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help with dealing with my brother


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#1 of 49 OFFLINE   Leila Dougan

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Posted December 07 2003 - 10:10 AM

My brother, as much as I love him, is turning out to be a screw-up. He is very immature, lazy, spoiled, and absolutely no ambition or motivation. While I realize that most 17 year old males are immature, all of my family thinks he is overly so, probably more like a 13 or 14 year old. He graduated high school this past May, but barely and only because he convinced them to let him take special-ed classes. My brother is intelligent (IQ 135) and has always scored high on achievement tests.

He's tried to have a few jobs but ends up getting fired for not doing what he's supposed to be doing. He will go out with friends for days at a time, stays up all night, and gets very little sleep. We have not dismissed the possiblity that he's into drugs or alcohol, though there has never been any evidence (my mom is a trained drug abuse social worker so she knows what to look out for). During the summer he didn't have any friends and never left the house (not once in a whole month!) and instead opted to play video games 14-16 hrs/day.

He tried going to a local university this semester but dropped out after a month after he realized he couldn't pass his classes by not attending class. For the past two months he has just been hanging out at home, not working, not going to school, not helping around the house. He is most unreasonable and you cannot talk to him without a huge argument which usually results in him leaving the house for a few days. He's had this "bad attitude" for a few years now and has recently started getting physical (hitting my mother) and getting scary for them.

My parents demanded he do something (work, school, military, something). He decided to join the Air Force and was shipped off to Basic Training this past week. Yesterday my parents got a call from a Sargeant saying that my brother was refusing to do any running or pushups and asked if my parents would support the AF. My parents told him that of course they did. They know that my brother desperately needs "tough love" and that something has to change. We think he's despressed but has refused for years to go to a therapist or take the anti-depressants he was prescribed.


Sorry for the long post (I wanted to get some background in). I have a few questions:

How bad does someone have to screw up to get discharged during basic? From what I've read, those who make it to graduation generally do well. Is there any hope?

If he gets kicked out of the AF and comes back home, he will be impossible to deal with. My parents desperately want to kick him out, but being that he's only 17, they can't. We are all at the end of our ropes. My parents are on vaction (a cruise) for nearly two weeks so if anything happens during that time I will be responsible for getting him (I'm 200 miles away).

Does anyone have any ideas how to deal with him, in general? We do not want to be enablers.

Thank you.

#2 of 49 OFFLINE   Henry Gale

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Posted December 07 2003 - 10:31 AM

Leila,

I am sorry that you and your family are going through this.
You already seem to know what is happening here.
Your last line is perhaps your best answer.

Jim

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But there ain't nothin sweeter 
Than riden' the rails."
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#3 of 49 OFFLINE   Chris_Morris

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Posted December 07 2003 - 10:32 AM

Quote:
How bad does someone have to screw up to get discharged during basic?


Only a week and the DS is calling home? He's well on his way out. They should have made him join the Marines or the Army infantry, he would have run whether he wanted to or not.

Quote:
My parents desperately want to kick him out, but being that he's only 17, they can't.

Why not? They, and the goverment agreed he was 'adult' enough to join the military, there is nothing stopping them from giving him the boot.

Quote:
Does anyone have any ideas how to deal with him, in general? We do not want to be enablers.


1. When (and sadly enough it seems inevitable) he gets the boot from boot camp, do not go get him! You nor your parents have anything forcing you to go get him. I'm sure he will get paid for whatever time he is in, and will most likely be plenty to buy a bus ticket for the 200 mile trip.

Chris

#4 of 49 OFFLINE   DonnyD

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Posted December 07 2003 - 10:50 AM

This is a sad state of affairs for you and your family. This day in time, young people like your brother are everywhere and I am not sure there is an answer to it. I fear that society is losing a couple of generations to apathy, drug abuse and all that goes with it.

When I was younger, I did some counciling to troubled kids who had got into trouble with the law. Back then, drugs weren't nearly like they are now and although it wasn't easy, you could reach out and help some of them. Now with the drug and alcohol scene scourge among young people, the hope is somewhat more dim........ Then there's the apathy of the spoiled /forgotten kids...the boredom and laziness.....

In the past, the hope was that someone in your brothers situation would eventually grow up and realize that someone really does care about him.......and turn his life around. Now, I just don't know what it is gonna take for those who need us most but refuse our helping hand, especially if it means doing something for themselves.

There is no easy answer... and I feel for you and your family. God bless you......
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#5 of 49 OFFLINE   Leila Dougan

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Posted December 07 2003 - 10:51 AM

Thank you Jim and Chris. Sadly, yes, I know what's going on but it is so very hard for me and I'm sure it's 100x harder for my parents.

Quote:
Why not? They, and the goverment agreed he was 'adult' enough to join the military, there is nothing stopping them from giving him the boot.


