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17 Year Old Daughter Living with 20 Year Old Boyfriend

Mark, I have been reading your ebook, and the information in it is very good. However, my 17 yr old daughter has moved out and is now living with her 20 yr old boyfriend, whom she only met a month ago. He is on methadone and I have also learned other terrible things about him. One parent had to have a restraining order put against him because he wouldn't leave her daughter alone, and there is probably even more that I don't know about.

My daughter went to his house (his parent's home) and told them she was kicked out, (she was not), and when I went there to find out what was going on and to get her to come home, she told me to f--- myself. She has never used this language on me,

We don't use that language in my house. She has not been raised this way, both her father and I have tried to encourage her to do good in school, we don't let her stay out all hours, she has a curfew, and for the most part, one of us picks her up at night. I never go to bed until she is home.

Now, she has left and seems quite pleased with herself, no ‘good-byes’ to her 2 sisters, no ‘I am sorry for what I said’. I am running low on batteries; I don't know how much more I can take. I love my child and she is in dangerous water with this guy. How do I handle this?

Today, they got an apartment. His income is not enough to live on. I am sure she will quit school now to get a job. She will probably end up pregnant, and who knows what this guy is capable of. Plus, this is her first real relationship. I feel that everyday, I am loosing her more and I don't know how to proceed.

She has a good home. I am heart broken, and I am trying to act normal for the sake of my other two kids. Her grandparents are sick about this. I don't know what to do. It is like I had 3 daughters, now I have two, overnight. Can you help me?


First, let’s be clear on the primary tenet, which will be the foundation for my recommendations: Our primary goal as parents should be to foster the development of self-reliance.

When parents begin to implement appropriate discipline for broken house rules, many children respond by threatening to runaway from home if they do not get their way. Some follow through with this threat.

But, in the case of a 17-year-old, we are dealing with a young adult. Thus, she is old enough to make her own decisions, even if they are bad decisions. Your efforts to protect her from bad decisions WILL make a bad problem worse. She must be able to make mistakes – it’s how she learns! Allow her to make her own choice – even if the choice is a poor one in your estimation. If, for example, she returns home (which is likely -- after a huge break-up with this boyfriend) and wants to violate a house rule, let her do it, and then simply issue a consequence.

Simply state the house rules and the consequences for violating house rules. If she doesn’t want to abide by your rules, she can live elsewhere. In any event, do not loosen-up your expectations for compliance regarding house rules. Again, this is her choice: (a) live with mom and dad and play by their rules, or (b) live elsewhere under my own set of rules and deny myself the comforts of home.

It is very possible to support her (a) even if she lives elsewhere and (b) as she begins the process of separating from the “nest.” She is making an effort to become self-reliant, and this is a good thing. She will likely learn a very valuable life lesson with this boyfriend. I know you are terribly concerned for her safety. But you have no control at this time. And, again, attempts to control the situation will most likely make a bad problem worse.

Reward her for seeking self-reliance and provide a lot of encouragement in this area. She will live up to – or down to – your expectations of her. If you convey an attitude that she is too immature and incompetent to survive away from the nest, she will take your attitude as instruction to fail out in the real world. On the other hand, if you convey an attitude of trust in her capabilities, she will become capable.

Again, pick your battles carefully. This falls into the category of “things you cannot control,” and attempts to control it will most likely backfire.

Be patient with your daughter as she pushes against the world to see how it responds. Old habits are hard to break. It may take awhile for her to understand that you are serious and will no longer be controlled by her emotional outbursts or manipulations. Keep your cool and continue about your day, not letting her see the frustration you may feel. And always, always, follow through with the consequence that you have described to her should she return home (or visit home) and violate a house rule. Be consistent. Most importantly, when she makes the right decision, be sure to give her a big hug and let her know how proud of her you.

Trust that things will work out for the best in the long run …detach from the outcome …and have faith in yourself as a parent, trusting that you have laid down a solid foundation for your daughter such that she will be able to be a responsible adult sooner rather than later.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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