Help my 21 year-old daughter stop being 16
June 10, 2012 5:36 AM   Subscribe

How do I motivate my 21 year old to look for a job (and ultimately be a fine independent young woman)? (details below)

I'm the dad of a good kid who will be 21 soon. She's attended a few local community colleges, just getting by, but doesn't seem to have the drive to do well. She's bright, funny, and pretty talkative once she gets over some initial shyness.

I think it is very important for her to be working over the summer. She needs to learn all those things that we learn only on the job: how to push yourself, deal with sometimes difficult people/situations, acquire portable skills to use on other jobs.

I worry that she's getting past up by her peers who are out there working already, sorting out what they're going to be doing with their lives. I feel like she's easily distracted by too much social media, TV, and other entertainments and avoids figuring out a serious direction to take in her studies, and finding a part time job. Any part time job.

She lives with her mom across town. That means I have limited power over consequences that I can enforce. I see my daughter once or twice a week, so I've been timid about really bugging her about anything. But lately I feel that I've been shirking my responsibility as her dad to make sure that she's doing things like working and doing well in school, so that's why this is on my mind. Thanks for taking the time to read and engage on this!
posted by hick57 to Human Relations (33 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
For us to help, we need to know if you and your ex-wife are financially supporting her.
posted by k8t at 5:46 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

If it was my kid, I'd try thing:

'Mildred, your mom and I appreciate the effort you've made so far in attending classes. However, now that you're 21 and you haven't yet finished an associates degree.
At this point, we need to have an independence plan.
Your choices are to
A. Take a full time load of classes, for which you take out student loans for, an in Exchange you can live rent-free and eat food with one of us and we'll continue paying for your car, but we will not provide any spending money, so you'll need to get a part-time job. Upon your completion of your associates, we will do a 3 month grace period where you can live here rent free.
B. If you aren't taking a full load of classes, as of September 1, you will need to pay Mom/me rent of $150 per week, which will give you access to the household food. We will no longer pay for your car or give you spending money.
C. Of course, you're welcome to live elsewhere if you're not taking a full load.
posted by k8t at 5:52 AM on June 10, 2012 [20 favorites]

You also need to talk to your ex wife about this. Apparently she's okay with supporting your daughter? I'd make the argument that she can't support her indefinitely so you need an independence strategy.
posted by k8t at 5:55 AM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

Yeah the best way to encourage someone to become motivated and financially independent is to stop supporting them financially. (It works wonders!) So. It really depends on your ex-wife's views as well and whether she is enabling her to remain '16'. Of course you should talk to your daughter and explain how you feel. I'm sure she wants to become independent and make herself and both parents proud- maybe she is unsure how to do so?
posted by bquarters at 6:03 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

k8t nailed it.... Why on earth would ANYONE give up a free ride for the daily grind unless they have to?
posted by HuronBob at 6:14 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

A low-key approach that can be done during your limited time with her and without changing her mother's approach would be to start talking with her about, honestly, things that cost money. For example, ask her how she imagines her living situation in her first apartment -- and go look at apartments with her, help her sort out a budget so she has an idea of costs, let her daydream about how she would paint and decorate. Ask her where she wants to travel when she is independent -- and help her research and plan for that trip. What kind of car would she like to have -- and go take a few for test drives and kick some tires. What type of job would she like -- and help her line up a few informational interviews.

The idea is to engage her in conversation and planning and imagining her adult world, to instill a sense of want (for material goods, but also for independence) that can only be satisfied with a job. At the same time, by doing some of this with her you are able to teach her some of those skills she may not have yet, like how to identify a good place to live, or how to live within a budget, or how to find a sturdy car, or how to talk with adults about their jobs.
posted by Houstonian at 6:21 AM on June 10, 2012 [20 favorites]

Your 21 year old daughter is not a kid.

There are no "consequences" you can "enforce", because she's an adult. She can succeed or fail on her own merits now.

The best thing to do would be to cut the cord/gently push her out of the nest. There's nothing like bills hanging over your head to force you to suddenly develop a work ethic.

