I Am So Sad. My Daughter Not Making Good Choices

Updated on May 28, 2016
S.R. asks from Kansas City, MO
14 answers

Last March my then 17 year old daughter started dating a guy a year older than her but two grade years ahead of her. We were unsure at first but decided to support it as we didnt want her sneaking around and lying about where she was. She turned 18 in September of 2015 and ever since then making not so good choices. The BF snuck her out of the house in the middle of the night and tried to get her to agree to move in with him. She came home after persuasion by her dad that this was not a good choice. We talked to both of them, said that our daughter was still in high school and she could not move out with her BF. (the mom of the BF intervened as well, his mom told him to bring our daughter back home). A few months go by and she starts threatening to move out, gets mad when we don't allow them to spend time together but deals with it. In February, his mom called me and asked why we were telling her son he was not good and healthy for our daughter. I reassured her that we said the relationship was not healthy as they were spending 7 days a week together for months and we finally had to put a stop to that. His mom and I agreed that these kids were trying to play us against each other to get their way. It has been a horrible living situation as my daughter and i have been fighting about this boy. Apparantlely he has been telling her she needs to chose, either her family or him. He does not let her talk to her guy friends and now won't let her talk to her gay guy friends. He is very controlling and gets very upset when she doesnt do what he tells her. Her dad and I try our best to tell her this is not healthy and she needs to break it off with him, but she won't. The worst thing has happened. She has moved out. I am so sad. She has been accepted to a University for college and now she is turning that down. She said that she is going to a local Community College and continue living with this boy. Her dad and I had to get tough and we told her if she is leaving she is going to leave without her car. She took her clothes and now we are unsure what her plans are. We know we do not have control and I know this kind of story happens all to often but i am at a loss of what i should do. Should I just leave her alone and let her figure out this guy is no good or do i beg her to come home? I know she is not happy here as she has rules and she doesn't want them. We are very good parents and have always supported her and loved her. Now of course she is turning the tables on us and saying we dont love her and we dont support her which is not true. I tried to tell her last week that the situation with her controlling boyfriend will only get worse, but she doesnt care. All she cares about is him. I heard him yelling at her on the phone once saying JUST LEAVE, JUST LEAVE. He was mad because that week she had gotten into trouble for talking back to me and not doing her chores, so we told her that the rest of the week she couldnt go anywhere. I need some advice on what to do. I know if i call her i might just push her closer to him. help! Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for the words of advice. It is hard for me to hear that i really have no control at this point but i think i needed to hear that from people that dont know me or my situation. She has been paying for her own BC for the last year so hopefully she continues to be SMART in that department. You are right, at least she is going to college, however i wonder how long that will last. And yes the same thing we told her is that his abuse will get worse and hopefully he doesnt ever lay a hand on her because if he does, i am afraid she will continue to stay. Her life now.... thank you all! I am one very sad mom......

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answers from Anchorage on

You pushed her away by trying to control her life and not respecting that she has to make her own way. Apologize and let her know that she is welcome to come back when and if she wants to, and then try to support her as best you can. If the relationship ends up being as controlling and abusive as you fear she is going to need you.

7 moms found this helpful

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answers from Portland on

As long as she is focusing on you 'being controlling' (I'm not saying you are, I'm using this loosely), she is not going to see him for who he is.

That said, if she's 18, 'talking back' has to be treated differently at this age than you treated it when she was 12. You grounded an 18 year old, college-aged person? I mean, you aren't giving her any reason to stay, you know? How do you respond when she does this? Is it a parent/child dynamic, or are you making an effort to treat her more like the mature adult you want her to be?

I guess what I'm wondering is, in such a tenuous situation with the boyfriend, did you leave room for her to come back? I'm not talking about physical room, but emotional room? If it were me, I'd really try to rebuild the bridge. If she complained about the boyfriend, I'd say "I don't know if I'm the person who should give you advice about this, but I'll be happy to help you find a counselor. I think they could see your perspective better than I can right now." In this way, all those red flags and warning signs would be pointed out by a non-invested, neutral third party.

