Help for a Mom of a Unruly 18 Year Old Daughter

Updated on June 27, 2018
N.L. asks from Fresno, CA
10 answers

Hello to all you mommas out there. I have an 18 year old daughter who is 2 months from turning 19. Since elementary school and up until high school, she was a scholar student and star athlete. She was valedictorian and got accepted into every school she applied to. She attended a local State University and it seemed to be too drastic of a change for her so she transferred after her first semester, to a community college where a few of her girlfriends from high school were attending.I was fearful because I actually wanted her to get away for school so she wouldn't stay "stuck" in our hometown with the same girls.

Anyhow, she has recently quit her job of 2 years, she's been smoking pot for the past year, and I don't see that "go getter" personality in her anymore. She has been staying out a lot and staying with her girlfriends every other day. Last week I finally told her that she needed to stay home for a change and told her she could not stay the night with her friend. She deliberately got up (after being gone all day) and grabbed her car keys and left. I later that night went to her friends house with my spare key to the car that I bought her so she can go to school and work, and took the car from her. She became extremely upset. I reminded her that since she isn't doing either, she has not need for a car at the moment.

This all took place on a Monday and she had not been home since. Finally Friday comes around and she comes over to our house to pick up more items of hers. She showed no remorse and had attitude and asked me for her car back. When I said, "no you cannot have the car back until you work or return to school", she became angry and went into our garage and told me she was taking HER car! She locked herself in the car and began yelling at me to move our other vehicles from the drive way so she could leave. She became extremely irate and even tried to ram our other vehicles. Luckily she barely nipped one of them. She was refusing to listen to her step dad or myself.

I had to get police involved to try to keep the peace. She refused to get out of the car even for them. The officer finally told her if she did not step out of the car, he would break the window, pull her from the window and take the keys from her. She did exit the car and turned screaming at me and said she hoped I'd die and go to hell and other stronger words. I have never seen her this way. It kills me to see her go from house to house with her friends after she has had a good home. I did buy her that car because I had promised her if she kept up with her outstanding grades in high school, I'd get her a car for her senior year, however she is not working or going to school (until the fall semester) and I feel like she's acting reckless lately and very disrespectful...... Any suggestions? I don't know where I went wrong :(

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answers from New York on

I think a big old dose of reality is about due here. Who knows why the train went off the tracks? Honestly, fix the problem, not the blame.

Your daughter is an adult (even if she is acting like a child). Time for some adult rules and also adult treatment. I don't know about you, but as an adult I don't get anything for free. Not one single thing. I don't get a car or car insurance for free, I don't get a place to live for free, and I don't get a cell phone for free. If she isn't working, you must be paying for all of these things. Stop. Today. Sell the car, shut off the phone, change the locks.

The one big mistake you are making is arguing and engaging in the "war" she is trying to start. I never yell, never act angry, I always maintain complete control when my kids are acting bonkers. Engaging always leads to episodes where the police need to be called in for help. When she was trying to get the car out of the driveway, why didn't you just walk away? Do you really think she would have sat in the car and screamed without an audience?

Good luck.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Miami on

You didn't do anything wrong. She has gone into a place with friends and drugs that most kids with her abilities don't go.

Tough love is called for now. You said you bought her the car. Is it in her name? If it is, perhaps you can't keep it from her. Maybe you need to talk to a lawyer about it. If it's in your name, it doesn't matter what she wants.

Change the locks on the house so that she can't come in and ransack your house. Don't allow her to come back and stay until she has come to the understanding that she cannot treat you this way and live in your home. In order to have the use of the car, she must pay for the insurance, gas, she has to pay for her cell phone, she has to pay for everything. Of course, keep her on the medical insurance (you don't need to bring that up with her). She can hate you all she wants right now, while she's tokin' up and doing nothing with her girlfriends. They can feed her. When their parents throw her out and she realizes that she has no help, then she can figure out how come back to you. You make the rules in your house. Those rules include cleaning, paying her own car expenses and insurance and treating you like human beings.

Until she figures this out, don't support her.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

You didn't go wrong. Some lessons have to be learned as an adult. I strongly suggest you find a way to let go of the guilt. You have done your job as a parent. Now it's time to let go so she can find a way to grow up.

You no longer have legal and social responsibility for your daughter. That is hard to hear and even harder to let go.

I talked with a counselor to learn how to deal with an adult child living on my home. My nearly 18 yo granddaughter has been living with me for 3 years. I worry about health issues. Her health is her responsibility.

Parent's have to let go to allow their child learn from their experience. We're entering a different stage of life. It's hard for parent and child to change, to let go of our power and for the teen to realize that they have more responsibility. As a parent of an adult teen, we can require that they follow house rules. House rules are what occurs in our house and to us.

