My daughter is home from college for the summer…and she’s kind of being a jerk!

Dear Dwonna:

My daughter has moved back from home for the summer (she’s a junior at the U of Memphis), and although I love her a lot, she’s not always pleasant to be around. She’s used to being on her own when she’s away at college, so she doesn’t really want to follow the house rules (which are minimal, by the way—be home by midnight, dinner at 6 with the family, keep your room and common areas clean). She also can just be kind of a jerk sometimes. Any advice you could give to help me deal with her until school starts again in August (and she leaves!) would be wonderful.

Signed,

Robert

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*I’ve asked my former student, Jennifer Cooper, to answer this question since she has a daughter home for the summer from Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee.*

Dear Robert,

As parents, we try to teach our children to be independent and self-sufficient.  We push them to do well in school, respect their elders, and to work hard to accomplish their dreams, among many other things. Raising decent children is hard to handle at times—the first boy/girlfriend break up, the last minute assignments we stay up all night helping them with, the sicknesses and injuries that keep us worried—but we signed up for the task when we had children.

When high school graduation rolls around, we are both happy and sad to have that day arrive—our babies have grown up and will be heading off to college.  We have faith that the things we taught them will empower them to become responsible and independent.  Soon after the shock of them leaving to live in the dorm wears off, we reclaim our lives and the space they occupied…to some degree. We clean the house and straighten the area they vacated in a whirlwind.  Our tidy lives begin to feel like it did before they were born.  Although we miss them terribly, let’s face it: we are a bit relieved. Then the inevitable happens—the end of the spring semester and summer vacation.

My daughter arrived back home like she left—in a whirlwind of clothes, dorm room accessories, and frenzy. At first, I was fine with this because my baby was home. My daughter did what I raised her to do, so why was I so upset when shortly after she come home for the summer? I was upset because I did not raise her to be disrespectful, slovenly, or a “jerk.”

 

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My daughter and I are experiencing some of the same issues—the mess in the bathroom and bedroom and the attitude. We managed to get through the bumpy road by talking and through compromise. I made her the independent person she has become, but I also had to remind her that I am not her “friend” or “college roommate” and as her parent, respect is not asked for but demanded.

Still, we have to understand that our children are basically adults, and we should approach them as adults and speak to them like we would other adults. Granted, our children are staying in our homes and should abide by our rules but sometimes we forget that the babies that needed us to tie their shoes and hold their hands are grown up.

Is it worth a long and hard battle to have them home for dinner every night?  Only you can answer that, but a compromise might be in order.  Your daughter must remember that the home she stays in (rent free) is not a dorm room where she can come and go as she pleases. That being said, your daughter is an adult and as a junior in college, you might ask yourself if a midnight curfew is reasonable. I appealed to the technology of my daughter’s generation and requested text messages (because we all know it’s not cool to be 20 and have to call home to check in) when she was going to be late or not home for dinner.  I approached it with tact by reminding her that as a parent it is my job to worry about her until the day I leave the earth. I take my job seriously. Additionally, it is respectful to let me know if she is coming home late so that I don’t fix enough dinner to accommodate her or worry about who is walking through my house during the wee hours of the night.

I sat down with my daughter and explained all of these things to her in a calm and reasonable manner so she could understand the reasoning behind my “demands.” During this conversation, I also listened. She is an adult and a curfew of midnight seemed a bit unrealistic when she has grown accustomed to staying at the library all hours of the night. I had to learn to compromise and let some things go because she is on vacation, and her “job” is finished for a few months. She deserves to relax.

However, relaxing does not include treating the other inhabitants of the home poorly. You might get a nanny cam or secretly tape her interactions with the others in the house, and then you can play these for her when she is calmer and more open to truly seeing her behavior. I once held a mirror to my daughters face to show her the expression on her face that was less than complimentary during a conversation. In this age of technology, we have done our children a disservice by allowing them to communicate completely through text messages where tone and expression are often missing elements. Often, our children have no idea they are actually being disrespectful to us.

Overall, remember that she is an adult and some compromise may be in order to keep the peace. However, she is staying in your home for the summer, and ultimately you get to make the rules. Open communication is the key in our home, though it is often prefaced by “I know you are an adult; however,….”

If these things fail to work, you can always offer some tough love and ask her to pay rent since she wants to treat your home like a hotel J. Or, you can always ask her to move out and pay rent to someone who doesn’t have to put up with her nonsense.

Good luck!

Jennifer