My sister took off when she was young and it was heartbreaking. Then again, my mom only upped the ante and made it really hard for her to feel emotionally safe to return. If we want them to make adult decisions, we have to start treating them like adults to a degree. In my sister's case, I think this contributed in part to some 'later down the line' bad decisions which were a direct consequence of not having the support she needed earlier. Kids find ways to get their needs met, even if they aren't the healthiest ways. Try to find a way to give her some space, offer support (counseling, not even for you two, just for her, you can and likely should go on your own or with your husband as well, to learn how to renegotiate boundaries now that she's older) and find a way to let her be able to see her own situation without judgment from you.

13 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on


You do a 180 on your behavior with her (I know how hard this will be so get a good trustworthy support network).

"Ok, honey you are an adult and I support your decision to be on your own"
And then do. No more negative talk about BF, college, bad decisions, etc.
Start accepting the BF as if he were a close friend. As others have mentioned invite them over for dinner, BBQ, family game night.

Practice saying "huh", "wow", "ok", "I'm not sure" for when she tells you things and your only response is negative until you build the relationship up. As it gets better you can add in "that must be hard",etc where you validate her feelings *without* giving your opinion or advice. Keep the door of communication open with her so that you have a window to their relationship.

The less tension and dramatic energy she gets from you and your husband the clearer she will see this boy. That is the long term goal here. Once she sees what he is really doing she will need your support to put her life back together.

I think you've gotten great advice so far.
Keep us posted, and stay strong ( and silent).

12 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

I like Nervy's advice.

I went off with a really bad choice at 18. I dropped out of college shortly after and made one bad decision after another. He wasn't trying to get me to turn on my family - so much as my life. And I was perfectly willing to do so.

When I look back on it now, I don't get what was so wrong with my life that I felt the need to drop everything for this guy. But I wasn't happy. I also had low self esteem. Somehow being so important to a guy made me feel special. But it was unhealthy.

That's why I like Nervy's advice. Just keep that emotional safety net there. I eventually needed it - when I decided I wanted something better. When my mom saw signs of that she said "You deserve more" at the right time. It sunk in. It was kind of empowering rather than disapproving. If that makes sense.

I don't know if you can offer some therapy sessions to her without her being offended. But if she says "you don't love me" or "you don't support me" - and pushes you away, you could say that right now you don't feel you're connecting as well as you'd like. If she'd like to talk to someone, you could arrange it. Just for them to listen. I would have really benefited from that - but I'm not sure I would have been open to it at that age.

Does she have an aunt or older cousin or family friend? she could talk to? I had an aunt. Who was just a friend to me. That's another route.

Hugs to you. It must be very hard. I'm sure I gave my mother her grey hair. Just keep letting her know you love her :)

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

You're trying to control your daughter still. You're not allowing her to make decisions on her own.

You need to tell her that you don't always approve of her choices, but they are hers to make and you support her. You tell her that the door is always open. Just like "isn't this fun" stated, you let her know you are there for her.

When she realizes that he's not all that and wants to come home? You do NOT tell her "I'm so glad you see the mistake you made". This is NOT your place. Your place is to support her and guide her. NOT control her. You might not see what you are doing as control, but you are.

I would be VERY gentle in telling my daughter that LOVE does NOT make you choose. Love accepts all. You don't want to push her even FURTHER into his arms. I love the idea of taking her to a battered women's shelter so the women can tell their stories to her. She needs to hear it from someone other than you.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

So easy to sit on this side of the computer screen and say this to someone else.

But, really, you can't do anything. Except tell her that when she decides differently, she is welcome to come home. It is one thing to tell her there are rules in your home and that if she doesn't like it, too bad. So she leaves. Your attitude can be either "see ya" or "I wish this wasn't the choice you were making, but it is your choice. If you change your mind, we are here, always."

And it is imperative that she knows this. You don't have to agree with her choices, or support her making those choices. But you do need to be sure she knows that you support HER and want what is best for her. At this time, you have a different opinion about what that is. If she decides that living with her boyfriend isn't all that she thought it would be cracked up to be, she is welcome to come home. Call. Anytime day or night and you will come get her if she wants. Without judgment.