That said, this might be hard if it's her mom financially supporting her.
posted by Sara C. at 7:04 AM on June 10, 2012 [5 favorites]

Maybe you can't kick her out, which *is* sometimes necessary, but you can start taking an active interest in what exactly she wants to do with the rest of her life, helping her figure out how to achieve those goals, that sort of thing. Even if your parents are supporting you, a lot of 20-somethings still hit the point where they're capable of thinking, "Ooh, you know, it would be nice to have the money to have my own place, and travel, and not have someone bothering me all the time!"

Not everybody just automatically knows what they want to be when they grow up, though, even once they are old enough that people start expecting them to be grown-ups. Sometimes just having someone who cares about you take an interest and stay actively involved in it can go a long way, and I don't think a lot of parents necessarily think to do that. Not necessarily pushing, just asking questions and using your own know-how to find resources to make things happen.

Part-time work can be helpful, but especially if you're not in a position to be cutting her off anyway, if her mom won't, then consider also encouraging her to look into volunteering in some area related to a current field of interest. Volunteer gigs can be a lot easier to get than summer work in this economy, and sometimes can be a lot more rewarding as far as making future plans than working fast food or retail. (For all people talk about that Teaching Responsibility, all working fast food ever taught me was that I was disposable and drugs were remarkably easy to come by.)
posted by gracedissolved at 7:18 AM on June 10, 2012 [10 favorites]

Has she ever had a job (part time or other) in her life?
posted by catseatcheese at 7:19 AM on June 10, 2012

There are so many things that we are missing in this question (did she work as a teenager in other jobs? What does she want to do or be? What things motivate her? Etc.) Going at this from a very different perspective - I used to teach undergrads and saw some of the things that they struggled with --also I apologize in advance, I only know a few career tracks and will approach if from that angle, but tailor it to what she wants to do.

Approaching this with challenges for motivation both in school/academic setting and finding a job.

It sounds like you have limited time and perhaps not a great rapport with her? I would tread lightly and try to encourage her. There may be other problems underlying the problem(s), which I would try to get at first prior to plan "throw her to the wolves" which other posters seem to be suggesting.

• I'd start by talking to her. What does she want to do in a future career and how does she feel about the courses so far? How and why did she decide to pursue career X? (I would also try to look into incongruent information. So if she states "I want to be a doctor" but hate hates every single premed type course, why? Did someone (including you or her other parent) state early that she should go for career X? Some students struggle with a parent telling them before college to pursue career X,but the student finds he or she hates the topic/has no aptitude for it and flounders until...they develop the guts to go after the career he or she wants. You can prod someone to think about these things.What career would make her happy ?You may not do this, but some people do...

• As part of this conversation, is she struggling in school? What does she find challenging? You may want to gently suggest getting assessed for a learning disability and/orADHD if she is struggling with the learning component - many schools have support systems for this,but first she would need to be assessed if so, the school works with her to create a program (i.e. note takers, audiobooks,etc.)

• Does she lack study skills? Very smart first and second year college students flounder because they never had to take notes in their life (hello! high school!)and are not prepared for the shift. Ask how she approaches the classes- on campus,they should offer a study skills type seminar - if she has a problem,she can attend that. Or does she have a particular deficit (i.e. writing) There are usually language centers that will help you with that skill set and sometimes even review your paper.

• What does she want to do and what career does she envision (okay this is where I would really encourage her).Has she identified what steps that she needs to get there? If she states "doctor" or "vet" then ...then next step would be to see an advisor on campus. They could provide recommendations as to what the typical student does (i.e. grades, lab experience, experience with patients,etc.)

• Think outside the box with her a bit. Here is where I will differ just a little bit from throw her into a job (and I am saying this as a person who has had part time jobs from time of 14 yrs onwards)- that may not be the best next step for her career.Does she want to be a physician? Volunteering in a research lab for the summer and following around a physician may be the best next steps...ten times more than a summer position at your local McDonalds orTarget. Typically, a student may volunteer for the first summer at a lab,but if he or she is good, the funding will be found in following years....and if they do well at that, there name may go on papers, and it increases the likelihood of the next step.(Sorry that I focus on this path - I don't know other career paths that well, but the same will apply - what do students who get into those programs do to get there?Internships? Experience X?).

