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 Post subject: How to discourage a moocher?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 5:56 am 

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My girlfriend's teenage daughter moved in with us four years ago; she'll be 18 next month. I'm worried that she's going to be one of those kids who lives with their parents until their 30s and will be a constant drain on our energy and resources: she's a total parasite, demands money incessantly, refuses to lift a finger around the house (she won't even change a roll of toilet paper), and has few prospects of earning a liveable income for herself. She dropped out of school last year, went back this year but flunked out and is now barred from reapplying for a year. She never lasts more than a few weeks in a job, and had seven jobs last summer alone. She earned $2500, which she promptly spent on drugs, alcohol, tatoos, body piercings, and clothes.

Yes, of course we've tried to help her with counseling, and yes we've tried cutting off our financial support to force her to pay her own way. But this kid is a special case. Probably her most marketable asset is her tenaciousness: she will get what she wants no matter what. A few years ago she wanted to switch schools so she could be in the same school as her boyfriend. We didn't think that was a valid reason to switch schools so we said no. She fought with her mother about it every night for a month, and then got the necessary papers and forged the signatures. When that didn't work, she held meetings with the principals of both schools and convinced them that it would be the right thing to do, and then had her mother talk to them. If she can find a way to put that persistence to good use, she could go far in the world. But I have my doubts.

She lived with her father from age 10-12, and had a bit too much freedom as he works nights, not to mention the fact that he's an alcoholic and drug addict and thus not the greatest role model. She started smoking (cigarettes and pot) when she was 10, and started drinking at the same age (and she didn't waste time with beer or wine, she went straight to vodka). She started having sex at age 12. When she moved in with us at age 13 the police were calling here every month or two; she was always in trouble.

Anyway, all of this is to say that the usual approaches to discouraging mooching probably won't work with this girl. We don't want to throw her out on the street, and we want to do what we can to help her turn her life around if she wants to, but I really don't want to spend the rest of my life living with her (and her own kids, of which she plans to have many; I'm sure she expects us to help raise them).

Any suggestions?


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 Post subject: Re: How to discourage a moocher?
PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 9:33 am 
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Brad,

Let me preface this by saying that I've been called a cold-hearted bitch by more than one person. I prefer the term pragmatic. :-) I will also say that I'm talking from some family experience here.

This all sounds like a Dr. Phil episode. It may sound harsh, but you may have to throw her out. It may be the best thing for everyone concerned. You CANNOT allow her to run your lives and even though tough love probably hurts you more than her, you may have to practice some.

You and your GF should sit down together and develop a set of house rules. Determine exactly what and how much you are willing to give her and then stick to it. Present that information to her. She's obviously smart so she'll get it. She's also obviously manipulative and knows how to play people. Don't let her play you.

Tell her in no uncertain terms that once she turns 18, these are the rules that she will have to live by if she wants to stay in your house. If she doesn't, these are the consequences. Then enforce both. If you don't enforce your rules, you are just enabling her to continue her manipulative ways.

You will probably have to kick her out. Brace yourself for that. Make sure you and your GF stay on the same page because this could really do damage to your relationship.

Regarding her prospects, can she get a GED? School just doesn't work for some people. I was one of them. I HATED school and almost flunked out just because I was so freaking bored. I would have done much better had I dropped out and gotten a GED. I could have finished faster, with a better GPA and not had to deal with all the BS.

You say she's a special case. Unless she has special needs (she's developmentally disabled) then she is not a special case, she just thinks she's one and she's convinced you of it too. She's just a child that grew up without boundaries who has morphed into a teenager who doesn't respect anyone. You won't get her respect by giving in to her demands. She will see that as a sign of weakness and she will only get worse.

Has she been in trouble with the law? If so, I would look into some of the work/learning camps they have for teens. Those seem to really make a difference for the people who go through them.

This has been a bit disjointed because I'm writing as things come to me but hopefully it makes some sense. I hate to tell you but unless something drastic happens to change her, she's probably going to have to hit rock bottom before she decides to change herself. She's not anywhere near that point yet so it could get a lot worse before it gets better. Don't let her take you and your GF with her. You guys are going to need eachother because this is probably going to be a hard journey and you'll need that support.

Good luck to you. I hope things work out as best they can.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:07 am 

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Thanks -- in fact kicking her out is indeed an option we're considering, it's mainly that we're afraid she'd come back and burn the house down if we did (something she's entirely capable of doing; she's the most vindictive person I've ever known). We've had to be restrained so far in terms of discipline because we know she would file a complaint with Youth Protection if we're too tough; some of her friends have used that strategy and it's a nightmare involving lawyers and lengthy consultations with youth advocates. But once she turns 18 she won't have that option anymore.

Here in Quebec the school system is somewhat different: she did graduate from secondary school, and she can get employment with that. The next step after secondaire is CEGEP, which is equivalent to the last year of high school and the first year of university. That's what she flunked out of. So basically if she wants to go on to university (which I can't see her doing, but she herself has absolutely no idea what she wants to do in life) she has to make it through CEGEP first. She may go to a technical school, and we'd certainly support her in that decision.

She's a special case due to her temperament: she inherited her father's personality -- he has a reputation of being domineering, aggressive, lazy, unable to hold a job, etc., and she's exactly the same way. He spent most of his life on welfare, working for a year or two and then getting fired, spending a year or two on the dole, and then finding another job. She seems to have more ambition than that, but not much.

And yes, she's been in trouble with the law, but not in the past few years. She's done a lot worse stuff since then but hasn't gotten caught -- yet.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:26 am 
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PF,

Please, I never called you that, except maybe when my head smacked the low ceiling of your old place.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:29 am 
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FYIW,

I'm going one step further. It's been folks letting her get what she wants that encourages her to continue the behavior.

