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Ask Amy: Dad’s parenting style includes surveillance
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Ask Amy: Dad’s parenting style includes surveillance

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

I cannot get him to understand that kids need to make mistakes in order 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 problem-solving.

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

Dear Hurting: When parents basically function for their adult children, the “worst 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 impact 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.

Email Amy Dickinson at askamy@amydickinson.com or send a letter to Ask Amy, P.O. Box 194, Freeville, NY 13068.

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