Dear Carolyn: I am the father of a 13-year-old daughter who is not very active. She would rather sit on the couch and watch TV than do anything else. My wife and I are concerned because she has gained 20 pounds over the last 18 months or so.
My wife and I have been very careful not to say anything about her appearance or her weight. We have always tried to instill good eating habits and we tell her she needs to exercise more for her overall health rather than weight loss. Unfortunately, she is not very receptive.
The pediatrician told my daughter that she needs to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes a day, five days a week. My wife and my daughter recently started going to aerobics classes together two to three times a week, which they both enjoy. The days they don’t do aerobics are causing a lot of friction.
I used to think my wife and I were approaching the issue appropriately, but lately I find that we are being overly critical regarding portion control and snacking. We are at our wits’ end.
Do you have any thoughts or suggestions about how to handle this?
You have a daughter who, at 13, has no interest in her world besides what comes off a screen, and you’re worried about 20 pounds? If she were thin, TV as life purpose would fly?
While you still have the ability to say, “No TV except (conditions here),” your entire focus needs to be on your daughter’s emotional and intellectual health. How did she get to the point where she has no outside interests or hobbies, no passions, no non-couch activities?
Have you encouraged hobbies or skills? And, have you equipped her to push herself, explore, try-fail-recover-repeat?
You do not get to decide what your daughter enjoys doing, and those forced aerobics can reap as much resentment as fitness. But you do get to say that sitting around the house being passively entertained is a waste of her gifts, a waste of time, a waste of life. You can say your only requirement is that she pursue something. Then give her a chance to come up with ideas of her own, or a brainstorming session where you and she think up some possibilities. If she chooses (a), then explain that coming up empty on ideas will bring on (b).