A dad in New Zealand wrote to an advice column looking for guidance on his shallow teenage girl.
The father wrote to Stuff parenting expert and columnist, Mary-anne Scott, complaining his daughter’s interests were not aligned with her mom and dad’s:
My wife and I are committed environmentalists. We aim to produce zero rubbish, we compost, we pushbike: you know the drill. We have one child, a lovely 14-year-old daughter who doesn’t seem too concerned about these things.
The girl’s father explained that even as a child she showed no interest in the activities of her parents: “Even as a little girl she didn’t like going camping or tramping with us,” and now “her sole interest is watching makeup tutorials on her device.”
The concerned dad worried about his daughter’s narrowed interests and how it was affecting her performance in school:
She’s a kind kid, but she’s more interested in her lip gloss collection than her homework and her grades are getting more average by the year.
According to Pew Research Center, in 2015 approximately 24 percent of teens admitted to going online “almost constantly” due in part to the prevalence of smartphones, and 56 percent reported going online several times a day.
Perhaps worse than his own concern about the teen was others in the family had started to notice, too:
Just recently, I was shocked and hurt to hear a family member refer to her as vacuous. I’ve not been able to get this criticism out of my mind and now, some of the things she does are really starting to annoy me.
He asked: “I can’t bear to think of her growing up to lead a shallow consumerist lifestyle, but what can we do?”
Scott responded: “Thanks for your letter and I have to admit it did make me laugh. It’s lucky we don’t go into this parenting business knowing what’s ahead because there’s no guarantees for any of us,” she wrote:
Scott advised the girl’s father to consider the possibilities:
There’s several things to consider re your girl. One is that it might be just a stage. Let’s face it, 14 can be the boondocks for children and she might be trying different personas to see where she’s going.
Fourteen is also when hormones can be doing their thing and your daughter may be smarter than you give her credit for. She might know exactly how to wind you up and her interests may be her own deliberate form of torture for you.
Scott added even if the young girl was behaving like an airhead, it could just be a phase. The main point was that her father couldn’t force her to care about things, let alone his hobbies and interests, that she didn’t want to:
Another scenario is that she might be vacuous — for now. Lip gloss may be the main thing on her mind, but you can’t force her to care about other stuff. Life itself will take care of that.
Scott advised the girl’s father to remember what he cherished about his daughter and let her lack of interest in his and his wife’s pursuits go:
Perhaps you should laugh and go back to enjoying your daughter. Set a bar for how much homework she’s expected to do (be realistic rather than overly ambitious here) and be clear with her that as long as she meets that standard, she can let her mind wander to where it will.
The columnist concluded: “Be grateful she’s happy. It’s admirable that you have such a passion and that you’re doing your bit to save the planet, but you have to trust your daughter to find her own passion.”
What do you think the dad should do?