Cookie Vidal asks: My brother always asks me to do something when he can do it himself, and I get frustrated. How do I approach it?
Hi Cookie Vidal –
Your situation reminds me of something I went through as a puppy. When I was about six months old, Handsome took me to the veterinarian to have me spayed (the operation that makes a female dog not able to have puppies). I had a lot of stitches in my abdomen, and had to walk carefully while it healed – but no one was able to tell me that in a way I could understand.
Right away, after we got home, I tried to jump up on the bed to take a nap. Well as you can guess, I couldn’t jump very high, and the trying really hurt! So Handsome lifted me up and put me on the bed. Then, once I’d had a little nap, I jumped off the bed onto the floor… OUCH!!! I yelped out loudly! Handsome ran in and checked me to make sure I was okay. And (I was a pretty quick learner) we instantly developed a good code. If I wanted to get on the bed, I’d stand by it and whine. He’d come in and lift me onto it. Then when I wanted to get down, I’d give another whimper, and he’d put me gingerly onto the floor.
This method worked beautifully, and after a couple of weeks, I was all healed. But I didn’t understand that I could now jump on and off the bed the way I used to. I was still whining to get lifted on and off. So, once he was sure it wouldn’t hurt me, Handsome did the one thing he really hadn’t wanted to do. When I was on the bed, whining, he walked up and pushed me off, sending me tumbling onto the floor. He petted me, so I knew he wasn’t angry, then lifted me onto the bed, and pushed me off again! “Hey,” I thought, “This isn’t hurting at all!” Then he got onto the bed himself and called me to jump up there with him. I was worried that I couldn’t do it, but he put a treat up there that smelled really good, and I jumped up for it, and.. . hey that didn’t hurt either! And so, I learned that I could now do what I’d done before.
This is what needs to happen with you and your brother, Cookie Vidal. He seems to think he needs you to do all these things for him. And you’ve been willing to do so in the past. But now it’s time to give him a loving shove that shows him what he can do.
So when he asks you to go to the kitchen and get him a treat, tell him that he’s a big boy now, and, just like Iron Man, he can get it himself! And when he asks you to tie his shoes, tell him he’s a young man now, and just like Batman, he can tie them himself (and if he can’t quite yet, help him to learn to do so).
Now you might notice something about these suggestions: they actually take more effort and time than just doing what he asks! It’s way quicker to tie a shoe than to help a kid learn to tie one; it’s easier to get an apple than to build up a kid’s view that he can do it himself.
But that’s only for a short time. Once you’ve succeeded, you’ll find your life’s way easier, without so many interruptions from him.
But probably not completely. You see, he kinda likes the reminder that he can count on you. So while he stops asking you to get him a cookie, he might start asking you for help with his math homework, or to teach him to shoot a basketball. And that’s okay. I still interrupt Handsome when he’s working, to say I want to play fetch.
But that’s not either your brother or me keeping ourselves in a babyish mindset. That’s love. And that’s the part of this deal that Handsome, and you, want to keep!