Dear Bracha,

As my daughter entered into her teen years, she became so consumed with her wants and needs! For instance, every year I volunteer at her school, something I love to do. But this year, following the birth of my son, I asked her if she'd babysit her brother while I volunteered. She refused to babysit and claimed that I was ruining her time. I felt her plans were not very important and a terrible feud ensued. I know I shouldn't feel the way I do toward her. It hurts me to have such feelings. I do everything for her, act as chauffer, and buy her what she needs. We are constantly giving to her, but she refuses to contribute. She will only assist if there is something in it for her! Please help!

Frustrated Mom

Dear Frustrated Mom,

With regard to your daughter's selfishness, I suggest a reorientation. It seems that she has become disconnected from the family unit. The family is all important, but today's fast-paced, materialistic society washes the mind with needs and wants, and as the saying goes, "what the eye sees, the heart wants." This holds true for attitudes and ideas of "how life should be" gleaned directly from television, movies, novels and other mass media. Combine these influences with peer pressure, and it's not hard to see how your wonderful daughter could become self-centered.

I said "wonderful," and I mean "wonderful." I note that you make no reference to problems before her teens. I infer from this that your relationship was running fairly smoothly until recently. All that goodness you experienced is still inside your daughter, and under the right circumstances will emerge.

Your daughter is trying to find "herself" – that is the main task of teenage-hood – and as a result, struggling to fit in. Organizing her social life is a huge part of this process. Your "intrusion" on her time presses a huge button, and this is the essence of the matter. She sees this as "her time" that you have no inherent right to and is the only thing she truly owns. What is needed is reorientation and negotiation.

Reorientation: Every member of a family has set duties. Only the very youngest are excused from this because they lack the skills and, in fact, need assistance. A family is successful when they all pull together to improve their lives. There is no reason why a healthy, capable person should not be helping. Pick a calm moment to have a private talk with your daughter. You should have ready a clear list of what you feel is fair for your daughter to do as part of her chores and responsibilities, and discuss the list with her. Reach an understanding and have her sign it (this proves invaluable later if there is a dispute), then stick to this list. She is probably a fair-minded person and showing her the imbalance that now exists will hopefully elicit a sympathetic response.

Negotiation: One aspect of parental duty, especially mom's, is that of primary responder to all things needed or wanted. Your daughter has enjoyed this convenience, and has had her needs met, sometimes on a moments notice, be it a lift to the mall or help with an overdue assignment. Therefore, as a maturing person, she needs to learn to pull her weight in times when her family needs her. However, aside for the time she completes her regular duties, she is right that having her schedule respected is very important. Her time should not be interfered with without her consent. Aside from times of true emergency (G‑d forbid), there should be no assumption of her availability and she should be given notice on any extra significant demands on her time. This is a very important aspect of fostering mutual respect, respect that she deserves. The door swings both ways; parents should give advanced notice if they need help at a time that might conflict with her schedule, and you daughter should grant any reasonable requests by remembering your commitment to her wellbeing. Work together, and support each other as much as you can. That is the measure of a family. Your daughter will learn to see it, and understand how she measures up. I remember one saying: "When it's time to move the piano, don't be the one carrying the stool – pull your weight!"

Seeing who she is and what is really important in life is a huge ongoing process that takes time. With your help, your daughter will grow to become a responsible, giving person. Wishing you and your family all the best!