April – Setting Boundaries with Allison Bottke

Q: My adult daughter is completely disrespectful of the curfews set by her father and me. She wanders in and out of our home; sometimes it is days be- fore we know where she is or even if she is alive. We know she is using drugs and staying in some of the seedier places in the city. When my husband and I try to re-implement the rules, she scoffs, reminding us she is an adult (she’s 24) and we “can’t tell her what to do.” I think I’m going to kick her out, but then on those nights when she’s not home, and the phone rings, I am nearly paralyzed with fear. Given all of this, what can we do?

A: First, allow me to commend you for identifying the problem and for stopping the insanity wheel long enough to ask for advice. Now, I have some questions of my own; the first one being: Is your adult child employed? My instincts tell me the answer is “no,” mainly because she has a come-and-go policy, disappearing for days at a time. If she had a job, you’d know right where to find her. This, of course, leads to the next question: How is she financially able to exist? Again, instinctively, I’d be willing to say you are enabling her.

Allow me to explain the difference in helping and enabling. Helping is doing something for someone that she is not capable of doing herself. Enabling is doing for someone what she should be doing for herself. By giving an adult child money when they are capable of earning that money by working for an honest day’s pay, you are enabling your adult child. This is the first thing you must stop! In my plan for SANITY, “S” stands for stop enabling … and stop the flow of money!

The “N” stands for nip excuses in the bud! The next time your daughter tells you “she’s an adult and that you cannot tell her what to do” remind yourself that this is her excuse for her bad behavior, but it is not your excuse. The fact is, you can tell her what to do within the boundaries of your home. “I” stands for implement rules and boundaries. If she can- not respectfully accept those boundaries, then you must respectfully ask your daughter to leave your home.

Because your instincts tell you that your daughter stays in shady places (“T” stands for trust your instincts), this may be one of the most difficult things you’ve ever done. I can’t promise you the end result or even how long it will take her to “grow up,” but I can tell you that as long as you allow for this kind of disrespect in your home, it can and will end badly. If it ends at all; expect to live like this for a long, long time.

For this reason, allow me to gently express the “Y” in obtaining SANITY, which is yield every- thing to God. Sometimes we have to “wrap” our children in warm blankets and then pray, saying, “She’s yours now, God, and I trust you.”

You may have noticed above that the “A” is missing in the SANITY acronym. “A” stands for assemble a support group in your area. Meeting with other parents of adult children in similar scenarios will help you to stay strong and will become a place where you can pour out your con cerns, your worries, your hopes, your victories, and your return to SANITY.

– Respectfully, Allison

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