Kids Who Think They Know It All

Q: My daughter is in college, and thinks she knows more than me. She's got a low-life boyfriend and doesn't want to hear my opinion. He's not in college, not working, lives with his sister and plays video games all day and night. He's got no future and no plans. If I tell my daughter to break up with him, I'm worried she'll do the opposite. She's already talking about hating "the system" and how useless a college degree is for important things in life like spiritual enlightenment. I'm afraid they're just going to run off together and do drugs all day. How can I stop this going from bad to worse? - Laney, 49

Dr. Susan: You're really in a bind here. You're well aware that kids your daughter's age are as likely to do the opposite as to do what you want them to do. Even when you know, you really know, that they'd be making a big mistake.

So don't put her boyfriend down. Don't even discuss him. You might try to see her point about life, college, and what's important. Sure, college won't lead to transcendence all on its own, but it's a good way to ensure your earning capacity later on. It's also a good way to meet all kinds of people and to become aware of a variety of views. Enlightenment doesn't come easily, and certainly doesn't come from a session or two with drugs, no matter what some people have said. And surely not from playing video games endlessly!

I wonder if offering to foot the bill for some counseling would be welcome. I'd phrase it as counseling to help her figure out who she is and what she believes and how she sees her life going. (I sure wish I'd had it at that age.) Are there other adults in her life who could engage her in serious conversations? Who could take her seriously and add some reality to her opinions? If she's anti-system, talk about it as unemotionally as possible. What does it mean? Which system? How about working for a candidate whose views she shares? Dropping out just lets the bad guys win. Tell her I said so. And let's hope her infatuation with this fellow stops soon.

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