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Daughter Is Musically Gifted but Unmotivated

Middle School Expert Advice from Connie Collins

Q: I have a 12-year-old daughter who is musically gifted but not motivated. Although she says she wants to play her instrument, she will practice only when prompted and with a disgruntled attitude towards me. She has also behaved this way about basketball and swimming. She isn't motivated to work to improve herself. She only wants to read, watch television, and be on the computer. She also doesn't care about her appearance -- she doesn't take showers or brush her hair unless asked to do so. She does well in school, but that comes very easy to her. Should I push her to continue in this area where she is gifted, or let her find her own motivation in the future? What is the best way to deal with her "I don't care" attitude ?

A: Only your daughter can motivate herself. For example, she continues to do well in her studies. But from your description of her behavior and attitude, I believe your daughter may be suffering some form of depression, drug use, or both. I strongly urge you to take her for a complete physical, ideally with a pediatrician who specializes in teenagers. Then I would encourage her to see a licensed professional counselor in your area. The school counseling staff will be able to give you some referrals. If your insurance does not cover mental health services, look for counselors who work on a sliding fee scale.

A teen who doesn't take care of her physical appearance and withdraws from her social network is hurting and for some reason she sees the world as a fearful place. Once your daughter begins to regain her self-efficacy, she will take up her musical activities again.

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Connie Collins, professional school counselor, worked for 35 years in public education as a teacher and counselor at the middle school and secondary levels. Collins worked daily with the parents of the students in her various schools, and has facilitated several parenting groups.


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