My 17-year-old daughter leaves her purse in the car, even at night. This is really unsafe, even for the city we live in. I wanted to teach her a lesson about the dangers of leaving valuables in a car and unfortunately chose to look through her purse so that I could say something like "Imagine if someone had a hold of your wallet/money/valuable etc." The reason I said unfortunately is that because of this route I took, I ended up discovering a fake out-of-state license; and clearly my daughter isn't of legal drinking age (21 in our state).

Now I'm stuck in a rut. I know I shouldn't say "I searched through your stuff, etc., and found this, what do you make of this..." because this is a breach of trust, and I regret it, but at the same time I'm so deeply concerned that she's underage and using this "license" as a way to bypass legal requirements.

What should I do? How do I "confront", albeit not the right word, but how do I deal with this?

After reading through the answers here I went for a diplomatic approach instead of trying to aggressively force the issue. She told me the license was only used to bypass the age 21 limit at some concerts which I could see making sense but she was clear she had not used any alcohol although that was my assumption initially. Overall things were cleared up smoothly and I have all of you to thank for the advice!

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    How old is she? Big difference in advice if she's 12 versus if she's 18. Also what's the legal drinking age where you are?
    – A E
    Jun 9, 2016 at 20:07
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    @AE She is 17 and the legal age of drinking is 21 in our state.
    – yuritsuki
    Jun 9, 2016 at 20:25
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    IN response to your edit: one thing I would absolutely avoid doing is burring the matter. Keep the dialogue open. If she's going to concerts intended for 21 and up, that's a much more mature audience than her. Depending on your relationship with her, you may be able to use this to request that she let you know which concert's she's going to, on the grounds that "the cat is out of the bag," and there's really no reason not to help dad be there for her if she needs it. Open lines of communication are worth their weight in gold.
    – Cort Ammon
    Jun 12, 2016 at 18:46

6 Answers 6


I think you need to certainly do some confronting. P. Roe is correct in that multiple felonies are involved here (fake ID, and violating alcohol laws at a minimum, more if she doesn't have her own valid license).

However, vehemently I disagree with P. Roe about not respecting your daughter, at any age, but especially now. She's old enough to a) work, b) be charged with felonies and c)drive a car (aka an object that kills "about as many"* people as guns do in the US). She's not incapable of responsibility or independent actions (such as committing multiple felonies, circumventing procedures, and facing the consequences of such actions).

In fact, I feel that going through her things in your first attempt of showing her "that she needs to not keep valuables in her car" was wrong, due to the breach of trust that you are now discovering (in fact, speaking from experience, I can say that the breach of trust would have been WORSE had you found nothing, since there wouldn't be a possibly mitigating aspect of shame at being found out.

That is not to mention that you are failing to concider the fact/probability that your daughter has differing risk/reward tolerances and evaluations from you i.e. you are concerned about someone stealing her valuables in her car (or stealing her car, with the valuables in it). But she is either not as concerned as you are, and/or doesn't see the guaranteed cost of carrying her valuables back into her car as being worth the advantage if her car is stolen or broken into. You evaluation may be right, but the cost of a few hundred dollars is more than made up for by an improvement in this important life skill (and if it never happens, her risk evaluation may have been better than yours to begin with).

So how to proceed going forward?

Necessary Steps: Before anything else, you need to stop and think about what you are doing and why; you violated your daughter's privacy, trust, and property without a thought, and only after this bigger infraction was discovered did you see a problem with it. Think before you act (words of wisdom for pretty much every situation).

Possible Options:
1. "Covert Intellegence": Replace fake ID where you found it, (possibly continuing with the badly thought out "take valuables from car to teach lesson idea"), and follow up with a general discussion about alcohol. This approach is the Churchill during the bombing of Coventry: you can't reveal your source that this is a problem, so you have to act as if this is a normal, general "you're getting older, so now we need to talk about things" talk. PROS: No fight or direct confrontation, smaller breach of trust (none if you don't carry out the "taking things from car" idea), no defensiveness. CONS: Doesn't deal with the evidence you found, liable to fail, she still has the license.