• As a further step towards getting an experience in (a lab or whatever environment fits her career path, in a department at a university)-- follow steps like this (previous)- basically, she would have to look at web pages of faculty and approach them to discuss her interest in volunteering in their (lab, project, summer experience, whatever). Tailor it to her field/discipline. This may be later if she hasn't finished community college yet.

• Encourage her to volunteer (even a few hours a week). So she may have her eye on career X, but when she volunteers finds she doesn't want to do that...she can shift gears then. Or she may find that she loves the experience and will have more desire to pursue itand work hard at it now.

• Has she applied for jobs and what has her experience been? To be honest, some people need help with some steps. I used to come across horribly in interviews-but practicing, even with people that I knew, helped that improve. But a young person may lack the skills to succeed at some of these steps. Alternatively, if you live in a place with sky high unemployment, it will take her a while to find a job if there are professionals willing to compete. But talk to her about current approaches and offer feedback.
posted by Wolfster at 7:21 AM on June 10, 2012 [11 favorites]

Is there anything she wants? Coveting shit is a great motivator for finding some kind of work. Does she have a travel dream? People I know who lived at home at that age saved money and went overseas.
posted by Trivia Newton John at 7:40 AM on June 10, 2012

Your ex-wife her mother, is doing her no favors.

Get this, there's no free ride. Invite your ex out for a discussion over coffee, away from the house. Mention that you're concerned about your daughter's future and see if she's open to developing an independence plan. At the very least your ex should be interested in collecting rent from your daughter, commensurate with whatever wages she's able to contribute from a job she'll be needing to get.

My parents made me pay rent when I lived with them, not because they needed my contribution, but because adults need to be responsible for their living expenses.

One thing that my light a fire under your kid's ass is the realization that the jobs one can get with the education she currently has aren't glamorous or fun or interesting.

Not everyone is destined for college, but everyone has to earn his or her keep.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:43 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I like the volunteer suggestion. She may meet someone else who can offer her a job or encourage her in that direction. Young people will sometimes listen to people who are not their parents :)
posted by Calzephyr at 7:45 AM on June 10, 2012

Hello chap, three things:

1) First, you have to look at the context. Being a young person in many Western countries is terrible. Many of their peer group are out of work. Those that can find work are often stuck in crap jobs that place onerous demands on them, given the pay and opportunity provided. Yet, simultaneously, the media continues pushing the message that 'everything is alright'. Celebrities do whatever they want, hip hop throws around the money, and to keep the general population in line, the general message is 'how bad everything is for everyone' in the form of gross economic figures. Yet, the reality is that youth unemployment and underemployment is horrendous. Thus, if you say she is demotivated, perhaps the thing to ask is "what is there for her to aspire to?".

Just because she is not running headlong into a job market that is abysmal does not mean she lacks the motivations to work, rather perhaps she simply does not see how the options in front of her will lead to a form of success that she actually cares about.

It could be a very valuable opportunity to have the conversation with her. Rather than asking her, "why don't you have a job" or "what are you interested in", perhaps come from the point of "when you look at the world of work, and working, what do you see?" If you can help her uncover her aspirations, you can then help develop a road map to get here there. School may or may not be a part of that. For many, it is not. Although, she does need to make an educated choice, as it will impact her options considerably for the rest of her life, and she may not be completely clued into that at the moment.

2) The best way to have your adult child support herself is indeed to force her to support herself. So long as the easiest option is to stay at home, what motivation does she have to work? At the moment, she has a roof, a fridge, and ample time to stimulate herself. What she is not seeing is that working is actually greatly preferable, for there's independence that comes with working. At the moment, she may be convalescing in a sort of extended adolescence, not really developing a work-ethic or a sense of self.

Previously, when there was somewhere to go (a healthy job market), kids leapt out of the nest, happy to work for the freedom it afforded them. In her case, getting a job and a career may well be a much greater effort, thus it's not an automatic choice. So you may have to kick her out of the nest a bit. Another issue is that if independence is the reward, there is no way to introduce her to the reward before the effort. If she works and sorts herself out, then she gets the independence. It's very hard to give her a taste of the independence before the reward. So you need to somehow light that fire. Maybe the next point can help there.

