A colleague of mine used to say, “Don’t ask a question
if you don’t want the answer.”
A reader recently asked me what rules she and her husband should set for their 20-something daughter when she returns home to live after graduating from college. Seems they had some conflicts over house rules with said daughter last summer and want to avoid a repeat performance.
I replied that I’d rarely heard of this arrangement working. Most of the kids in the daughter’s generation have been on a never-ending entitlement program, and as such things go, respect for their parents has been replaced by expect of their parents. Therefore, the suggestion they should obey rules when living at home after college graduation is generally received with disdain and disobedience. Exceptions do occur, but they do not abound.
I advised these parents to avoid the emotional toll of trying to get their grown daughter to obey house rules by setting her up in a small apartment and gradually weaning her off their support. After said column appeared, I received numerous e-mails of affirmation — save one, that is. The young lady’s mother wrote to express her disappointment in my answer and remind me that she had written asking for reasonable house rules. Instead, I told them not to let her live at home. My suggestion that the daughter be slowly weaned off support didn’t sit well either because, says mom, decent jobs are not to be had.
It is certainly reasonable for this young lady’s parents to ask her to comply with a curfew and to maintain her area of the home. But if she’s typical of her generation, she feels that because she is chronologically an adult, she should be allowed to come and go as she pleases and keep “her” room in whatever state suits her. Under the circumstances, I do not have “magical” house rules with which she is certain to comply, much less some “magical” way of eliciting compliance.
If my experience serves me well, these well-intentioned folks are setting themselves up for lots of stress, frustration, anger, resentment and guilt. If they begin having conflict with their daughter, the toll could even be felt in their marriage. Setting their daughter up in her own apartment is going to cost them a bit more than letting her live at home, but the emotional savings will more than offset that difference.
As for the notion that there are no jobs to be had, that simply isn’t true. Jobs are not in great supply, but they’re still out there. The market requires that seekers persevere and perhaps even lower their expectations.
Having to figure things out for herself would also be of great benefit to this young lady. She needs to learn how to live on a budget. She needs to learn to plan ahead, delay gratification, and set fiscal priorities. She needs to learn to take care of her own basic needs, such as food and health care. In short, she needs to learn to take care of herself, and her parents need to extend her that privilege. In that regard, they need to respect the fine line between support and enabling.
Rosemond, a family psychologist, answers questions at his Web site: www.rosemond.com.