My continuous battle has been with my twenty-three-year-old daughter, who will not agree to help around the house. She is an excellent student… but we have constant conflicts because she doesn’t want to do anything except wash her clothes and clean her room. When I ask her to remove her plate from the table, wash the dishes that she used, pick up the shoes she left in the living room, feed the dog, or clean the bathroom, the problems begin. It doesn’t matter how I ask, she says that I am pressuring her and that she can’t stand my tone of voice, and that asking her to do anything is more than she can tolerate from me…. Everyone thinks that she is abusive to me and that it seems like I am her maid.

Dear Friend,

Your case reminds me of something that happened with my seven-year-old granddaughter. Her toys were all over the floor, and I asked her to pick them up. She said that she didn’t want to because her mommy would do it. So I privately asked her mommy if I could pick up the toys myself and put them in a big plastic bag somewhere that my granddaughter couldn’t find them. Her mommy said yes, and I hid all those toys while she was asleep.

Asking, pleading, begging, and even threatening children who behave like my granddaughter is not the way to deal with them when they are still living at home with us, even if those children are of adult age. It is common for children, even adult children, to resist cooperation and responsibility. Any one of them will refuse to do something if there is no established consequence for not doing it.

Make a list and put it on the wall, in a frame, if possible. The list should say things like, “Every member of the household will keep their belongings in their own room. Items left in family areas of the house overnight will be confiscated.” After each rule there needs to be a consequence for not complying with it. But it is extremely important that the parents write only consequences that they are willing to carry out the first time and every time afterward that the rule is broken.

You can expect your daughter to rebel and to test your resolve. When she tries to argue, point to the rule on the wall without saying anything. Don’t argue or respond. If she says she’s going to move out of the house, say: “That is your decision. I will be sad to see you go, but you are an adult and can decide for yourself what you can afford.”

If you provide any money for your daughter, you can withhold a certain amount as a consequence for not complying with certain rules. Any adult child who lives with their parents, or anyone who expects their parents to pay for some of their expenses, should have to comply with specified responsibilities whether they want to or not.

We wish you the best,