Eventually, she may come to realize that she maybe made a mistake. But I would try to refrain from using that word. Just that she learned something, and is moving on. She can come visit, and please do! You want to keep the lines communication open and not give her boyfriend an *angle* to use to turn her against you. She's an adult. Treat her like your adult child. "We're having dinner at 6:00 on Sunday, if you and BF would like to join us. Just let me know so I meal prep for the right # of people." You don't have to like the BF. But if you are mean to him or cut him out or try to pull her away from him, it will backfire. Be super nice and willing to engage, so that when he tells her no, eventually she will question why he doesn't want her to see her family. Don't give him any reason to use to justify avoiding you.

Some things can't be learned just by being told to you.
Good luck.

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Honolulu on

I'm so sorry. This must be so difficult.

Just keep the lines of communication open, send her reminders that you love her (little texts every once in a while that just say something light, or flowers on her birthday, or cookies during finals week).

And if she does ever open up, if during a particularly difficult time she says something like "Mom, he won't let me talk to my old friend", don't say anything like "I knew this would happen" or "didn't we tell you" or anything like that. Empathize. Say "oh, your old friend Danny? He was so funny that time that we all went to the ball game, wasn't he? He has always been a very caring friend to you" or something that shows that you are available for non-confrontational talk.

I hope she finds her strength.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Santa Fe on

I'm sorry...this must be so hard for you. You have to realize she is now an 18 year old adult and is living on her own and making her own choices. She is taking college classes at least. Honestly, instead of being critical of her boyfriend and her I think you should give her space. When you do talk to her try to keep it light...do something fun together. Tell her you love her. Do something nice for her. But mostly give her space. Let her make her own mistakes and grow. The most important thing for her right now really is figuring out her dreams in life...what does she want to do? Where does she want to go? She is at the age where she should start thinking of what she wants in life. Travel, writing, the peace corps, art, biology, ecology, helping people, making things, cooking. Many of us made some pretty bad choices at age 18...I had a terrible boyfriend then. I moved to Alaska a few years later and I did not tell my mom about some of things I was doing because she would not have approved. Encourage your daughter to spend time with friends. To travel. To dream. To work interesting jobs and to try to find her passion. Try not to focus on her boyfriend so much. The more you try to pull her away and be disapproving the more she will probably cling to him.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Have you ever tried gushing over him?? Use reverse psychology....yes. It will be hard. Especially when you see him as a threat to your daughter's well being. However, most girls will turn away from the guys that their parents are gushing over. Will they wonder why? Just say - well - we don't like your choice - but you obviously love him - so we do too....invite them over...have dinner...be nice...be loving....she'll start to see him for what he really is.....

Why is his mom allowing them to live together in her home? What are her rules? How does HIS dad treat his mother? Have you sat down with his family to figure out what they feel is going on?

Have you thought about taking your daughter to a shelter of battered women and have them tell her how their "perfect" boyfriend or husband controlled them?? What happened to them??

You need to keep the lines of communication open. You may not like her choices, but you still love her. She needs to know this. DO NOT shut her out. DO NOT tell her that she is not welcome in your home. Let her know that your love is unconditional. You are there for her 24 hours a day. And mean it. When she finally does wake up? You do NOT tell her anything nasty about him. Don't say I told you so. Let her talk and validate her feelings. DO NOT alienate her.

6 moms found this helpful


answers from Beaumont on

I am so sorry. I know you are heartbroken. Sadly, your days of influence over her are minimal now. Not sure what you can do. I'd make sure she knows how much you guys love her and that you will always be there for her. Other than that, you have to cut her loose or you could lose her forever. Huge hugs. Hang in there, she'll be back but be sure and keep the lines of communication open!!!

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

So, she's 18 and there is legally nothing you can do about her moving out? So make her home life more like she's an adult and maybe she'll stay. Then when this relationship progresses or breaks up you can be there to catch the pieces and help her learn from her mistakes.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Baton Rouge on

She's 18. She's got a place of her own. Her call.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

She's almost 19, right? You have to let her make her mistakes. I can't imagine how hard it is as a parent to watch this, but you cannot control her. The more you try, the more she will pull away. Do you remember being her age? It's a battle of trying to become an adult with full on responsibilities...don't fight her on it.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

Hi S. - I've been down this road so I know your pain and yes - there is something you can do - pray for her. Prayer is powerful and right now that is all you can do.

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