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Daughter Ran Away and Moved In with 21-year-old Boyfriend

Hi Sad Mom,

Several points:

When she tells people she was kicked-out, she is attempting to garner their sympathy. I’m guessing she has done a great job of pulling this one over on you too. Do you feel guilty? Do you occasionally – or frequently – feel sorry for her? Do you “beat up on herself” sometimes because of the mother-daughter conflict? If so, then she has successfully manipulated your emotions. If she is like the other juveniles I work with, she is an expert manipulator. This doesn’t make her a “bad kid,” she’s just a good ‘con artist’ (which is a strength or a weakness depending on how she uses it).

You said that your daughter “acts like she could care less if she ever sees” you. The operative word here is “acts.” I’m sure she is “acting” like she doesn’t care. This too is a manipulation that apparently you have fallen for. She DOES care; she’s just attempting to push your “abandonment” buttons (i.e., she wants you to feel bad/rejected because she’s mad).

You SHOULD “distant yourself” from her. And she should distant herself from you. I’m talking about ‘healthy detachment’ here. This is O.K. This is a good thing, because she needs to separate in order to grow. I know this is painful for you at some level, but when she feels fully emancipated, she’ll be done with the business of trying to make you feel miserable. There is light at the end of this tunnel whether you see it or not.

I would let some time go by before you contact your daughter again (maybe a month). You really have only one job now, and that is to ‘check-in’ with her every month or two to say, “I was thinking about you …how are things going.” And it doesn’t matter how she responds. Let me repeat this: It doesn’t matter how she responds.

With occasional “check-ins,” you will be sending a clear verbal message that (a) you will not be manipulated into feeling sorry for her, (b) you will not allow her to push your guilt or anger or rejection buttons, and (c) you have not returned the disfavor by rejecting/abandoning her.

Hang in there …you are doing fine in spite of your opinion about the present circumstances.

Mark Hutten, M.A.

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