Dear Penny,

My young adult daughter who is living at home recently showed me instructions on how to legally evict an adult child who refuses to leave. This seemed bizarre, especially since she is the only adult child living here. 

I asked whether she had actually intended for me to see this, and she uneasily admitted that she had. Earlier in her life, she hinted more than once that I should be stern with her. That worked out quite well, but this would take the dynamic to a new level.

I can’t imagine actually turning my daughter away, although I might surprise myself. I could give her an ostensive timeframe in which to move out, and see what happens. I could charge rent, perhaps at a rate that she would struggle to afford at her current income. Is this a path we should go down? 

I’m only considering this because of our previous dynamic in which I became stern at her nudging, and this sternness had a positive impact.

-Not So Stern

Dear Not So Stern,

Your daughter may wish she’d gotten more tough love as a kid. Perhaps she’s the type of person who functions better with rules and deadlines. But if you want to be stern with your daughter, start by telling her that this is a ridiculous idea.

Your daughter clearly doesn’t understand what it means to have an eviction on your record. For the million or so tenants who get evicted during a normal year, it’s a tragedy that sends people deeper into poverty and debt. An eviction can make getting housing more difficult for years. This isn’t some inconsequential adulting lesson.

I can’t help being a bit suspicious of your daughter’s motives. Could she be hoping to get sympathy from someone by saying her own mother evicted her?

But I’ll assume that your daughter is being sincere and really does want you to be tough. My advice to you would be different if you were trying to get your daughter out of the house. But she’s the one with the goal. Presumably, she wants to move out and start living like the adult she is.


The problem is that she wants you to be strict, but she’s making you responsible for her goal. She can’t come up with a plan, so she’s asking you and the courts to force her into one. Understandably, you don’t want to evict your own daughter. So now you’re left mulling over other ways you can make your daughter accomplish her goal.

But life is hard when you only take action when you’re faced with extremely negative consequences. Would she ask her boss to put her on a performance improvement plan just so she can get motivated at work?

It sounds like your daughter has trouble making decisions for herself. You can help her set goals and come up with a plan to make them happen. Then, you can offer her accountability.

Start by asking your daughter what exactly she wants to accomplish. Press her to set specific goals. That will require thought and research on her part. “Find an apartment that costs between $1,000 and $1,200 within six months and save $500 a month for a security deposit and first month’s rent” is a far better goal than “Find my own place.”

In the meantime, I do think you should charge your daughter some rent. There’s no need to make it exorbitant. You can look on Craigslist or a local rental website to estimate what it would cost to rent out a bedroom in your neighborhood, then charge her the going rate. Set a due date for rent each month. When the rent is due, that’s also a perfect time to check in and see how she’s progressing toward her goal.

If she doesn’t pay on time, don’t draw up eviction papers right away. But you could tack on a late fee and ask her to make a plan for how she’ll pay her back rent. What’s good is that it sounds like your daughter has some drive. She clearly isn’t content with living at home forever. Her problem seems to be about articulating her goals and taking action.

None of what I’m suggesting constitutes sternness in my book. But if your daughter isn’t used to clear expectations, it may come across that way. Same goes for you if you’re not in the habit of setting expectations.

Your daughter may very well need some nudging. But consistent nudging will be a lot more effective than a single smackdown. It will also take more effort on your part.

You’re teaching her how to become a responsible adult. Your daughter will be better off if she learns to make decisions instead of waiting for someone else to make them for her.

Robin Hartill is a certified financial planner and a senior writer at The Penny Hoarder. Send your tricky money questions to [email protected].