I have three children. My oldest daughter, who is twenty…, has stopped studying and doesn’t want to continue. She feels like she’s being forced to study. When she stays out all night, I can’t rest. I am worried and am praying that nothing happens to her. On numerous occasions I’ve attempted to go and pick her up, but she refuses. I’ve tried to talk to her and be tolerant, but she responds aggressively. I have wanted to take her to a psychologist, but she won’t agree to it. She even threatens to leave home. What should I do?

Dear Friend,

Your last statement could be the key to understanding some of the root causes of your situation. You say that your daughter threatens that she will leave home if you do not tolerate her behavior. And when she threatens, you back down because you are fearful of the dangers that could befall her if she were to move out.

What this means is that your daughter is the one in charge. You have abdicated your position of authority in your home out of fear. This is not to say that a parent has any authority over a twenty-year-old adult. You do not. But parents should have authority over the rules of their own home and finances.

You would be wise to be concerned about the example you are setting for your two younger children. They are observing every interaction and taking mental note of each time that your oldest daughter breaks the rules without experiencing any consequences. You can be sure that they have already learned that the way to get what they want is to manipulate and instill fear in their father.

For the health and safety of your entire family, it is time to face your fears and stand up to your daughter. Acknowledge the fact that you cannot force her to study. If she chooses to fail, then that is her decision. You will no longer lecture, cajole, nor try to mandate that she stay in school.

However, the only alternative to school is work. She cannot continue to live as a child, receiving free housing and food, as a twenty-year-old adult. She must find work and begin paying for her own expenses.

It is very likely that your daughter will test your resolve. She will likely try to move in with friends or possibly even a boyfriend. As onerous as that is, you must be prepared to let her go, knowing that she is now an adult and it’s not necessary for you to protect her any longer.

God, our Heavenly Father, knows exactly how you feel. He tries to protect us from our own unwise and even dangerous choices, but we as human beings tend to make the wrong choices anyway. He grieves deeply when our choices lead us to disastrous consequences, but He never forces us to choose His way instead of our own way. It is time for you to follow the example of our Heavenly Father.

We suggest that you read Cases 226 and 377 for more recommendations that could be helpful in your situation.

We wish you the best,