Sunday, June 10, 2018

Insanity Is Doing The Same Thing Over And Over Again And Expecting Different Results

I lost it the other day. I went off on a friend of many, many years. Whether we remain friends from this point on is undetermined. At this point, I couldn't care less. Sure, I'd be a bit heartbroken and question why she allowed this issue to be the demise of our friendship. But, more epically ridiculous sh*t has happened in my life so why stop now.

To back up a bit...

About 9 years ago, I was hired to tutor a 10-year-old on an academic level. The woman who hired me was, and still is, a single Mom. Worked 2 jobs. She's a hard worker. Motivated. Living within her means. Embraces a simple life.

For the sake of respecting and preserving confidentiality, I'll refer to this woman as Ag.

Ag's daughter was struggling with a few subjects in school. Although Ag spent a great deal of time working with her daughter to assist with homework and improve her grades, Ag felt that she needed more. That's when I was hired.

About 2 years later, I moved out of state and wasn't able to tutor Ag's daughter any longer. Ag resorted to in-school tutoring. We remained in touch. Over the years, Ag and I became friends. 

Amid this time, Ag landed a prestigious job that put her Bachelor's degree to good use. She no longer had to work 2 jobs. I was very proud of her. I knew of Ag's struggles and this was the shining light at the end of the tunnel.

On the flip side, Ag's daughter was getting older. The first time Ag came to me with a request for advice was a few years ago. By this time, Ag's daughter was 15-ish. Ag was distraught. Frustrated. Her daughter displayed no interest in anything. Sports. Extracurricular activities. Volunteer work. Earning money. Doing chores around the house.

Instead, Ag's daughter took an avid interest in video games, phone apps, binge watching her favorite shows, hanging out with a friend or two in her room, and social media.

Ag was at her witts end. She couldn't motivate her daughter to help out around the house. Ag would return home from work to find the kitchen in shambles and her daughter's chore list untouched. Most evenings her home became a war zone. Eventually, Ag did all of the housework herself. She made dinner. Washed and dried the dinner dishes. She no longer asked or expected her daughter to do anything.

"It's easier that way. After working 12 hours a day, I don't want to spend the evening fighting."

My advice for Ag was to take away the extras from her daughter.

"Make her earn them. If she wants her phone and game consoles back, she needs to do her daily chores. If she wants to have a friend over on the weekend, she needs to do her chores all week without fighting about it."

Ag tried that approach for several days but then threw in the white flag.

"My daughter was a tyrant. I thought the days of full-fledged temper tantrums were over."

Ag fell back into her usual routine of throwing up her hands. It was easier to get things done herself than fight with her daughter. Nothing had improved. As Ag's daughter got older, things only got worse.

Ag's daughter eventually graduated from high school and hit the big 18. Most weeks, Ag continued to reach out with current issues and to seek advice. Her daughter wasn't looking for work. She continued to hang out with friends at the house deeply engulfed in all things digital. She refused to do chores.

I became oblivious to the nature of our friendship. Throughout the past few years, our friendship has transpired into being one-sided. In most of my correspondence, I've written paragraphs about my life here, our family, new happenings, etc. Very little has been acknowledged. Instead, Ag's emails have been saturated with her current troubles and mother-daughter stresses.

Don't get me wrong, I'm flattered that Ag has continued to reach out to me over the years. She's always had a deep and profound respect for my many years of experience. I have applauded her perseverance and determination to better her life.

The other morning, I received an email from Ag that completely sent me spinning in my office chair. Ag had a few work friends over for drinks and appetizers. Her daughter had a friend over. Ag had to speak to her daughter more than once about the noise level. Then, her daughter and friend decided to help themselves to several plates of appetizers before escaping to the living room for a Netflix binge.

Of course, Ag was infuriated. She asked her daughter to shut the TV off and go to another room. Long story short, World War III broke out. Ag was beyond humiliated. Her guests left early.

Included in her email to me was this...

"Your advice over the years hasn't helped. My daughter is out of control. She doesn't have a job. I continue to pay her bills along with household bills. She helps herself to things around the house that I have clearly stated were off limits. Just the other day, I vacuumed the carpets while she sat on the sofa, chatting with her friend on the phone that I pay for. She's rude, disrespectful, lazy, and I've had it."

I had to walk away, do some angry housework, and sit outside for a bit before I felt calm enough to reply.

Included in my email to Ag was this...

"The advice I have given you over the years was solely based on the experience I've gained over the past 12 years. If something came up that I wasn't experienced with, I let you know. But, most of the time, I was familiar with the issues at hand.

I have doled out the same advice to many other parents who came to me in distress. I listened. I made suggestions on what they could do to improve the situation. Of course, every situation is different and therefore fine-tuning any portion of my suggestions was recommended.

What remained fundamental and not negotiable was a few things. Consistency. Standing your ground. Not throwing in the towel when things got too rough. And, you need to enforce that it's your house, your rules, and you will not tolerate being disrespected. If any of those fundamentals are compromised, all hell is going to break loose.

What that translates to, for example, is if you tell your daughter that her chores need to be done before she sits in front of the TV, grabs the game console, or gets lost in the world of social media, enforce that. Be consistent. Follow through. Yes, that is going to take some effort on your part. You may need to change the Wifi password and take her phone away, but so be it. 

It may also involve being inundated with temper tantrums, the slamming of doors, and other inconveniences, but suck up and deal. You're the parent. You pay the bills. That's your house. If you give in at any point in time, you are teaching your daughter that a temper tantrum is all it takes to get out of responsibilities and getting her way. 

You are also teaching your daughter that she will be rewarded for her negative behavior and laziness. Remember last month when you planned an outing with your daughter and her friend that included dinner out and a summer wardrobe shopping spree? You told your daughter she needed to get all of her chores done before you left. When you got home, none of the chores had been done. Your daughter's friend was already at your house. 

You didn't want to look like an a**hole so you ignored your daughter's failure to respect your rules and conditions. You took your daughter and her friend out. The next day, you spent most of the day doing housework and yard work while your daughter and her friend lounged on the sofa watching Netflix.

So, please, at this point, tell me again how my advice hasn't helped and been deemed useless. As a parent, you should have put your foot down. Sent your daughter's friend home. But, not before you explained why. 

Then, I would have gone a step further. No phone. No TV. No internet. NOTHING. I would have handed her a suitcase and told her if she didn't like the rules, she could move. Your daughter is an adult. You are no longer required to support her. YOU should have been the one sitting on the sofa relaxing while your daughter took care of housework and waited on you hand and foot.

You can't adhere to my suggestions for a few days, throw the towel in when things get rough, and then turn around and blame me because your daughter is who she is now. 

Take a moment. Put yourself in the position of being on the outside looking in. Reflect on various situations. I think you'll realize that more often than not, you threw your hands up. You didn't want to deal with the temper tantrums and consequences of enforcing the rules. As it stands now, your daughter rules your home. She's what, 19 now? No job. No car. No ambition. No financial responsibility. You're letting her live there rent-free, you're paying her bills, feeding her and the friends she has over, and pretty much at her beck and call.

I know you're frustrated and stressed and uncertain of how to break this vicious cycle. You apparently don't want my advice any longer, and that's okay. I'll leave you with a quote. "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." 

I left it at that.

I haven't heard from her since.

On a side note...

This is one of the many reasons why I retired from academic and Independent Living tutoring. But, it's also one of the many reasons why I'm considering offering Hardcore Independent Living tutoring classes in the near future.

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