Parents: What would you do?

My BFF, “Sally,” is having problems with “Kate,” her 24yo daughter who lives with her and hubby.

The basics:
-Kate is a college grad. has a FT job, and a car.
-Kate lived on campus for a semester and was otherwise living at home. She’s the only kid at home, my friends are upper-middle class professionals and don’t charge her rent or expenses. Kate is supposed to be saving to move out, but is not doing so.
-Kate attempted suicide five years ago via a handful of Tylenol, was hospitalized for a few days. Sally sets up and pays for Kate’s shrink appts, but Kate often blows the sessions off. She has some depression issues and smokes weed and drinks (unsure about other rec drug use, but very def probability). Kate wields her mental health as a threat against Sally (“if you kick me out I just might do something to myself”).
-Kate has one or so screaming blow-ups a month at Sally. They are more in the style of a 13yo girl screaming at her mother than what is expected of a 24yo (nominal) adult.
-Kate gets a lot of “you do this again and you’re out” warnings, but my friends don’t carry out the threat.

So, last night Kate blew up at Sally over a very trivial matter. She cursed her, spit in her face, then twisted her arm behind her back and pinned Sally against the wall. Hubby wanted to call the cops, but Sally stopped him. Kate has physically gone after my friend before, but not to this extent.

My advice to Sally was that this was the last straw and they should have filed assault charges and changed the locks. I suggested that they set Kate up in an apartment with first month’s rent; she isn’t going to save up money to leave and she needs to be out ASAP.

I am not a parent and haven’t experienced the joys and sorrows of having kids. What would you Doper parents do if your grown daughter was acting like this? Is my thinking overly harsh?

I suspect that it wouldn’t be happening to either of us. Your thinking is not overly harsh, but Mum (at least) is allowing the behaviour by letting it pass without consequences. Any kid of mine would be in their own place as soon as they were qualified to work and support themselves, and I wouldn’t be having drinking and drugs going on. And if an adult child was living with me, they’d be paying their share of expenses and be expected to contribute to the household.

There’s no point you having an opinion. Yes, she should be living independently, but there’s a reason she’s not and it’s her parents who need to do something about it, and they aren’t going to.

To add: I was raised radically different. We were kicked out at 18 and not welcomed back. I called my mother a bitch when I was 13yo and was slapped silly (the only and last time I pulled that); if I had physically threatened my parents I probably wouldn’t have lived to type this :smiley:

I’m sum: my reference points for what crosses the line are 1970-80s-era punishment and “happy 18th birthday, now get out of my house.” I actually couldn’t wait to be on my own, so I can’t relate to a 24yo who doesn’t want to do so.

I’m pretty sure you’re
correct about nothing but empty ultimatums and hand-wringing happening, I’m just curious to hear other opinions. I think a serious boundary was crossed, but I had a very different upbringing and don’t have kids to break my heart.

By making no adult demands on her child, the mother has infantized the child. Possibly subconsciously, or not. Often it indicates a big part of Mom’s ego is tied up in either, being ‘needed’, or being a ‘good parent’ (allowing no appearance her child is struggling). Being a Mom is a heady Godlike position, it can be hard to loosen those reins, as the child grows. It is disguised as doting, or over love, but it’s not. It’s hard to see your child stumble as a young adult, because it will reflect badly on the Mom’s parenting!

This young woman’s bad behaviour is an identity struggling to burst forth to independence, angry as spit, as it’s ill prepared and feels hopeless.

The struggle isn’t in changing the child, it’s in changing the behaviour of the parents, in my humble opinion. They couch it in ‘not wanting to watch her fail’. But the truth is closer to not being able to handle how (they feel) it will ‘look’, (or reflect on them!)

The ‘tough’ part of tough love, is always on the parental/enabler end, in my experience.

Thoughtful points, thanks.

Would this fight have been the last straw for you?

Sounds like staying with Sally should come with consequences for Kate. A repeat of the assault means immediate expulsion. Missing appointments means a three-month countdown clock starts ticking. This isn’t so much to show Kate that it’s (now, finally, for-realz) serious - it is to get Sally ok with the idea of Kate having to go. Regardless, a month or so into this being the law of the land, the notion of the arrangement ending no matter what in 8-9-10 months needs to be introduced. If Sally and mr Sally die tomorrow in a freak supermarket freezer explosion, Kate would figure something out. Perhaps Sally can see the validity of that if this is true, Kate could probably figure out something without Sally dying - which assumedly is preferable.

I am doter and spent way too much time worrying about my kids. My older two couldn’t be gone fast enough after graduation and college/military. My baby is a little slower but still leaving me bit by bit. It’s hard on Mom (me), though I see the reasoning of it. But, yea that girl needs to go, yesterday. I don’t think they will take advice from you. Dad may coming around. Wow, good luck to them.

I think the parents need to visit a counselor or Al-anon, or both. They are enabling her, and this goes beyond “the kid needs tough love to grow up” at this point. They need professional assistance immediately. From what we know it seems that they are doing a lot of things wrong out of good intentions, but none of us are living with the daughter. They need help to see how their own poor behavior is hurting their daughter rather than helping her.

I’ll start by saying that I am not a parent.

The entire family needs counseling. Sally needs to understand how she’s enabling Kate. Kate needs to be directed down the road to mental health.

