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.