QUESTION: My wife and I have a daughter, age 19. We love her, but liking her is quite another story. She is rude and verbally abusive to both of us. What we don’t understand is that this is a recent behavior. We took her to church regularly when she was a child and a teenager. She doesn’t attend church now, but we do. She doesn’t live at home, is holding down two part-time jobs and will be a senior in college this fall. We help her financially as much as we can. Please give us some ideas about how to talk to her and set reasonable boundaries in our relationship with her. – Concerned Parents
Dear Concerned Parents,
We look forward to the time when child-raising is done, and we can move on to become adult friends of our grown children. It is disappointing to find out that there’s residual raising to be done when you have relatively little control over how to make that happen.
While living into a love that is patient and kind, a love that bears all things, hopes all things, and endures all things, you are allowed to ask for respect as parents and human beings. Her crazy, stressed-out life is no excuse. You will want to set aside a time to speak with your daughter about your relationship so that you’ll be sure to have a conversation that is fueled by your prayer rather than your anger. Using language that reflects your investment in a long-term loving relationship, tell her what is on your heart. Perhaps you’ll get the authentic conversation you long for. If you do not, be prepared with consequences you’re willing to follow through on: “If you will honor us by (x behavior), we will continue to offer you (y support). If you continue doing (z behavior), we will withdraw that support.” Make sure your tone and body language reflect your role as Wise, Calm & Compassionate Parent.
It is possible that she will, for now, choose the second option. This is OK, though it may cause a temporary pause in your relationship. What is broken can be repaired later, as she grows to understand the beauty of an adult friendship with parents who care about her and care about themselves.
Crescenta Valley United Methodist Church
Dear Concerned Parents,
Virtually all children rebel at some time or another, and maybe this “old” teenager is doing her rebelling now. Something else: Is it possible that her change in behavior is caused by taking drugs? I am no expert in the field of teenagers or drugs, but [you] may want to consider the possibility that Miss Goody Two-Shoes has been doing a little experimenting.
What would I advise? Try to set up a meeting with her, expressing your concerns. Ask her if she’s upset by something you (the parents) have done. Let her know that you love her and because you love her, you are concerned about her recent attitude change. In other words, is there something going on in her life that she’d like to talk about with you? Try not to be judgmental. If she is now sexually active or even promiscuous, try not to let the shock and disappointment show on your face(s). Again, try not to be judgmental.
There seems to me to be a good aspect here in that she doesn’t live with you. Since she is holding down two part-time jobs, she would appear to be chomping at the bit to be independent of you, and that’s all good. Now if she is independent of you, your say-so over her life is limited. When I first read about this case (nasty daughter from decent parents), I assumed she was a spoiled brat living at home – but she doesn’t live at home; she lives on her own. Again, that’s a good thing.
You mentioned that you help her out financially whenever you can. Maybe you shouldn’t do that so much anymore. Perhaps you need to practice “tough love” and cut off the spigot. But before you do anything too drastic, do have that heart-to-heart with her. What she may want or need may be only your ears and your heart and not your money.
The Rev. Skip Lindeman
QUESTION: Recently, I agreed to travel with a woman I met while attending a local group. We’ve had lunch together on several occasions and have been to movies together. We’re both widows and neither of us likes to travel alone. Our 10-day trip turned out to be a nightmare for me. She complained about everything – the airlines, hotel accommodations, restaurants, and even an expensive tour we took. Now she wants to go to New England in October to see the fall foliage. Is there a kind way I can back out of this?
– Reluctant Traveling Companion
The Apostle Paul used a style of correction that might help you. He generally complimented the churches he was writing to before he made mention of any needed change. “A spoonful of sugar …” as the saying goes, but he believed honesty truly was the best policy.
Tell your friend how much you enjoy her company, if you do, and cite some examples. Then, “Let your conversation be always full of grace” (Col 4:6) and gently apprise her of how her seemingly negative outlook made you feel last time around. If she didn’t like that trip, why should she expect to enjoy the upcoming? She may be unaware that she was coming off as such a bummer.
If you’re really interested in the trip, tell her – but make the kindly stipulation that you’ll accompany her if she’ll just try to have a positive attitude and see the bright side of things. It’s a wonderful world God has made, after all. There are no guarantees that her feelings won’t be hurt, but that’s really up to her, especially if you are trying so hard to be gracious, albeit truthful.
If you don’t really fancy her company generally, and the trip doesn’t grab you in the least, just say you aren’t interested this time around. She’ll likely find a new travel buddy and you’ll be off the hook indefinitely.
Rev. Bryan Griem
Montrose Community Church
For some, complaining is a way of life. Those who are constant complainers are obviously not happy. This may be your opportunity to make suggestions that could help your traveling companion to enjoy life more fully. First, however, take into consideration your own feelings. In Shakespeare’s “Hamlet,” Polonius’ advice to his son was: “To thine own self be true.” We can’t compromise our lives away to make others happy. Honesty is the best policy and skirting the issue will only cause complications.
First, share with her how much you’ve enjoyed going to lunches and movies with her. Then say, “I observed that you didn’t seem to be enjoying our last trip and your concerns made me feel uncomfortable.” Give her the opportunity to respond. Be prepared to provide her with specific examples if she asks, “What in the world are you talking about?”
Rev. Will Bowen, a minister from Kansas City, had a congregant who was always complaining. He asked her to give him a list of things she thought needed to be changed. She gave him a list and one by one, he accomplished the changes. He was delighted with his accomplishments! Then, she gave him another list! Out of that experience was born Rev. Bowen’s book and movement, “A Complaint Free World.”
I believe drawing individuals’ attention to behavior that is not life enhancing is doing them a life changing favor. You can also remind your friend of Bible quotes: Philippians 2:14, “Do all things without grumbling or questioning,” and Ephesians 4:29, “Let not corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” In our faith, we say, “Look for the good and praise it.”
As you spend more time with your friend, be an example of a sunny disposition. If her negative demeanor persists, tell her kindly and firmly that your choice is not to travel with her again.
Rev. Beverly Craig, Senior Minister
Center for Spiritual Living – La Crescenta