Motivate children with positivity

Q: My mother was a gem. I admire her more than I have ever admired any other woman. She became a single parent when I was six years old, after my dad died, and she worked long and hard to provide for me and my eight brothers and sister. She did so before government subsidies supported day-care centres and encouraged single moms.

My mom supported us by building an egg and poultry farm. My mom set the standard and I look for my mom whenever I meet a woman or when I think about our two daughters.

Our youngest daughter is somewhat like my mom. She works hard and looks after herself. I am proud of her.

Our oldest is the complete opposite. Since graduating from high school, she has done nothing but sit in her room in the basement of our house, sleep all day and otherwise sit in front of her computer. All of her friends have jobs and futures but she doesn’t. This is frustrating for me. I have tried to get her to go for counselling but neither she nor her mom will go along with my suggestions. I think that she needs help but I am not sure what to do about it. What do you think?

A: You have a difficult problem on your hands. I think that it is fair to assume that someone who sits at home all day and makes no attempt to engage in her community is in some kind of personal trouble. Your daughter probably needs help.

The problem is that she needs not only to recognize her need but also to be open to support from some professional services. If she goes for counselling just to please you, she will not get much out of it. She has to do it for her own reasons.

At the moment, she does not seem to believe that seeing a counsellor would be of much value to her.

Your problem is that you are narrow in your assessment of your daughter. You grew up with a remarkable woman — who could ever argue against that?

Just reading about what your mom achieved after your dad died triggers overwhelming admiration for her.

Other women have other talents. They too need to be appreciated and I think that we can admire them without degrading praise for your mom.

This is certainly true for your daughter. I have no idea why she is choosing to withdraw, but whatever the reasons, I can be fairly certain that she is not appreciating herself for whatever strengths and talents she has.

My guess is that you are going to make a lot more headway with your daughter if you shift from what is clearly a negative stance to her and search for those positive moments highlighting her personal strengths.

Shifting to the more positive approach has two benefits for you. One is that it encourages your daughter to leave the basement and try her luck in the community.

The second, and most important, is that it gives you and your daughter a chance to rebuild your relationship with each other.

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