I suggest your daughter is rebelling in an attempt to separate from her parents and to see where the boundaries are. This is a necessary step on the way growing up. You're in a power struggle with her. As we learned during their time as a toddler and again when they were in early teens, everybody loses. Their are no winners.

Your daughter's anger will increase as your anger increases. My daughter and I struggled for several years to find a balance. When she was 20 she had a baby. Even tho she had her own home, I still thought it was my responsibility to continue teaching her. We often fought interspaced with hernot talking with me. Gradually I was ableto let go. Both ofus were I counseling to get help getting past our anger. Before baby was born I told herthat she had to move out and begin her family. she was relieved and immediately moved out.

I suggest that when we as parents, frustrated and still feeling responsibility, get angry on an attempt to prove that we can see the kids making poor decisions and feel responsible for getting them back to what we feel they should do.

Once our child is 18, we have to let them learn the hard way. It's time to be adult and let go. It's time to accept we've done our job raising our child. To accept that the only thing over which we have control is ourselves and our home.

I found that once I nearly completely stopped trying to control my daughter and now my granddaughter, they were respectful and did follow the few rules I'd made they stopped rebelling and even asked me for my opinion now and then. When I walked away and didn't tell they eventually stopped yelling. We dohave a choice to fight or not fight. When parent's fight with their kids we are unconsciously telling them it's ok to fight.

I suggest by respecting ourselves by not fighting and respecting our child's right to own their own life, we are showing them how to respect.

There is a way to respect each other so that both the parent and the teen can work together to problem solve.

I suggest you look up the web Site for "Nonviolent Communication." I've found "Parenting With Love and Logic" useful in all relationships.
They also have a web site.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I think it's out of your hands if she's 18. You can control what you pay for only, so you can cancel her car insurance and take the plates off, for example. I don't know whose name the car is in, but if it's in her name, it's hers. You can cancel her cell phone if you pay that, her internet/WiFi and so on. If she has a debit card attached to your bank account, cancel that. You can control what goes on in your house - so if she isn't paying rent, she has no rights there. What you can't do is go to her friend's house and tell her she can't stay there, she has to come home "for a change." She's 18 and can go where she wants. You can kick her out of your home if you want to, but you have to change the locks and the alarm system security code if you have one. If her car has a garage door opener, either take the remote or, if it's built-in, change the garage door code. If you think she's going to be violent, you can take out a restraining order. You can stop paying any college tuition and figure out if you need to work on getting her to pay back what you already spent.

You might consider something in between though, such as a contract between all the adults (you and your daughter, mainly, since her stepdad has limited say over her and only has say over what goes on in his home). It would include your requirements for work/school, some measure of her participation (paying some rent, paying her phone bill, etc.) and a strict no drug policy. In some cases, this drives the kid away (for a short or a long time, depends) and in some cases, it wakes them up to the reality of the world and that nothing is free. It depends on what your discussions and agreements have been all along.

A lot of parents "go wrong" when they ignore the early signs, like dipping grades and smoking pot/doing drugs. Sometimes they miss the signs of depression or other psychological issues. And sometimes these things occur when the college student goes off to college and you couldn't possibly have seen it. Sometimes parents just don't realize that they didn't really teach their kids life skills, and I don't know whether you did or didn't. If you didn't, that's on you. If she's doing drugs, that's on her.

Can you get a mediator in a counselor and tell your daughter you're cutting her off financially unless she goes with you to a professional to work out compromises and responsibilities?

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

welcome to mamapedia, Normie.

PLEASE use paragraphs! I know I'm missing some of your story. I would hate to have to copy and paste just to be able to read it.

Your daughter is a legal adult. Time for tough love.

Tell her she has 30 days or however long you feel it will be (45?) to find her own apartment and be responsible for herself.

Let her go and leave the nest.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

If the car isn't in her name, you take it away. She doesn't get to have the gift of a car from you and act like this. Take both sets of keys if you can get her set.
Park the car somewhere else.

Sounds like she needs to learn some hard lessons.
She's 18, she needs to be responsible. She needs have a job or go to school or both. She could go to community college AND have a part time job.
Her behavior is out of control. Don't engage. Lay out the rules, set the boundaries (everyone needs them), take the car away, tell her she needs to get a job & you won't allow drugs in your home. She is out of control ("ramming other cars" & "not getting out of the car with the police officer there").

5 moms found this helpful


answers from San Antonio on

The horse has left the barn on parenting a 19 year old. From here on out you can council and offer assistance to them if they hold up their end of whatever deal you might seem fit to offer them. Or they can choose to do it on their own.

