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Anti-Social Daughter

Anti-Social Daughter


Dear Rachel,

My husband and I are active community members. We have always valued being the ones that help shape a community, rather than just being one of the followers. For example, I serve as the President of the Sisterhood, and my husband coaches our twins' softball team, as well as being the Treasurer of our synagogue. My husband and I have worked very hard to instill this philosophy of community activism into our children.

However, our eldest daughter, (fourteen years old), is just way too shy. She doesn't like to get involved with anything. When we need kids to help run events, she stays home, when we ask her to call some of her friends to help in a synagogue activity, she refuses. When she was offered the coveted position of Youth Group President she stormed off in a huff! She would prefer to stay home and read or paint.

This is very hard for us as we are beginning to wonder what is wrong with her! It's not like we are fighting, it's just she avoids us when she hears that we are getting involved in another project. What can I do to help her realize that this is an important part of life?

Frustrated Mother

Dear Frustrated Mother,

One of the biggest challenges parents face is realizing that our children may not become exactly the people that we want them to becomeYou must be extremely busy with your children and all of your activities! I am always impressed by people that value being active members of a community. It is far more admirable to be an agent of change, rather than complaining when things are not the way they should be.

For a parent that feels so strongly about a certain value, it can be very frustrating and disappointing when one of your children does not appreciate the same values as much as you would like.

It is very normal for parents to fantasize what they want their child to be like, and what interests they will develop. Often times, parents begin this process when their child is in utero, if not before! One of the biggest challenges parents face is realizing that our children may not become exactly the people that we want them to become. Our task is to help nurture their talents and strengths, this is the way that they will develop into the best person they can be.

The first thing that you need to do, is be more cognizant of the fact that your daughter is growing up, and she is at the age where she is able to make decisions for herself. And, as part of that maturation and decision making process, she needs to start exploring who she is, and figure out who she wants to be. Many, many times, children do not share the same interests and strengths that their parents have, nor are they interested in trying to develop them.

It is obvious that you and your husband are both social and energetic people. These are amazing qualities, and I am glad to see you channeling them in such a productive way. Remember, as you have these amazing qualities, there are other amazing qualities out there, and you have to open your minds to discover the ones your daughter possesses.

The first step to help you see her amazing qualities, is to reframe them in your mind. While you value being "out there," your daughter does not. There are many benefits to being more quiet, and watching things from the side. Instead of shy, try thinking of her as reserved. People that are like this also accomplish many things, and they have a lot to add to a community. Not everyone can be the facilitator, and that may not be her strength.

You wrote that she likes to paint, so think of her as a budding artist. As a painter, she is most likely also creative, another great quality that you can readily appreciate. Being a reader, she is also probably very intelligent, and she may have some insightful ideas if you are able to give her the space and the time to share them.

Also, a teenage girl of fourteen is at an age where kids tend to pull away from their parents. She needs this space as she grows up. For teenagers, this is a very difficult time. Their bodies are changing, their sleep cycle is off, and hormones are causing emotions to run amok. This is not the time to try and engage her in things that she is just not interested in. From her perspective, she feels as though you don't understand her. Even if you don't, you should act as though you do, and hold back from forcing her to be part of these activities.

Spend time getting to know her. Make a point of walking in when she painting, and watch her. Ask her about her creative process. Find out what book she is reading, read it too, then ask her out for breakfast so the two of you can talk about it. Stay away from pressuring her to do things that she doesn't want, and engage her on her level.

From her perspective, she feels as though you don't understand herIt sounds like your daughter is trying to get you to see her for who she is and what she needs as opposed to how you want her to be. This is specifically why we have the Torah directive in educating our children, Chanoch Lenaar al pi darko (Proverbs 22:6)meaning "educate your child according to his way" as each child will need a different approach focused on his or her specific abilities.

As you get to know her better, you will begin to see the beauty of what she has to offer, and how it really compliments your values beautifully. As an added bonus, as you get to know her on her terms, you may find that she is more willing, and even eager to participate in some of the things that you value. Enjoy your daughter, and all of your children. May you have much joy from all of them.


“Dear Rachel” is a biweekly column that is answered by a rotating group of experts. This question was answered by Beryl Tritel.