  1. "Less Covert Intellegence": As option #1 in all respects, but do not replace the fake ID. PROS: She doesn't have the license. CONS: She may figure out that you took it, she can get another one.

  2. "Staged Discovery": Continue with "take things from car idea", but stage the license in such a way that you "discover" it during your reveal. PROS: Can talk about evidence, remove license from her CONS: You are still not respecting her, will still have the conflict, she can get another one, and it depends on your acting skills.

  3. "Tackle Bigger Problems": I would wagger that your daughter isn't sneaking into bars for the sake of drinking, she's doing it a) for fun with friends b) due to peer pressure. You can help alleviate both problems. Talk to your daughter (not accusing her of this incident, but again a general conversation). You can possibly help alleviate the first issue as well, by providing an alternate activity (that THEY enjoy!). If you have a garage, maybe they could hold a party there. If you are going out of town for a weekend, or even an overnight trip, you could explicitly allow a party to be held in your home (provided nothing is broken, and it's cleaned up afterwords. This could even be a lead into a drinking conversation. "Feel free to have a party when we're gone, so long as there's not drinking".

  4. "Be an Adult, Admit Mistakes (Both to yourself and to your daughter), and Have an Honest Conversation": the best option, in my opinion. Show your daughter what it means to be an adult (a skill I find as I get older that many actual adults lack). Do NOT scream and yell, do NOT minimize, deflect from or in any way trivialize how much you've messed up. Do be calm. Do mention that you love her (not as a lead in to another point of attack, as in "I love you, but" or "Because I love you, I'm punishing you by", but as a stand alone statement. The statement is enough to stand on its own merits. In fact, I would have two conversations, completely separated, ideally one on a given day and the other on the next day. Do include your spouce, if you feel she can stick with and follow the above advice. Realize that your ability to punish is now trivial, and talk not of punishment but avoiding punishment. Don't position yourself as the punisher; she has much bigger problems than you, namely the government. Talk(not yell) of potential consequences. Fraud and forgery convictions can block employment in many sectors such as finance, administration, computer science, education, medicine and government? What does your daughter want to do? How can this compromise her ability to do it? What about drunk driving? Underage laws? Does she want to risk fines and jail time? Research with specific penalties in your state are possible plus here. She's nearly an adult (18), at which point any convictions would be on her permeant record, not a minor one. Acknowledge that you WILL most probably getting emotional at this time, and remember to keep your emotions in check. Remember that she's not a little kid that you are monologging at; she's a less experienced person MAKE SURE that you pause, and give her a chance to speak as well, and LISTEN to what she says.

*Whether more or less depends on the year, among other factors. I don't want to get into an argument about this, the point is the car is dangerous, and your daughter is at the point where society views she can be trusted with it.


you could maybe approach her apologetically. Explain exactly what happened, let her know that you are aware she had it, but not taking any immediate action. Also let her know that you would rather her make it home safe and sound over staying out until she is sober enough to make it home. Make sure she is fully aware of the legal ramifications, and that you (and mom) will not be bailing her out or helping her get out of legal trouble in any way, shape or form. Finally, be on high alert, and when she does come home drunk, confront it then. Alternatively, if she actually calls you, give her a 'get out of jail free' pass at home, in exchange for the ID. I understand fully that this is a less than ideal scenario, but I remember what it was like at that age, and as a new parent, I would much rather the evil I know then the one I don't know about. Hope my 2 cents helps some.

TL;DR- provide the information to help her make the most informed decisions possible.

  • This seems like a good approach. I think the first two paragraphs of the question can be used nearly verbatim, along with sincere apologies. That would also positively demonstrate the parent's ability and willingness to admit an uncomfortable mistake. Jun 11, 2016 at 19:55

Lots of answers coming from lots of different parenting philosophies here! But I don't really understand why it can't be easily answered according to yours.