In terms of her general motivational state, it very well may have to do with coddling by your wife. Call me cray cray, but I'm seeing a lot these days with the generation behind me. You have the traditional dynamics that a divorced parent can often rely on the child for their social functioning. Often, divorced parents actively disincentivize their children by given them soft barriers. "You can live at home as long as your in school." Thus, the eight year part-time degree with a 2.0 GPA. Parents don't do this intentionally, rather, it's often a subconscious thing.

It's not a problem if there's a healthy job market and the child wants to leave, however if you mix the two, you get a parent who won't boot the kid out of the nest, and a kid that doesn't see any reason or value to get out of the nest.

I would chat to your ex-wife about it. If you guys agree, then a graduated support method may well work. You get $1000 a month for the next six months, $500 a month after that, and in a year, baby you are free. Oh, and by the way, we'll pay for school as long as you're in it full-time.

If your wife balks or disagrees, you are going to have a terrible time of it, as she has the most direct influence. In that case, you will face the task of having to incentivise her independence. If you know of someone who can hire her, that would be a good step. Call it an internship. It's to build her career. For three to six months, part-time. With a bit of pay.

3) Study abroad volunteer work programme. If your financial situation permits, send her somewhere on a volunteer work programme. Working with children in Costa Rica, or working with farmers in India. I have seen many people flip their entire attitudes around on these things, because they see what work is not just what they conceive it to be (again, helps to know her conception of work). Also, they work for a few weeks, and then they get to travel for a few weeks. It sets up quite a nice effort::reward experience. Further, it's short-term, thus easy to implement. She'll have both structure and just the barest taste of complete independence. When she gets back, sitting around watching TV as mom's may well seem childish compared to running her own life, catching buses in Belize.
posted by nickrussell at 7:51 AM on June 10, 2012 [6 favorites]

I floundered at that age as well, and had trouble picking a major. I wish I had known then that internships aren't just for teachers and doctors, and I wish I'd had a much more hands-on mentor or advisor. And I wish, actually, that I'd been less worried about working the part-time jobs in hotels and restaurants just to get some gas money, and felt more free to do volunteer work and unpaid internships in fields of my interest. I think those experiences would have been far more valuable in the long run.

I think it's going to be very difficult to enforce any rules about paying rent or cutting her off unless your ex is fully on-board, and the impression I get from your question is that she isn't. So the ideas upthread about engaging her and helping her move forward might be more effective. Have a chat with her and initially just take the temperature of how *she* thinks things are going. She may be worried and not sure what to do next. Putting her in touch with other adults who can help mentor her would be good too - especially if she's interested in being a dentist and you happen to know a dentist who might need a summer assistant. Let her know you care and you think this is an important time for her.

My dad pushed me to get a temp job in an office one summer, and I was quite reluctant but it showed me that I could be successful in the "real" world. After that I was eager to finish up my classes and graduate.

Also - worry less about how she compares to her peers, and more about whether she's pointing herself in a direction of independence and happiness.
posted by bunderful at 8:00 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

You can't enforce any consequences except for kicking your daughter out. She is legally an adult and certain methods of parenting aren't going to be effective on a 21 year old.

Showing someone my age what can happen when you do or don't do something is more effective.

Show her consequences that happen if you can't afford to pay your bills, but gradually show what happens rather than taking everything immediately. For instance, if she can't afford to pay her cell phone bill then she will lose access to a private phone. If she can't afford to pay 1/3 of the internet bill then the internet will be unavailable for three days at the end of the month which would feel like much longer to her. If she drives and can't afford to pay for gas money then she will need to budget whatever money she does have and use public transportation instead.
posted by livinglearning at 8:01 AM on June 10, 2012

Please be careful - the reason I was like this at 21 (similar but different) and why my little sister (who is currently 22) has struggled so much is basically 100% due to very serious and untreated mental illness. My mom tried the "you have to be working full time or in school full time or part time in both" thing, and I took off across country with no plan, and this is a majorly contributing factor to the fact that I didn't get proper treatment until I was 29. It also seriously screwed with my relationships with all of my parental types.

