baton Rouge on

Tell her that it's time she found her own place to live, because you will not be treated that way in your own home.

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answers from Providence on

Hi L.,
I recommend the book Parenting Teens with Love and Logic. Although your daughter is chronologically out of her teen years, she is still acting like one. This book will give you ideas about what YOU will do, not what your daughter should do. It will empower you to not psycho-analyze why your daughter does what she does and feels OK with that, but how to have open communication and dignity so the mutual respect follows naturally. The book comes in CD form because I rarely have time to sit and read! I listen to it in the car all the time! You can skip around to the sections that are most relevant to your needs. It will be the best $$ spent. I wish I got commission! You can also visit the website at loveandlogoic.com Good luck! Help her now so she and her fiance stand a chance in communicating effectively with each other!

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answers from Kansas City on

um...20 is an adult. i would not allow ANYone to speak to me that way, especially an adult i had given birth to, and was currently handing all you are handing her, free of charge. i say it's time for a heart to heart. if she can't be respectful, she CAN leave. you don't have to put up with that. pick a time when she has decided she will be decent to you, and have a good deep talk with her. find out what the story is. because i'm sorry, in the real world you don't get to butt into others' business and call people liars over the least little thing you don't like. either these are discipline/respect issues starting from her early childhood (have you always allowed her to treat you this way?) OR there is something majorly going on with her and she needs help. her treating you like that is not okay, but it's also not a normal reaction from a well adjusted, content person.

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answers from Topeka on

If and when you get the answer to this...please PLEASE share it with me!! I am the mother of 3 grown daughters...and the youngest one, who is a professor at a major university can sometimes be so sweet and loving towards me...and always says how much she appreciates me...what a great Mom I am...etc etc...and then she can turn on a dime and be so sarcastic and condescending to me....it is like I am dealing with 2 different people!!!
The only thing I can tell you is to try and keep a cool head, don't mirror her reactions...don't scream and yell and curse along with her....model the behavior that you would like for her to be displaying. As I have always told my daughters...we can't be responsible for OTHERS' actions...we have enough trouble being responsible for our own actions!!
I will be interested in reading what the other Mama's have to say to this issue.
Good luck...and know that you are not alone!!

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answers from New York on

You have to remind her that it is you who is providing a roof over her head, it is you that is putting food in her mouth, and it is you who is allowing her to speak to you in a manner that is disrespectful. She is an adult now, so you should treat her as such. Give her a choice, either she starts treating you like her mother and not some girl on the street, or she will have to find another place to rest her head. I'm sure she'll think twice before she decides to disrespect you again.

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answers from Boston on

You have some great responses here. I think it's fascinating that she couldn't manage with the food and a roommate at college, but she's back letting you wait on her, and she criticizes you as well. She sounds very immature and perhaps a little spoiled. I know you are trying to help her out, but you actually aren't helping her by enabling her to act like a child. How is she going to handle marriage if she cannot work cooperatively or handle disagreements?

My son started doing his own laundry when he was 16, and while I would occasionally throw in a shirt or two if I had room in a washload, I didn't help him out by handling all his tasks as well as all his expenses. Your daughter should be making good grades for her OWN sake, not so that you will do her chores.

You can show her your bills, and you should. She needs to learn how to manage a household if she's going to be married. She needs to learn how to do a budget. I would structure it so that you are teaching her a life skill rather than tooting your own horn, but she needs to learn about real costs of living, about hidden costs, about the unseen things like utilities and taxes.

She also needs to act like a grown-up, and stop having outbursts when she doesn't get her way. Why she would blow up about your weekend is beyond me - unless she thinks she is top priority and, with you away, no one is there to wait on her. So I do think a medical evaluation about her moods is advisable just to rule out any treatable issues, and I think either some family counseling or a hard line on your part are indicated. The only way to make her realize it is unacceptable is to stop accepting it.

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answers from Hartford on

She sounds a bit spoiled even if she's pulling good grades. If I were the giving-the-benefit-of-the-doubt state of mind I might say that she's taking out her stress from college out on you knowing that no matter what you're going to love her unconditionally and that you won't kick her out.

Speaking to you that way is disrespectful. She probably wouldn't speak to her friends that way and she wouldn't speak to anyone else that way either... she knows how to control her language and her temper around other people which means she also knows how to control it around you. But it's not all her fault since we teach people how to treat us. If you allow the behavior then it's going to continue.

I would sit down with her and speak to her like an adult and tell her that when she has a problem or concern she's always welcome to talk to you but you expect to sit down and have a discussion. As soon as a discussion escalates to yelling, the plan is to walk away and to only come back to the table when you can both do so calmly and respectfully. You both must take turns speaking, and you must both listen to each other speak. If she has issues with how you're choosing to live your life, hear her out and if she's making valid points then acknowledge it. That doesn't mean you have to live according to her wants. :-) But you need to make sure you're turn taking when you speak, and making sure you're hearing each other and understanding each other.

Neither of you should be going into a discussion with the intent to change the other person's mind either. The intent should only be to get the other person to understand your point of view. The instant the discussion becomes disrespectful, shut it down and tell her that you'll come back to it later when things have calmed down. Even if the only thing you need to say to her is that you're an adult that doesn't need her permission to make your own decisions, make sure you're calm and respectful about it. Be an example to her as to how you expect her to behave while in your home.

If she can't be respectful and this is more than a bad habit, then you may have to take away privileges she has from living at home. Don't do her laundry. Ask her to cook meals for the family. Make her take responsibility around the house. Just because she's a student that doesn't mean she shouldn't or can't have other responsibilities on top of it.

Next question: My Son Is 18 and He Thinnks He Can Do Whatever He Wants.