Artwork: Tess Emily Rodriguez
She’s made all the mistakes, so you don’t have to… Ask Erin is a weekly advice column, in which Erin answers your burning questions about anything at all.
My daughter hates me.
I have a 17-year-old daughter. She says our relationship has been bad for the last two years. Now she lives far away from where I am because she’s on a scholarship and wants to finish her studies there. Meanwhile, I’m working trying to make ends meet for both of us.
She has always been determined to get what she wants in life, and no matter what I said or did, I could never get her to listen to me.
So when she said she wanted to stay on in the country where I used to live and work while I was in my home country, I said yes. And now she doesn’t want to come back home, not even on holiday because she says she is scared of me being manipulative and making her feel bad.
I don’t know what I’ve done to make her feel that way, but that’s what she said.
I don’t know what else to do now as I’ve done pretty much everything she’s asked of me. Please help.
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I’m sorry that you’re going through this rough time with your daughter. I can understand why you feel hurt and confused. It’s hard for me to discern what it is she is upset about because I feel like I am missing information. It sounds like you’re missing information, too, or not looking at the whole picture. She may well be in the wrong here.
But you also need to listen to what she’s said to you.
She said that she didn’t want to come home because she was afraid that you would be manipulative and make her feel bad. I think you need to consider that even if you are not doing anything intentionally, there is a dynamic between you that is not healthy, that doesn’t feel secure.
That doesn’t mean that this is your fault. But it doesn’t mean it’s all her fault either.
When people tell us that they feel a certain way around us/because of us, we need to take stock and evaluate where we may be at fault, even unintentionally.
Something you wrote stuck out to me: “She has always been determined to get what she wants in life, and no matter what I said or did, I could never get her to listen to me.”
This is a common issue between children and parents, particularly in the adolescent and early adult years. I remember struggling with my parents in my teens and into my twenties. Likewise, now as a parent, I am on the other end of it, frustrated at times like you are, with my teenager.
As parents, the issue of control is a big one. I have to work at it continually, to give up that control, to allow my kid to make his own decisions, even when I don’t like them. Part of growing up is learning how to make our own decisions, learning that sometimes those decisions might not serve us well, and, most importantly, learning how to fail.
You need to let go of that control.
Let her make her own decisions. In my experience, children (even adult children) tend to start listening once we stop demanding it.
Allow her to make those choices without your advice or opinion, and you too can set boundaries for when and how you communicate. When you do speak, keep a level head. If she takes the conversation in an argumentative direction, lead by example. Stay calm. Don’t react.
I am always amazed at how much easier it is to break unhealthy dynamics when I focus on changing my behavior and reaction rather than trying to force the other person to do so.
Don’t lose hope here. She is still a teenager. She is learning who she is in the world. Instead of fighting with her for control over her life, let her have it, and be there for her. She will come back to you; you need to change the pattern.
The information within Ask Erin should in no way be interpreted as medical advice because I’m not a medical professional. But I am here to help — to share with you the wisdom I’ve gained after years of making mistakes. If you have a question for me about relationships, addiction, dating, friendships, depression, parenting, sex, consent, what I’m watching, what I’m reading, Charoite, or anything at all, use the contact form below or email me: firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, your anonymity is golden. Lastly, I’m so excited to share with you my Ask Erin Self-Care Guide, free when you sign up for my weekly newsletter. xoxo