What do you say to an ungrateful daughter?
She’s been pushing all your buttons lately, and it’s gotten to the point where you dread interacting with her.
Nowhere in your parenting books did you run across any helpful tips for dealing with grown children disrespecting parents.
But here you are, dealing with a kid who refuses to take responsibility or who continually tries to take advantage of you.
It’s exhausting. You’re getting nowhere with phone calls, and your in-person conversations devolve into shouting matches.
So, why not write a letter instead?
How Do You Deal with a Disrespectful Grown Daughter?
How do you get through to a disrespectful adult daughter when she uses your past mistakes against you every chance she gets?
How can you get her to stop blaming you for the chaos in her life and take responsibility for her own actions (or lack thereof)?
Once she moved out of the house, you thought, “Okay… Maybe I can breathe a bit easier now.” Soon enough, it hits you: If anything, she’s given you MORE to worry about.
Chances are, some of the following behaviors will sound familiar:
- Calling you at odd hours and expecting you to drop everything to help her.
- Coming by to use the laundry and eat your food without asking or calling ahead.
- Asking you for money because she spent all of hers on “things I need.”
- Dredging up past mistakes to guilt you into giving her what she wants.
- Badmouthing you to relatives to get them to take her side against you.
- Stealing from you or misusing your property and, when caught, lying about it.
- Freezing you out to punish you and only reaching out when she wants something.
Is this the young woman who was once so eager to grow up? You distinctly remember her doing and saying mature things at one point? Now she’s acting like an oversized toddler. What happened?
And what can you say to her that will change things for the better?
How to Write a Letter to A Disrespectful Daughter
The following steps will help you answer these questions:
- What should you focus on?
- What should you say, and how should you say it?
- What are your goals for the relationship?
- How will you work toward them?
- What do you expect her to do?
- Should you send the letter?
Use these as a guide for writing letters to daughters who disrespect their mothers. If it helps you, it can help other mothers, too.
And you’re definitely not alone.
1. Decide on the behavior to address.
You want your daughter to read the letter all the way to the end. Don’t write a book or try to cover everything at once. Think about what behavior needs to be addressed right away:
- Late night or early morning phone calls (non-emergency)
- Coming over unannounced to do laundry, eat your food, etc.
- Stealing from you or guilting you into giving them money, etc.
- Using you as her free babysitter without regard for your plans
- Badmouthing you to your face and behind your back
Think about what bothers you most about her behavior and why. That’s what you’ll want to write about in this letter.
2. Get clear on how you want to support your daughter.
How will you continue to support your daughter and make it clear that you love her and want her to be happy? After all, you’re not cutting her out of your life.
You just want your support to have the best possible results. You want to help her grow up and become the responsible woman you know she can be.
How will you respond if she lashes out at you for not doing what she wants you to do for her? What does she expect from you that you cannot or will not give her?
3. Step into your daughter’s shoes.
Often the best way to know what to say (or write) to your daughter is to step into her shoes and try to look at your situation through her eyes. How does she see your relationship? Why might she see it that way?
Try to empathize with her to understand where her hostility or disrespect is coming from.
The better you understand her, the better you’ll know how to begin, how to put your message into words, and what approach has the best chance of reaching her.
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4. Take responsibility for your actions — not your daughter’s.
Don’t blame yourself for your daughter’s disrespectful behavior. She doesn’t have a right to use your mistakes as a parent as a convenient excuse.
She may be holding something against you and justifying her behavior by pointing to something you did or said that hurt or offended her.
By all means, take responsibility for your own behavior. But she’s responsible for how she treats other people, including you, her father, her siblings, etc.
Whatever others have done or said, no one can make her disrespectful.
5. Define your terms. What does it mean to be disrespectful?
What does “disrespect” mean to you? Contrast it with what respectful behavior looks like. Define your terms so you can clearly explain to her what you see and what you want.
Make it clear that you want a relationship with her based on mutual respect. You’re not just demanding respect because you’re the parent, and she’s the grown child. You’re not expecting complete submission, either.
You want her to treat you (and other humans) the way she wants to be treated.
6. Define your goals for the relationship.
Since a relationship goes both ways, what are your expectations for yourself and your daughter? Are they compatible with your daughter’s expectations?
How do you see your relationship to be a year from now? How do you want it to be? How do you plan to get from here to there?
Ask her what her goals are, too. How does she see your relationship a year from now, and how does she want it to be? Do you want the same things?
7. Decide whether (and how) to get the letter into your daughter’s hands.
It’s natural to worry about how your daughter will react, especially if she’s threatened to harm herself if you don’t comply with her wishes or if you enforce your boundaries.
Once you finish your letter and decide she needs to see it, it’s up to you to determine how best to get it to her — by mail or in person.
Let your daughter know when and how she can get in touch with you. Set reasonable times for contact during the day (no phone calls at 2 am to vent or complain).
Sample Letter to a Daughter Who is Disrespectful
To help you get started, here’s a sample letter you can look through for ideas. May it inspire you to write what’s on your heart.
I’m writing this letter to address some things between us and to, hopefully, make our relationship everything we’d both like it to be.
You know I love you. And I want you to have the best life possible, now that you’re an adult. You’re experiencing much of what I faced when I was your age. And I remember how difficult it was for me.
But some things make life harder than it has to be. If I didn’t love you, I wouldn’t be writing to address those things. Please read this to the end.
For both our sakes, the following behaviors need to stop:
- [List disrespectful behavior that concerns you the most and makes it hard to maintain a loving relationship with her.]
- For example, “Calling me after 9 pm or before 8 am to talk about something that isn’t life or death. Those are bedtime hours, and I’d appreciate your saving non-emergency phone calls for the hours between 8 am and 9 pm.”
Just as I want to respect your personal boundaries, I ask that you respect mine. Before you do one of the things I mentioned, ask yourself whether you’d appreciate it if you were on the receiving end.
This is not about the mistakes I’ve made in the past. You and only you are responsible for your own actions and how you treat people, including your parents.
I hope after reading this, you’ll think about what I’ve written and talk to me about how we’ll move forward. I’d like to have a better relationship with you. It’s something we both have to work on.
Always remember that I love you!
Will you write a letter to your disrespectful daughter?
It’s easy to use the word “should” against yourself, especially when you’re a parent. But mistakes are part of parenting. The important thing is that you learn from them.
Once you have, you can bring even more good out of it by sharing what you’ve learned with your kids, whether they’re grown or not, especially if they’re being disrespectful or taking advantage of you.
Your letter is the perfect place to share relevant lessons you’ve learned as a parent, as well as your reasonable expectations of her as a fellow human being.
The sooner she learns to treat you like one, the better off you’ll both be.