I don't see, that is, why you should be "stuck in a rut" at all. Your initial intention was to confront Junior about her irresponsibility with her belongings, by searching through her purse as a "burglar" would have, and then waving the contents of her wallet at her while reminding her of that. That was the reason you were in her purse in the first place. So if, on whatever parenting style you happen to use, on whatever understanding of boundaries you have with your kid, you were comfortable with that confrontation, why on Earth would you be uncomfortable with this one? Why not just tell her what you've told us about why you performed the search, which you apparently regard as "just cause," and then proceed to confront her about the fruits of said search, the fake ID?


Searching her wallet was not the world's brightest idea, but what is done is done. Everyone makes mistakes. Adults admit their mistakes when needed and suffer the consequences. If there was a breach of trust, that has happened and cannot be fixed. It will be long term better if the daughter knows about it.

Searching the wallet is a problem. The fake ID is a big problem. And both problems are independent. I would advise you to take on the fake ID problem head on and solve that problem. If she throws the breach of trust in your face, that must not matter. It has nothing to do with the fake ID. It's not an excuse for anything. The fake ID can get her into deep trouble. And it is used to get around a reasonable legal requirement: No alcohol purchases under 18 (or is it 21?). That MUST stop.

Searching the wallet is another problem. You can apologise for it (and unlike J. Roe I think you should), but then that pain is also self inflicted on her part, since leaving your wallet in the car overnight is an utterly stupid thing to do, so I wouldn't apologise very strongly. And no matter, the fake ID is the BIG problem.


I tend to agree with P Roe that since she's still your minor child, your parenting responsibilities are more important than her boundaries. When you get to be 90 and you're living in her house, you can respect her boundaries; while she's under 18 and living in your house, it's your boundaries that count, not hers.

That said, I think you can sidestep the issue somewhat in this case. If you found a stranger's wallet in your car, you'd look through it for ID to see who to return it to, wouldn't you? So it's perfectly reasonable to look through anything that someone else leaves in your car.

Just say, "I found your purse in the car, and in the process of retrieving it I couldn't help but notice it had a fake ID in it." Then explain why this is such a bad idea, allow her to explain, and return the purse to her without the ID.

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    "while she's under 18 and living in your house, it's your boundaries that count, not hers." - I feel it deeply disrespectful and irresponsible to claim that a child's boundaries do not count (yes, sometimes you must put your foot down, but this is way too broad).
    – sleske
    Apr 10, 2018 at 7:09

There's no need to apologize or respect her boundaries she's 17, take her fake license and explain that she's committing several felonies. I'd personally punish her severely since she was complacent enough to get caught. The fact is that she was carelessly breaking the law and that could have very serious real world consequences. In addition to a good talk about the risks she's taking by exposing herself to high risk situations due to being inebriated.

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    All true, but not necessarily an approach that will build a trusting relationship. More details about how to approach the issue would help the OP, who already knows that the fake license is a major problem.
    – Acire
    Jun 10, 2016 at 1:05
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    "There's no need to... respect her boundaries she's 17...". I have to disagree with this. While your aren't in any way required to respect her boundaries, you'll have a lot easier time dealing with her if you do. Who wants to listen to someone they know doesn't respect them? You also don't want to push them away and make them feel like they can't come to you if need be. Jun 10, 2016 at 19:36
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    The last thing I want to do is completely erode away years of building trust and rapport with her and this would be the last thing I would ever consider doing. And honestly, I have no way to confirm exactly what she has done with her fake license; I don't want to even start in that conversation with wild accusations thrown around; that's really only going to hurt the relationship more.
    – yuritsuki
    Jun 11, 2016 at 4:13
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    The kid has already eviscerated the trust by getting a fake ID, presumably drinking, and possibly driving after drinking. Harsh consequences are called for here.
    – tomjedrz
    Jun 11, 2016 at 4:48
  • @dad76 You'd rather have her possibly jailed for committing felonies than erode a bit of rapport? Well, it's your daughter, not mine, I guess.
    – Warren Dew
    Jun 12, 2016 at 1:16

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