I'm going to MeMail you some more stuff.
posted by Fee Phi Faux Phumb I Smell t'Socks o' a Puppetman! at 8:45 AM on June 10, 2012 [7 favorites]

I don't know much about your daughter, and what aspirations she might have and what she might be feeling, but I'm very close in age to her and wanted to share what I was going through at the time. In my case, I had graduated from college, and was living with roommates in a new city, and worked two shitty minimum wage jobs that had absolutely nothing to do with my degree. And I enjoyed being independent, and managing my budget, and cooking for myself, and having a checkbook, and all that.

But oh, at the same time, I was so trapped. I knew I had to get better jobs, because I couldn't afford my loan payments. But my jobs, both of which were physically exhausting, left me too tired to do much after work. I didn't have time to volunteer. I kept finding all of these internships that sounded amazing, but I had to work. And the thing was, I wasn't entirely sure what I wanted to do with my life, so I couldn't justify taking classes or taking an unpaid internship if I wasn't absolutely 100% certain about it. I was very anxious and depressed, and felt so incredibly trapped, all the time. All I could think about was money. My future was not wide open for the taking, it was limited to working the same sorts of shitty minimum wage jobs for the rest of my life.

So yeah, I get the "throw her to the wolves" thing. It does make sense. But maybe not right now, at this exact moment in the economy. It could do more harm than good. Please, absolutely, encourage her to think about what she wants to be doing with her life. She might, like me, feel like it's pointless because she'll never get there, because the job market is so bad. Or she might feel like it's too risky to take chances on something she is sort of interested in, but not sure she'll be good at. Encourage her to try things, especially internships and volunteer positions, even if she won't make money. Because most people her age can't afford to do that right now.
posted by ke rose ne at 8:51 AM on June 10, 2012 [20 favorites]

I think K8t had some really good suggestive talking points, but I'd really steer clear of the whole 'going to school for the sake of going to school' route. So, she gets an associates. Next step is a job, or on to a bachelor's. You said she had a hard time being motivated, andso both of those options are going to be difficult for her. And if she's just getting a degree so she can have a free ride, then at the end all she's got is two years gone and some student loan debt.
She needs to find what motivates her.
posted by FirstMateKate at 8:57 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

And if, beyond the financial parts, you are concerned that she is not acquiring skills like learning to live alone, dealing with a landlord or roommates, cooking for herself, cleaning up after herself, learning how to fix a toilet, etc... a good solution might be for you and her mother to pay all (or part of) her rent for a year or so while she lives with people her own age, who are also working for spending money and going to class. I think most people, in general, enjoy feeling independent and useful. Especially if her friends all have jobs, she most likely will want to be like them and have spending money that she's earned.
posted by ke rose ne at 9:07 AM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Offering to hook her up with resources is a really big thing, I think. Does she like certain kinds of charities, or certain subjects? Help her get in contact with adults who run those kinds of charities, or who do academic work in those subjects. You have access to a world she doesn't understand yet - the one where people take you seriously and do stuff for you because you've done stuff for them. You know people who know people who would potentially be really helpful for her to know - but she has little awareness of that. So tell her, and show her. Bonus: knowing very driven, interesting, successful adults makes you want to be one of them.

(It blows my mind sometimes, the people my parents' friends know, who could have been really helpful for me to have hooked up with in college - this is one of the things that makes upper-middle-class kids so much more successful than their slightly-less-well-off peers; the taking advantage of social connections thing.)
posted by SMPA at 9:28 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Don't encourage her to go into debt just to learn how not to be a flake according to someone else's standards. It will just make her an unhappy, anxious, debt-ridden flake. It will not improve her flakiness.

Happy people do better at life than anxious, sad people.
posted by The Master and Margarita Mix at 9:31 AM on June 10, 2012 [8 favorites]

Well, I can tell you that when I dropped out of my last year of high school, my parent immediately demanded I pay room and board. Six months full time graveyard shifts in a donut shop later, I went back and got my high school diploma. Then I moved out, worked full-time shift-work for an alarm company for a year, with people who saw it as their job for life, more or less, and got my ass into university. I worked part time during the year, full time in summers, to keep a roof over my head and pay tuition. The spectre of boring work with sniping gossipy co-workers forever was too dire.

