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Dave Says: Boundaries . . .

Dave Ramsey - April 17, 2012

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My fiancé's adult daughter doesn't show responsibility. What do we do?

Dear Dave,

I’m getting married to a wonderful man, but his 19-year old daughter from a previous marriage is very irresponsible. She doesn’t want to make her own car payments and doesn’t want to work. Lots of days, she sleeps until noon and just lies around the house. He agrees that he’s been too lenient and that she needs to grow up, but doesn’t want to pull the rug out from under her. What do you think?

Kelly

Dear Kelly,

There are two problems here. One is financial in nature, and the other is a lack of boundaries. You’re walking face-first into both of them.

Marriage counselors will tell you if you can agree on four things – religion, money, children and in-laws – then you’ve got a good chance of having a successful marriage. You’ve got two of these yanking your chain right now - money and children - and they’re both wrapped up in one spoiled little girl. If you and dad really want to show her that you love her, you’ll make sure she starts learning some character and discipline.

I’d strongly suggest that you and your fiancé go through pre-marital counseling to make sure you’re on the same page when it comes to handling this and other issues. You might also want to read the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud, together. Then, the two of you will have some tools to sit down and create a reasonable timeline for her re-education. Her dad, not you, needs to present this to her and explain that he’s made some mistakes by not requiring her to grow up and learn self-sufficiency. Then, he can lay out the ground rules and a monthly timetable.

It wouldn’t be cruel to require her to get a job during the first month, along with getting out of bed by 8 a.m. every day. During the second month, you could also require her to do some work around the house to help out. During month three she could be required to pay rent. This way, you’re stepping up the expectations gradually to the fifth or sixth month, when she’s moving out and taking care of her own responsibilities.

It’s all about love, Kelly. But it’s also about boundaries and expectations that will prepare children to function in the real world.

—Dave

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