The Washington Post

Dad’s parenting style includes surveillan­ce of adult daughter. What can Mom do?

- Ask Amy AMY DICKINSON  @askingamy. © 2021 by Amy Dickinson distribute­d by Tribune Content Agency

Dear Amy: My husband and I have one daughter, 21, who is a college


I cannot get him to understand that kids need to make mistakes to learn.

He believes it’s our job to keep them from making mistakes.

He drills her on details about school and even reads her email to make sure she’s not missing something.

She doesn’t want his help, and I tell him to stop doing her thinking, planning and problemsol­ving.

Because of this, we have conflict.

My motto is, “What’s the worst thing that can happen?

His anger about this is causing marriage problems.

Please advise what I might do.

— Hurting Mom

Hurting Mom: When parents basically function for their adult children, the “worst thing that can happen” is actually pretty bad.

If your husband keeps this up, your daughter could end up with no problem-solving skills of her own, which would affect her ability to work, live independen­tly, have healthy relationsh­ips or even attend to her own personal health and safety.

Or — more likely — she will defy him and set up a sort of “shadow” life that he can’t surveil.

I’m suggesting that, in order for her to mature along the expected developmen­tal path toward independen­ce, she may have to break with him once she is tired of his control.

You are your daughter’s parent, just as much as your husband is. You should be transparen­t with both that you disagree with his control of her.

If he is angry when you express your own point of view, then too bad. This is a fundamenta­l issue affecting your family, and you have the right to assert your own influence.

Email your daughter: “You are legally an adult now, and I want you to live your life the way you want to live it. I have been honest with Dad that I disagree with his parenting at this stage of your life. I trust you to do your best and to occasional­ly make mistakes. I hope you won’t let anyone else be in charge of your life — including us — but you can always come to us for help if you need it.”

If your husband reads this email in the course of his surveillan­ce, then all the better.

Your daughter also has the right to her own opinion, and if she doesn’t like her father’s behavior, then she — not you — should communicat­e that to him.

Dear Amy: I live with my ex.

We broke up three years ago but remain roommates, which helps financiall­y.

I’m also anxiety prone. He can be helpful, because he does things that I have a hard time doing. However, sometimes his response to the #Metoo movement and rape culture triggers me, as I am a rape survivor.

He is one of the guys who says that rape culture does not exist and that many women lie about being assaulted.

There are times I want him to move out because of my triggers.

He is the kind of guy I don’t want to be around, but my anxiety about not being independen­t enough makes me ignore how uncomforta­ble I am being around him.

Before you mention therapy, I already am working with a therapist. What should I do?

— Stuck in Oregon

Stuck in Oregon: It is important for you NOT to have constant contact with someone who keeps you stuck in your trauma cycle. Since you know your ex’s opinion on matters that are important to you, you should avoid discussing your trauma with him.

I hope your work with your therapist involves a plan to change your housing situation. Do you have friends or family members who might offer you a room — or live with you — after you ask your ex to leave?

You need a new roommate, and I hope you will work toward making sure that you create a healthier living environmen­t for yourself.

A clinical social worker could help you to make progress regarding some of the life skills you avoid because of your anxiety.

Dear Amy: I was intrigued by your response to “On the Fence,” whose mother-in-law was a nightmare but had recently asked for a second chance.

Thank you for saying that someone who humbly asks for a second chance should be granted it.

I had to ask family members to give me a second chance — and they did. I’m so grateful, and I believe I’ve proved myself worthy of their faith in me.

— Grateful

Grateful: I love your happy ending.

Amy’s column appears seven days a week at washington­ Write to askamy@amydickins­ or Amy Dickinson, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, N.Y. 13068. You can also follow her

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