It's all well and good for people to say that service industry jobs are a waste of time and pity the poor kid whose parents make them do it, but sometimes to figure out what you want to do you have to spend some time finding out the things you really very much do not want to do.

You and her mother have to be on the same side, however, or this won't work. I really do believe the best motivator is the need for food and shelter.
posted by looli at 9:38 AM on June 10, 2012 [3 favorites]

I came in to say almost exactly what Socks o' a Puppetman said, right down to taking off across the country with no plan (and without telling my parents, to go stay with someone I'd never met, and with almost no money) when my parents decided to push the issue. For some people, pushing things seems to help, but for others, it just drives in a wedge. Unless you know where your daughter falls on this spectrum, I'd strongly suggest avoiding ultimatums...unless your desire to see her in a job outweighs your desire to have a relationship with her.

Like Socks, my primary issue wasn't laziness or lack of motivation, but huge, untreated (and previously misdiagnosed) mental illness. Please encourage your daughter to see a therapist or counselor--even if she isn't mentally ill, they're better equipped to help her get motivated than you are.

Also, keep in mind that right now is an exceptionally difficult time to be looking for work, even (maybe especially) if you only want part-time work and/or have to work around a school schedule. When my partner became unemployed, it took him over a year to find work--and he's an adult with a degree, a good work history, and no constraints on his schedule. Depending on where you are, it may not be as easy for her to find work as you think it is.
posted by MeghanC at 11:04 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

One thing that my light a fire under your kid's ass is the realization that the jobs one can get with the education she currently has aren't glamorous or fun or interesting.

This a million times. This is why all the kids I know who grew up working part time jobs digging ditches or shoveling manure are functional, happy adults. Because they only spent 2 summers stacking hay in the 120 degree heat or nannying for Cruella DeVille and they're free!

Working at the mall doesn't count, my kids are going to be doing something truly unpleasant with their summers just as soon as they're old enough to push a wheelbarrow.
posted by fshgrl at 11:34 AM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

Okay. Let's back up for a minute.

It sounds like you are not financially supporting her; her mother is. She's about to be 21, you're not supporting her, and she hasn't asked for your advice about how to be a happy person, which doesn't make you wrong to want to help -- far from it. But it means that you're going to have to rely here on your relationship with her to influence her positively if you're going to do it at all. So asking how to influence her becomes more like than unlike trying to influence any other adult you love: she has to trust you, and you have to listen to her and say things that make sense to her, or she'll ignore you, because she's free to do that.

I think you wildly overestimate, if she is 20 years old, how many of her peers have sorted out, or are seriously down the road to sorting out, what to do with their lives. And if they are, it's not necessarily because they have part-time jobs. When I was 20, I knew a lot of people who were pretty sure they knew exactly what they were going to do with their lives. Most of them are not doing it; they are doing something kind of in the direction of it, or they are not doing anything remotely like it. I didn't figure out what I wanted to do with my life, ultimately, until I was over 30.

You say she's bright, funny, personable -- you make her sound ... happy, and she's been taking classes and doing okay, even if you don't see in her the "drive" you wish she had. I'm not sure why you're quite so upset, to be honest. You seem very focused on where you think she is with regard to her peers and her exposure to General Life Lessons (Push yourself! Deal with difficult people!), rather than looking at this individual person and what she needs in order to be a happy and independent woman. You assume that she doesn't have a direction because she likes social media, which ... probably isn't the reason. Lots of people don't have a direction and don't have Facebook. Lots of people have both Facebook and ambition. A big part of my advice is not to start putting down the way she's living her life just because you're worried about the things she's not doing. She's a little old, quite honestly, for you to tell her she watches too much TV.

It's very odd to me that you tell this entire story and say nothing about how she feels or what she wants or what her plans are. There's not a word in here about what she thinks about her future, or where she sees all this going, which either means you haven't asked her or you don't think what she said when you did ask her is relevant. I think you need to ask her, and I think you need to treat that information as highly relevant.