Where does Hubby fit into this? He wanted to call the police, but Sally stopped him. What he wants should count as much as what Sally wants. Is he being marginalized? Does Kate ever attack him, either verbally or physically?

The attempted suicide hangs over this situation. Kate knows that Sally fears a re-attempt, and is exploiting it. She’s testing the limits of what Sally and Hubby will tolerate, and so far she hasn’t found any. This will likely get worse, until it reaches the point where something terrible happens. How long will it be until Kate physically injures Sally, or worse?

In my opinion, Sally and Hubby should throw Kate out of the house. Physical abuse is intolerable.

Kate will only get sicker the longer she stays there. They have to get her out. Some friends of mine had a similar problem recently and sent their adult child off to a program like this one. It’s not that exact one but very similar.

It does seem to be working, and the family has had a chance to do some serious healing as well. Sally has probably been in tantrum prevention mode for the last 20-odd years, and has no idea how to get out of it. She will never be able to think this through with Kate there keeping her desperate, scared, and exhausted.

They can’t force Kate to go,of course, but they can say it’s this or the street, and mean it this time. Sally is co-dependent; she is addicted to the drama Kate provides. The best way to get through to her is just to remind her that Kate can not get well in the same environment where she got sick.

This kind of program is very expensive - around $11k per month - but it sure as heck beats a lifetime of hell watching your child’s life be wasted on alternate tantrums and doldrums.

The root problem here is that every time they ‘do for her’, like housing, food, overlooking infractions, etc, they are reinforcing that she is not capable. She senses this is destroying her but can’t find a way out, having been trained to be dependent.

Now that this child is lashing out violently they want ‘help’. But do they? If mom’s not willing to put her out, nothing will change. And my money is on, even if you could get Mom on board, through Herculean effort, she probably can’t go the distance and will cave at the first bump in the road.

But this child didn’t come formed like this, it took years of parental infantizing to get to where they are now. That’s not an easy train to turn around. People don’t want to see that their ego would rather be stroked (by the appearance that things aren’t so bad really! ), than release there child so they can reach adulthood, though it require both the appearance of, and facing the reality that, just like everyone else, they are flawed parents, and they screwed some stuff up.

Keeping up the facade, and deluding yourself is easier on their ego, than facing the unpleasant truth. Their child’s future as an adult hangs in the balance unfortunately.

It’s a really tragic thing to watch unfold, I can understand your discomfort.

IMO a 24 yo should only be living at home if they are still in school, or doing something useful (like volunteering) that keeps them from earning a living. The parents set up this situation and really shouldn’t be surprised by what they are seeing. They should set her up in an inexpensive apartment for a few months and give her money to cover her basic needs and that’s it. She can’t move back home and she needs to find a way to earn a living. If she needs to continue to see a shrink or substance abuse counselor the parents can help out there if she can’t afford to pay for it herself. She needs to grow up and nothing grows up a person more than being on their own for the first time in their life. You have to cut the cord at some point.

I fully agree. There are support groups for the family members of people who have addictions. Your friend should seek one out and meet other people in similar situations. It would help her figure out what she should do.

Well, I say she should kick the kid out, because I think there’s a developmental thing that goes on when you get away from your parents for awhile. That said, I’m in almost the same situation as your friend, only with a son rather than a daughter.

Now the thing is that I moved away from my mother at 17 and I would have camped out under a bridge rather than ever lived in her house again. But also, back in those days there was cheap rent. My son had a full-time job and would have been spending more than 3/4 of his income on rent at the cheapest places. (Seriously, I think he probably could find some little cheap hellhole, that’s what I did. Roaches, nasty shared bathroom, terrible neighborhood. But it was not my mother’s house, and that made all the difference.) One of the reasons I moved to Denver was that it had cheap rent. (The other reason was that it was 1000 miles from my mother.)

However, I think if he really looked, he could find a place. He could get a roommate. Several roommates. So, I say your friend should kick the kid out, and I say also that my husband and I should kick our kid out. But we haven’t done it yet.

So no, your thinking isn’t overly harsh. I do think parents shouldn’t send their kids to jail (assault was mentioned) because jail for a 20-something is pretty much a ticket to the permanent underclass.

Mom could use some therapy on that herself (or some sort of pastor, whichever she prefers). There’s two possible reactions to a mother like that: “run away as far and as fast as you can” and “let Mommy keep her hands under your armpits while lashing out at her for ‘holding you down’”. Daughter has clearly chosen the second path.
ETA: Hilarity, boundaries. You set them with your Mom, now you need to set them with your son and (the hard part) hold on to them.

OP says she’s got a job (and as a college grad, presumably a decent and secure job). There doesn’t seem to be any reason she hasn’t got her own place, other than she can sponge off her parents, so she does.

Agree with the people saying mum and family need some therapy.

That threat of suicide is terrifying though. My daughter did something very half-arsed at 15, and the thought she might do it again, might do it more thoroughly this time, was constant, and interfered with all my decision-making around her.

The answer is obvious, but I doubt Sally will follow through.
And it’s worth noting, Sally can’t just kick Kate out. She will need to go to the courthouse and file for eviction.

I’m not a counseling kinda guy, but this seems like a situation where family counseling is warranted. That and maybe steer Kate into Roller Derby.