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Parents don't approve of daughter's boyfriend

DEAR AMY: Our adult daughter is intelligent, but her choice in a boyfriend has us worried. She has a college degree and has always been a hard worker. Her mother and I have stressed the importance of education in today's working world. Her boyfriend graduated from high school but lacks interest and motivation to improve his education and chances of getting a better-paying job. They have been dating for almost a year, and they seem to be getting more serious. Our concern is that he is looking for someone to support him (he is several years older than our daughter). I think of what I had accomplished by the time I was his age, and I don't understand my daughter being interested in him for a long-term relationship (and possibly as a spouse). Our daughter is in her mid 20s. How can we express our concerns without her going on the defensive, thus pushing her closer to her boyfriend?

-- Worried Parents

DEAR PARENTS: Before figuring out how to express your concerns, you should determine why you have concerns -- and why your concerns should make a difference to your daughter's dating life.

Your daughter is dating someone who is less accomplished than you were at his age. Although he is working, you don't like the level of his ambition or achievement. No doubt, you feel she could do better -- and you may be right.

But rather than focus on his faults as you perceive them, you should consider what about him appeals to your daughter. Is he gentle, kind and sweet? Does he treat her well? Is he respectful and helpful? Does he cheer her on? If the answer is "yes" to any of the above questions, then you needn't confront your daughter about her guy's deficits.

If you believe he doesn't treat her well, then do your best to influence her to reconsider the relationship, understanding that she is an adult and therefore gets to have whatever relationships she chooses.

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