As I said, there's nothing wrong with what you're trying to accomplish, and I know you're acting out of love, and I know you only want the best for her. But if she senses that this is all driven by external, objective ideas you have about how she should live and that you're not interested in her particular plans or wants, she's not going to listen. And if she doesn't choose to listen, there's not a whole lot you can do. Get to know what she intends; spend time talking to her about it, and be prepared to listen to the fact that it may not be what you want to hear. Instead of thinking about it as "How can I influence her to do these things I want her to do?", think about it as "How can I help make sure she's considering all her options and she's thought about possible consequences?"

There's no guarantee your "good kid" is going to be exactly the kind of good kid you wanted. For what it's worth, there are worse problems to have.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 1:36 PM on June 10, 2012 [12 favorites]

Your worries come from a great place - being a loving parent - but she's a young adult - most people flounder in their early 20s (and if they don't then, it comes later) and she's an adult, she gets to decide what she does with her life.

Focus on the positives here, be supportive, and she'll more than likely sort herself out herself.
posted by mleigh at 1:54 PM on June 10, 2012

It changed my life, so I will recommend setting her up to take the Johnson O'Connor aptitude tests. They'd give her a list of careers she would likely be successful in; maybe that would give her a vision (and therefore motivation).
posted by hishtafel at 2:11 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I think Wolfster has the right approach. Imposing external consequences on your daughter for something she's already likely super stressed about (because her peers are doing better/are employed, because she's struggling in school, because her mom is badgering her, because she feels she's disappointing her parents, etc.) is pretty much the last thing you want to do at this point.

Instead, talk to her. Ask her what's up, what she's feeling, what her goals are and then ask her if she wants your help in setting concrete steps to achieve her goals at her own pace. You are not in charge of her life, she is. You can help her, facilitate her integration into the so-called "adult world" but the time of disciplining her for failing your expectations is gone now that she's a thinking person of her own.
posted by buteo at 2:25 PM on June 10, 2012 [2 favorites]

I don't know where you are. Here in Chicago, it is really difficult to find a summer job these days, and mid-June is certainly not the time to start looking. It's almost like "summer jobs" as they used to exist are a thing of the past except for being a lifeguard or a camp counselor-- and again, forget about finding one of those now. So whatever you do, please don't make that particular idea a bone of contention unless you know specifically that it's possible.

A lot of parents go, "I know! You should do xyz," like they think it's going to be straightforward to do when it's really not, and it just makes the kid think you don't know what you're talking about.
posted by BibiRose at 2:41 PM on June 10, 2012

Out of curiosity, what's the unemployment situation where you live? Yes, working is good, but if there's a lot of entry-level unemployment, there may not be many jobs to choose from no matter how motivated she is. (One of the most annoying things when I graduated from college, into a recession, was that my parents were getting on me to get a job, and I literally could not find one. Their attitude was like a job was something I could just pick up at the store and it was my choice to slack off.)

I'm not making excuses for her--maybe she really is not trying as hard as she could--but understanding the unemployment rate where you are might give you some perspective.
posted by elizeh at 2:48 PM on June 10, 2012 [4 favorites]

I have to say that personally, you come across as a well intentioned but judgmental father who's pushing your own values onto the daughter under the name of parenting. You mention nothing about your daughter's feelings about the future, how she wants to proceed with her life, and just make assumptions about being distracted by social media etc. If you really want to help her, then you should talk to her and get to know her and her goals. Then you can begin thinking about how you can support her. Either way, at this point in her life she has to figure things out on her own, take things at her own pace, and you have to take the back seat and just let her live her own life. My father was a little like you and he drove me nuts. I was an adult and I thought very hard about my future and took responsible decisions albeit unusual and bold. He added so much more unwanted pressure and anxiety of "fitting in" and I truly despise him for giving me such a hard time when I was already having a hard time. So really, get to know your daughter and talk to her before anything.
posted by snufkin5 at 8:43 PM on June 10, 2012 [1 favorite]

Late entry here.

I don't know how much you and ex cooperate but something that worked very well for teenage me (and more recently with my 21 year old nephew) was my parents banning me from the house from 8am to 5pm every day. It's much less harsh than tossing your kid out on the street but it gets the point across.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 2:09 PM on November 30, 2012

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