Kick her out. Force her to confront life and deal with it herself.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:30 am 
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JerichoHill wrote:
PF,

Please, I never called you that, except maybe when my head smacked the low ceiling of your old place.


At least not out loud or to my face... It's not my fault you're tall and I lived in a basement apartment. :-) It's better than the shire was at 1209D!


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:42 am 

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JerichoHill wrote:
I'm going one step further. It's been folks letting her get what she wants that encourages her to continue the behavior.


Yeah, I hear you: her mother is tired of fighting (after fighting all the same fights with her father for 20 years...why she stayed with him that long is of course another question). I tend to draw a harder line, but I'm handicapped by the fact that her daughter doesn't speak any English, and my French is good enough for everyday errands but not an extended knock-down-drag-out.

She's very crafty and seems to find ways around any consequences we set for her. We cut off her internet once for a month after she disobeyed our groundrules, and she simply found a way to hack into her mother's computer. When we cut off her supply of money, she stole it.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 10:53 am 
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Yikes. Since you're afraid of her being vindictive, maybe force it to be her choice. Set up your ground rules and tell her she has the choice to stay and follow them or to leave and not. Give her a deadline to choose and if she doesn't choose/doesn't follow the rules she will be escorted out. Either situation will suck. She's either there making your lives miserable or she's gone and you worry about her coming back and doing something to make your life miserable. Personally I'd choose the potention for random misery over the guarantee of daily misery.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 11:02 am 
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I hate to say this, but it sounds like when she is 18 and you lay down the rules as it were, you need to be prepared to back them up with the force of law. If she steals from you, you may have to go so far as to have her arrested. If she threatens you, you may have to get a restraining order. If she is a willful and vindictive as you say, it may be more than you can safely deal with to protect yourself (both financially and personally).

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 1:45 pm 
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brad wrote:
She's very crafty and seems to find ways around any consequences we set for her. We cut off her internet once for a month after she disobeyed our groundrules, and she simply found a way to hack into her mother's computer. When we cut off her supply of money, she stole it.


All the more reason to kick her out and let her fend for herself. I have little pity for folks who do stuff like that. I've found they often need a "Come to Jesus" moment if they're ever going to make something out of their life.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 04, 2007 2:17 pm 

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Well there are occasional moments of hope.

Like a few weeks ago when she went to my girlfriend and said, "Mom, I want to quit smoking pot," and gave her all her bongs and bricks to store away in a locked box. She also successfully quit smoking cigarettes a few years ago. She cried when she learned she'd flunked out of school (though who could be surprised, she rarely went to classes, never studied, and only occasionally did homework). I'm inclined to try to help her rather than just cast her out on the street; I think there's a nugget of goodness in her somewhere that needs to be encouraged. And we do -- whenever she does something good we bend over backwards to recognize her effort and provide positive reinforcement.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:29 am 

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I don't know how these programs work in Quebec, but what are the options for counseling/drug treatment? Possibly even on an inpatient basis?

If she would agree to that, then she'd be in a relatively safe location, with a team who would presumably help her deal with her anger.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:57 am 
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brad wrote:
Well there are occasional moments of hope.

Like a few weeks ago when she went to my girlfriend and said, "Mom, I want to quit smoking pot," and gave her all her bongs and bricks to store away in a locked box. She also successfully quit smoking cigarettes a few years ago. She cried when she learned she'd flunked out of school (though who could be surprised, she rarely went to classes, never studied, and only occasionally did homework). I'm inclined to try to help her rather than just cast her out on the street; I think there's a nugget of goodness in her somewhere that needs to be encouraged. And we do -- whenever she does something good we bend over backwards to recognize her effort and provide positive reinforcement.


I understand that. But she's gotten all the encouragement in the world so far and there's not much you can do to teach a child that falling down hurts without actually leting them fall down.

You gotta want help before you can accept it, and I think alot of folks have to hit pretty close to rock bottom sometimes

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 10:57 am 

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onebigmortarboard wrote:
I don't know how these programs work in Quebec, but what are the options for counseling/drug treatment? Possibly even on an inpatient basis?


Thanks, we have certainly done the counseling thing already, a few times, but as with most things she blows off her appointments and never goes. There's only so much you can do, a person has to want to help themselves and I don't think she's there yet. We also did a mother-daughter counseling session but that was a disaster; we had to practically drag her out of bed to go and she was in a terrible mood...she spent the whole session yelling at her mother. She also checked herself into a psych unit last summer (while her mother and I were away on vacation), complaining of "severe depression" but nobody could find anything wrong with her; in fact she was just trying to get attention.


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PostPosted: Tue Jun 05, 2007 1:11 pm 
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Although it's my gut-reaction as well, I don't think throwing her out into the cold is going to work. Not to be remotely condescending, but her mother is not likely to be able to suffer that and caving-in will only reinforce that she gets whatever she wants. You have got to find a way to enforce the rules, which probably includes a curfew and random searches. Make it clear that the food in YOUR refrigerator is off-limits (by locking it, for example) as is YOUR electricity and other utilities. Maybe you can create an a la carte menu of what it costs to live there: Five dollars a night for a bed, a dollar for laundry/meals, etc. I dunno, it's easy for me to sit here and be an armchair-parent, but I suspect you need to ease into the rules and the costs associated with living under YOUR roof. Remove all luxuries (including furniture) and put a price tag on them. Starting with what she could reasonably afford on minimum wage, she needs to be shown that her standard of living will increase if she works harder and makes something of herself.

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