My parents were paying for my college and had gotten me a car (they kept it in their name and later my dad sold it to me for like 10 dollars when I graduated college). I knew what side my bread was buttered on so to say...I had it really good. Keep up my grades, work a part time job for extra spending money, and go to school so I could support myself with a better job in four years. I was living away from home so I had the freedom of an adult without all of the responsibilities at once. They came on slow if I wanted to buy things or have things like a tv or once I bought myself a tv, cable. I had to pay for it, the bill arrived once a month and I wrote a check and mailed it back. I learned how to pay my own bills. Yes, I am dating myself but my first adult bill was my cable bill. (If we had had cell phones I bet it would have been that.)

It sounds like your daughter just needs a good reality check. Change the locks, lock up the car, turn off her phone, and anything else you pay for that she is using. Sit down and plan out a head of time the things you are still willing to do for her IF she follows through on her end with something to "pay" you for it. Grades, actual money, time, etc. etc.

Then when she calls and she with her calmly and discuss her future. Getting herself a job...will she go back to school and what does she plan on doing if she gets a degree...will she live at home (if so at first without a key to the door until she earns one back)...all the steps to being a self sufficient woman.

If she lives at home you can't choose her hours but she can be respectful and tell you where she is going, who she will be with and when she will be home (even if it is the next day, if that is okay with your house rules). My parents always said they wanted to know where to start looking for my body...I thought they were joking now I realize in today's world they might have actually been correct about that. Good luck!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Norfolk on

Sell the car.
Put the money aside for future in case she turns herself around and wants to go to school again.

You can do absolutely everything right - and kids will do what they want to do anyway.
My sister and I were raised in same house/same rules - we're different as day and night.
A piano teacher we had growing up had 6 kids - 3 graduated with honors, did college, do great as adults - 3 got into drugs and had many issues.
I'm not sure if they are homeless or if rehab eventually worked.
The mom considers she had a %50 success rate.

Your daughter has some hard lessons to learn - and you can't do anything for her until she's learned them the hard way.
She may or may not move back home.
I suggest that the most you do for her until she gets her head screwed on straight is to send her a few groceries from time to time - something to eat otherwise any money you send her way would go to drugs.
Get some counseling on how to deal with your situation.
My mom had to do it for my sister.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Philadelphia on

This is a bit of a mixed up answer, but I think I'm saying all I want to say. I had a friend who acted like this in high school. She was a superstar in everything, valedictorian, straight-As, team captains,accepted into universities, so her parents got her a car and everything, then she dropped out of university and crashed. She is a really nice person, and everyone liked her a lot. She is a receptionist now, and she is happy. She has a wonderful family. That is all excellent. In hindsight, and with my kids, I never rewarded them that much for anything wonderful because I was always worried I would want to take back that reward someday during a fight. I know I gave things to my kids and there was always the idea that there were strings attached and I did not like that. Hence, you may want to take back the car, and maybe she sees it as something she is entitled to and something she's earned. So, let her keep it but she has to pay for upkeep, insurance, gas, parking, and everything on her own someday and she has to find a place to live, and pay for food, and life for herself. Your daughter needs you around and she also needs to realize she accomplished so much because of your support so tell her to say thank you to you. Maybe she no longer wants all that pressure to succeed. That is okay, everyone is different. Tell her that she's gotta do what she's gotta do in order to do what she wants to do, however. That means, no drugs, work hard, go to a good school or get a good job. It is frightening to witness this, but she has to do it for herself. You can only take her so far, but she has to take charge of what she wants to do before she gets in real trouble. Provide opportunities like volunteering, jobs and courses for her to take. Be really careful about what is said around her, be encouraging, compassionate and remember that she can change. Do not take anything she says personally. You did a wonderful job getting to where she is. It is not your fault. Stick with her and cheer her on. Good luck



answers from Binghamton on

I can't help but wonder if something harmful happened to her that she hasn't felt able to talk about. Sudden personality changes can come from trauma, and she sounds pretty angry at the world right now. And I can't help but wonder if there is much more than pot going on here too. The whole police incident has probably closed the communication channels for now, but see what you can do to open them back up. There might be something significant behind her anger right now that needs to be looked at, but you will only find out if you can listen without judgement and get her to open up. I have no idea what her relationship to her stepfather has been, but this will probably work best one-on-one. She is 19 - you can't decide what she does with her life, but you can decide if she can stay in your house or whether to provide her with a car. If you can make that clear without a threat - just as a logical consequence of her behaviour and not a punishment, you will probably get much further. Good luck!

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