Beryl Tritel, MSW, is a therapist with offices in Jerusalem and Ramat Bet Shemesh. She has been living in Israel for over 10 years with her husband and their 5 kids. She also offers Skype sessions. She can be reached at
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Anonymous August 11, 2015

I recommend that the parents read a book called The Introvert Advantage. I think it may be relevant, of course I don't know their daughter so I can't be sure. I believe that it is really important that parents recognize and respect their children's limits. Although it is possible that she simply does not share the same values as they, it is possible that's not the case. There are introverted people in the world and extroverted people. It is a spectrum so you could even have extroverted tendencies while also being introverted at times. It's possible that their daughter simply can't emotionally handle the social aspects of life for as long as they can. I personally enjoy talking with my friends a lot, but I'm glad when they leave and spend the rest of the day doing quiet things. It is exhaustive for me. Try, instead of forcing a child to lead a youth group, to get them to design or write the youth group's news letter. You can still be proactive in a way you're comfortable. Reply

Anonymous August 18, 2014

wow, what a gloater. all I heard from your vent is how perfect leaders you and your husband are and how wrong your daughter is. Maybe she is wanting your attention and can't stand the constant gloating I am sure goes on in your home and in public. what is wrong with her? you ask. Maybe she is not a gloater and as your showing off what you do in your religion, thus has maybe embarrassed her to participate. it is nit often you see mothers like you. find what interests your daughter before she runs and finds someone that fills her need. wow. Reply

S.D February 20, 2013

Resentful? "It's not like we are fighting, it's just she avoids us when she hears that we are getting involved in another project. What can I do to help her realize that this is an important part of life? "
This sounds like she is either avoiding you because she knows you'll try to get her involved or she resents losing out on your time and involvement in her life as a result of your involvement in the community. Does this sound plausible to you? Reply

Judith Chicago, IL January 25, 2011

Shy? Antisocial? Try thinking positively. Calling a person shy implies that they're afraid of something. Calling them antisocial implies that they go so far as to dislike people and/or even break the societal contract by opting out of all social things.

Instead try to recognize that your daughter is a positive, creative, reserved, refined *introvert*. Extroverts feel energized when surrounded by people and interacting with them, but feel sad or drained when they're made to be alone. Your daughter sounds to me like an introvert -- someone who, like me, feels pressured and crowded when there are a lot of people around, and who desperately needs to recharge from even short social time by getting a lot of solitude to recharge our emotional and spiritual batteries.

For her, being at the edges of a crowd, at most, may be a good compromise. She might be fine, as long as no one notices her or forces her into the midst of things. Let it go; she has her own spiritual and social path, and it's clearly different from yours. That's okay. Reply

Lisa Providence, RI January 9, 2011

Anti-Social Daughter You can't force your daughter to be sociable - especially if she doesn't like people. You need to find out WHY she wants no part of social events - it may not be just shyness alone.

It's possible she didn't like the way she's been raised and wants to be her own independent person. Even though she's 14, she's still a child until age 18. You have to ask her what she wants. It's possible she might need counseling. Reply

Bas Kohain Boston, MA August 29, 2010

Beryl: Your answer didn't go far enough My own experiences - as the daughter of socially active parents, and as a wife and mother in a booming Jewish community - have made me aware of how the evil inclination works in our modern times. Frustrated Mother [FM] and her husband are feeding their egos by seeking validation outside of their home. There are literally thousands of so-called mitzvah opportunities in the community that have nothing to do with mitzvos at all. Back in the shtetl & ghetto days, the only activities that could tear parents away from their home were making weddings, funerals and brissim; attending to the sick and preparing for guests. Coaching a sports team? Running a sisterhood? These are not priorities; they are merely busywork. Remember, no one is going to get a plaque with their name on it for helping their own kids do their homework; no on will throw a dinner in your honor for staying in and playing Scrabble with your children. DO IT ANYWAY and stop looking for reasons to run out on your precious children. Reply

Lory Iasi, Romania via August 28, 2010

Anti - Social Daughter Response Dear Mom,

U don't have to be frustrated, sometimes when the kids become teenager the behavior is changing, what i recommend u is to try to speak with her, and find out what she is really have, usual when a child become suddenly shy, something in her life changed, and as a mother is your right to find out what is all about, to start speaking with her more directly and to see u as a friend.
Most of the teenagers don't want to speak with their parents for these reasons:
- the parents are to busy;
- the parents pretend that are their friends and after the kid start to speak, then is coming some heated discussions;
- The parents don't know to explain to their kids the difference between bad and good.

Try to get more closer to her, enjoy your mother life and be their friend, a real friend.
If u want to speak more about this on skype:
kol tov my dear! Reply