Q: What can we reasonably expect of our 18-year-old daughter when she comes home on weekends from her summer job? She usually heads straight to her boyfriend’s family’s home and rolls in around 3 a.m. We’d love to have a family meal with her. Do we say, “Dinner is at 6 o’clock and it would mean a lot to us if you’d join us,” and let it go at that, or should we insist that she have at least one evening meal with us? Finally, she comes through like a hurricane, runs around seeing all her friends, and departs leaving her room a mess — dirty clothes on the floor, items that could pose a danger to our dog, and basically inconsiderate all around. We’ve spoken to her, but it’s gone in one ear and out the other.
A: In a perfect world your daughter would come home on Friday evening, have dinner and spend the evening with you, pick up with her boyfriend on Saturday after lunch, come home that evening before midnight, do her own laundry, and leave behind a tidy room when she tearfully departs on Sunday. In other words, in a perfect world your daughter would not be a typically self-absorbed young adult. She would be grateful, respectful, considerate and have her priorities in proper order.
In an even more perfect world, you would be able to gently persuade your daughter to your point of view and, if that didn’t work, enforce your expectations upon her with some combination of consequences. She would then see the error of her ways, apologize, promise to be more sensitive, and never give you a moment’s problem ever again.
But the perfect world does not exist. Furthermore, a case could be made for self-absorption being a normal reaction to the combined excitement of freedom, some degree of financial independence, adult legal status and young love. Based on her entrepreneurial bent, I predict that unlike more than one-third of her generation (millennials), your daughter will not come back home to live with you after college. That deserves a great big “Hoo-Hah!” if anything ever did.
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You have to decide what sort of relationship you want with your daughter from this point on. It can either be tense, bumpy and conflict-ridden, or relaxed, smooth and peaceful. I will assume you’d prefer the latter, so here are two things to consider:
First, the behavior you’re seeing from your daughter at this point in her life is temporary. She is justifiably intoxicated with the novelty of her new life situation. Given that she is not a wild, irresponsible person, that will all settle down in due time.
Second, whether the relationship from this point on is bad or good is up to you. You can make a big deal of her self-absorbed behavior, or you can roll with it and let it run its course.
I recommend rolling with it.
Family psychologist John Rosemond answers parents’ questions on his website, Rosemond.com.
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