Ask Lisa—What Do I do With A Daughter Who Is Out Of Control?

Ask Lisa - What Do I Do With A Daughter Who Is Out Of Control?

“Ask Lisa” is an advice post for people who write in asking questions about a specific problem or situation.  Although is in no way a substitute for therapy, my hope and prayer is that it gives encouragement and direction for whatever you may be facing today.

If you have a specific question you would like answered, write in!

Dear Lisa,

I am writing you because I don’t know what to do.  My daughter Emily is 23 years old.  She has been working in our family business since she graduated high school.  She is disruptive to our business as she is often late, is disrespectful to everyone, and has a poor work ethic.  I brought her on because I wanted to train her from the ground up in the hopes of her taking over the business one day.  I’ve removed her from projects, disciplined her, talked to her privately, but to no avail.  Everything seems to be spiraling and it is affecting my other staff.

To make matter worse, she has had a history of anxiety and depression.  Currently, I fear she isn’t taking her meds or going to her therapy appointments. All she seems intestered in is partying with friends, which can't be helping matters. What do I do? I love my daughter but I can’t continue going on like this.

Sleepless Mom in Seattle


Dear Mom,

Such a challenging situation for any parent!  We love our kids and want to do everything we can to make their lives as stable and successful as possible.  Yet as our kids grow into adults, we can no longer control them or corral them to ensure their safety.  We can’t. We can love our kids, pray over them, and encourage them.  But when they won’t listen, sometimes the only thing we can do is draw healthy boundaries for ourselves that hopefully bring them face to face with the reality of their life and situation, boundaries that allow God to intervene, changing and transforming them in ways we never thought possible.

I can tell you love your daughter and are concerned not only for her future career and financial stability, but also for her mental health issues.  I would encourage you to consider setting up a time to meet with her privately.  Detail specifics of her job performance.  Express your desire to have her continue working with your company, but set clear expectations for what would have to change in order for her to do so, including a timeline for meeting each expectation.  If there have not been any consequences thus far for her behavior, you could define specific consequences for each infraction (ie. Sent home and docked a day’s pay if late, etc.), but there has to be a willingness on her part to change.  If she doesn’t see a problem and doesn’t seem inclined to change, the best course of action might be to let her go.

If you are not sure exactly what healthy boundaries look like or how to implement them, I encourage you to get my book,Peace For A Lifetime, which will help you understand and create healthy boundaries for all of your relationships.

Allowing her to experience the real world with real bosses to whom she's not related might be the best life-teacher.  Doing everything for them rarely grows anything in them.

Allowing children to experience the real-world consequences can be the best life-teacher. Doing everything for them rarely grows anything in them.

Many parents have adult children with mental health issues, which I know can make the situation more complex. However, somewhere along the way, adults, even if they are your children, have to learn to assume responsibility for the own mental/emotional wellbeing.  As a parent, you could agree to pay for psychiatric visits, meds, and/or therapy as long as they are willing to consistently show up for appointments.  Beyond that, in most situations, there is little a parent can do to make sure their adult child (especially if they are not living with you) is taking their meds or doing their part to maintain their mental/emotional stability.  

Your focus has to be on taking care of yourself and your business appropriately.  You need to make sure you have someone to talk with, a strong support system at church, as well as good self-care.  Pray over what your boundaries need to be, set a date to communicate your boundaries, and be prepared to follow through with them.

I’ll be praying for you!


**The advice offered in this column is intended for informational purposes only. Use of this column not intended to replace or substitute for any professional, financial, medical, legal, or other professional advice. If you have specific concerns or a situation in which you require professional, psychological or medical help, you should consult with an appropriately trained and qualified specialist. The opinions or views expressed in this column are not intended to treat or diagnose; nor are they meant to replace the treatment and care that you may be receiving from a licensed professional, physician or mental health professional in a clinical setting. 


About This Community

Don't we all want a little peace?  My heart for this community is to provide just that - a needed refuge from all the burdens that weigh us down, some encouragement and inspiration to keep us weary travelers moving forward on our journeys, and some practical advice to help each of us navigate the challenges of life and relationships.  Whether in our parenting, our marriages, our faith, or the broken places in our hearts, this place is for anyone who dares to reach beyond the hopelessness that surrounds us and embrace a lifestyle of emotional abundance and peace!  

About Peace for a Lifetime

In my book, Peace for a Lifetime, I share the keys to cultivating a life that’s deeply rooted, overflowing, and abundant, the fruit of which is peace. Through personal and professional experience as a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, I've discovered how to take the broken pieces of life and find indestructible peace with myself, God and with others. Through my story and other’s stories you’ll realize that you can experience the life for which you long. You can experience abundance beyond anything you can imagine. You can experience peace, not just for today, not just for tomorrow. You can experience peace —for a lifetime!

Peace for a Lifetime is available on

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