How to get your sibling to live a better life

Cupcake11 asks: I’m having a problem again…I feel so helpless.. My brother is only 15 and he is completely detached from my family, I mean my mom and dad. He doesn’t talk to us properly, argues, and makes the other person cry. He gets angry very fast and then throws things here and there. I’m very worried for him because his only goal in life has become to hang out, or to own a bike or a car, or to be in power and bully, or to drive or to chill out with friends and friends who aren’t proper. His friends are all spoiled rich brats who drink, smoke, and bully people. And if someone messes up with them they use their power to torture them.. I feel my brother has a psychological issue. The way he reacts to things is very annoying and very scary at times.. He doesn’t listen to anyone. I went to have a heart to heart conversation with him and he got annoyed and started misbehaving. He doesn’t respect anyone older than him, and, God knows why, he thinks my parents love me more than him, when there’s nothing like that. Since he was kid he’s been stealing stuff and telling lies. My dad used to hit him, and probably that has made him so wild. He met with an accident twice but still he drives rashly. What can I do to get my brother to live a better life, and not a materialistic one?

Hi Cupcake11 –



Wow am I sorry!  This sounds incredibly difficult – for you, for your parents, and yeah, for him too!


My first thought as I began reading was “This is normal.”  Most teens go through some sort of rebellious phase, and 15 is a very normal age for that.  It can come out as just withdrawal from everyone, or as anger, or as this sort of misbehavior.  Sometimes it can be two of those, or all three!  But then you point out that some of this has been true for years – from his stealing and lying to being hit by your father.  And so it hits me – this is likely a deeper problem (in addition to the normal teen stuff).


Of course, lots of the time stealing is done just because someone wants something.  I am too honest a dog to pretend that I haven’t stolen food off of a dining table, or from another dog; I’ve done both quite a few times.  (And if you count eating out of the wastebasket, I’m a career thief!).


But when a kid does it a lot, it usually shows that he’s trying for power.  Same with lying – a little bit of lying to get out of trouble is no big deal, but if a kid does it often, it’s likely a way for him to feel in control more in life.


And when you mix those with what he said to you about you being the more loved one, I’m guessing that feeling has been there all his life.  “Cupcake11 is the favorite, she’s the one they always like, she’s the one they give stuff to.”  Even if they started out treating you both the same.


The problem is, once you start misbehaving out of that feeling, it begins to seem like it’s proving itself!  “See?  I got in trouble and she didn’t.  That proves they like her better!” (even if he’s the only one who broke any rules).


And then, sadly, after a while, that sort of behavior gets everyone to look at him just the way he thinks they do – as the troublemaker, as the “bad kid.”  And then it’s just about impossible for him to break out of this identity.


So you’re right to worry – he’s in a bit of a crisis.  The giant question is where he goes from here.  Does he begin to realize he’s hanging out with jerks, and start befriending nicer kids, or not?  Does he start to act properly and moralistically (again, a very normal way for this age), to the point of feeling you and your parents are nowhere near as good people as he is?  Or not?  And eventually, does this lead to him coming around to really appreciating that he has this incredible sister, and building a bond with you for the rest of your lives?  Or not?


The sad news is that right now there’s probably nothing you could do to change him.  He’s going through what he needs to, and anything you do to stop him is just going to make you look bad in his eyes.


But you could do something for the long-term.  And that’s, at the right time, in the right way, to tell him how great you think he is, and how you hate seeing him hang around with people who aren’t as good as he is.


He might not respond, or might not take it well.  But he’ll hear you.  So my advice is, when you can, to say those things and then walk away.  Just leave it on him, to take effect.  (Almost like what I do to you – when I write you a letter, and you can respond if you want but it’s not really a conversation).


You could also add, when you say this to him, “I know you’ve felt like no one cares about you here, but I sure do.”  (Yes I know that you know your parents do too, but this probably isn’t the time to bring that up).


Doing this might have very little effect on him, or a lot.  I don’t know.  The one thing I’m sure of is that trying to do anything more will just backfire.


When Handsome is in the right mood, I can make him feel great by jumping all over him and licking him and whining – all letting him see just how much I adore him.  But when he’s in a dark sad mood, maybe all I can do is go lay my head on him.  And if I do it just right, that’s just the message he needs to hear.


You can do that too.  Just say that little bit, and leave.  And it’ll be really hard for him to tell himself you don’t care about him – a lot.


Which is just what he needs to hear right now.


Best of Luck!



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