The last two years have been rough for my 15-year-old daughter and me. While I am outgoing and a people-person, she is an introvert who stays buried in her books. I understand that this is her personality, but I insist on her coming out for some things, meeting people, learning to be a little social. Otherwise, our family and friends end up thinking she is a snob. In the last four-five months, she has started protesting, refusing to come, to the point that I have had to shake her, even slap her. Earlier, I tried negotiating, even bribing. Now she has started looking up the Internet and coming up with labels about me and my behaviour—including narcissist, bipolar, exhibitionist. My husband stays out of it and says this tangle is “unresolvable" as long as we are together; he says a solution could be to send her to a hostel. Please advise.

Currently, there seems to be a complete breakdown in your relationship with your daughter. At the outset, I would say this is not the time for the other parent to shrug and look the other way. And packing off your daughter to a residential school at this juncture, as a solution to this impasse, is highly unadvisable. You may later send her for more positive reasons, but that should be after things have settled down in her mind and yours, rather than in the midst of this meltdown. It seems that all of you could do with the help of a dependable, mature family friend or a counsellor.

The more you try to force an introvert to be sociable, the more she will pull away. Agreed, she needs to be a little sociable, and as a mother you feel that it is your responsibility to get her to come out, mingle. But things have gone wrong between the two of you, and she is feeling cornered and trapped by your demands even when you put them across in a reasonable manner, so much so that there is a complete breakdown in communication and you have to resort to physical violence and threats.

Instead of taking on board anything that you are saying or doing, she is now lashing out, and trying to label you as the problem-person; it is the only thing she can do just now. The labels she has come up with are her way of defining how completely different you are from her, and in doing this, she is forced to come up with distorted versions of what you stand for—outgoing, socially at ease, etc.

First, do accept, respect and love the introvert in your daughter. It is not a question of just tolerating her personality and negotiating for her to do “at least some non-freakish" things. If this is how it has come across to her, and this is how you have felt about her, you need to work on a loving acceptance of her personality. Perhaps then you will build a platform on which both of you can stand. Do examine whether you are actually leading a far too “external" existence (and I have no idea if this is the case), and see if you can go inwards a little, so your daughter too can see that you are able to balance being at ease with people with not needing people and bustling activity all the time. We are not talking here about “becoming more like your daughter", just about finding a way to see and understand the quiet inward space she mostly occupies.

People around introverted or shy people tend to try to draw them out or leave them completely alone, and that too in a “I give up on you" kind of way. If you can, vocally and by your actions, validate her quietness, you might find that she will not feel the need to go on defining herself as someone who hates going out, meeting people, etc.

Gouri Dange is the author of ABCs of Parenting.

Close