This was actually something I was wondering about. I know my parents signed a form last month giving permission for him to join the military. Does this form mean anything else, legally? My parents would be willing to give him full emancipation if they can. He turns 18 next May. Is there any point to pursuing this now or should we just wait? At 18 he's definitely gone. Last month he tried getting an apartment but was, of course, denied since my parents would not co-sign. Does anyone know the ins and outs of how my parents can give up any and all responsibility for him?

Quote:
When (and sadly enough it seems inevitable) he gets the boot from boot camp, do not go get him! You nor your parents have anything forcing you to go get him. I'm sure he will get paid for whatever time he is in, and will most likely be plenty to buy a bus ticket for the 200 mile trip.


Okay, I won't go get him. I should have clarified that I'm 200 miles from my parent's house, but he's at Lackland AFB (San Antonio) which is 700 miles from my parent's house. I agree, though, that he should be able to buy a bus ticket home.

Now, for a bit more advice. Since my parents are on a cruise and thus cannot come home, my brother cannot get into the house. He has no house or car keys, actually neither do I. Should I just say "oh well" and let him crash with his "friend" (who has his own apartment)? Should my parents let him come back home when they get back home, or just let him figure it out on his own?

#6 of 49 OFFLINE   MikeAlletto

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Posted December 07 2003 - 12:47 PM

Quote:
For the past two months he has just been hanging out at home, not working, not going to school, not helping around the house.

Sounds like the parents don't know how to stand up and lay down the law. He wouldn't have been this far along if the parents stood up and let the kid know who is boss.

2nd mistake, air force. Talk about easiest of all of them. Don't let him come back home.

Did anyone in the family try and sit him down and give him an ultimatum or is everyone afraid to hurt each others fealings? Sounds like noone wants to confront the problem and keeps sidestepping it. Until you all sit down and confront it there won't be any resolution.

I'm all for once someone reaches 17 or 18 and they are still screw-ups to let them go. They'll either end up in the gutter or turn themselves around.
Michael Alletto

#7 of 49 OFFLINE   Eric_L

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Posted December 07 2003 - 02:22 PM

You sound like you feel frustrated and desperate. You love your brother, but seem to feel that is not enough.

Let me start by saying it is not about you - it is about your parents and your brother. You have a long life ahead of you filled with people making decisions that you will regret. Don't get caught up in other peoples decisions. There is a time to stand back and myob - even if it is family.

Your parents behavior is disturbing:

Quote:
We think he's despressed but has refused for years to go to a therapist or take the anti-depressants he was prescribed.


A 15 yr old should not be given the option to refuse medication or treatment. Period. Your parents lack some fortutide I suspect.


Even mroe troubleing:

Quote:
He's had this "bad attitude" for a few years now and has recently started getting physical (hitting my mother) and getting scary for them


He should not be welcome into a home where he does that. You should not go there so long as he is there. Your parents should have called the police and had him arrested. He cannot be allowed to return. Not for a very very long time - if ever.

It is time to shut the door. If your parents realize he needs tough love then they should not delegate that particular (and most important) love to a third party (military)

The military is about to do what your parents should also do - shut him out.

#8 of 49 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted December 07 2003 - 02:31 PM

I feel for you and your parents too. I also agree with what Mike said. If he doesn't have any keys, he knows why. He shouldn't even try to go back to their home.

I think that your mom knows the legal stuff behind his age, and he may be required to stay with them until he is 18.

If they are legally responsible for him, they might want to consider having him committed. It might only be for 5 months, but if he doesn't 'get it' by then, he'll be writing his own fate.

Glenn

#9 of 49 OFFLINE   Leila Dougan

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Posted December 07 2003 - 04:38 PM

I think part of the problem is that deep down, he really is a good kid. He's never gotten in any sort of trouble with the law or with school and is quite charming to everyone else. For instance, if you told his old teachers about his problems, they'd all be shocked. To my parents he usually avoids them (but gets mad if he's confronted) but he does have good days. Those good days is what I think is most difficult for my parents. On those days he'll cook dinner for them, clean the house, tell them he loves them, and is really a pleasant person to be around. The problem is those days are few and far in between. My parent's don't give him money or anything like that, he just uses his money from various jobs to support his lifestyle (buys nothing but DVDs and X-box games and gives a gave a lot of money to his one friend).

He also is an extremely sensitive person and quite shy, and always has been. He feels a lot of guilt and hatred toward himself about his mistakes but something is disconnected in his brain so he doesn't learn from them. My parents found a journal in his room recently that's he's been keeping for quite some time that talks about how he's really sorry he's causing so much pain for my parents and that he is appreciative of everything they've done for him.

He's told me many times that he thinks my parents hate him and don't love him or care about him. I think all that talk is him projecting his fears. Part of my dilemma is that he trusts me and talks to me about what he thinks and feels, which is how I know he feels awful about screwing up his life. He knows I don't support his decisions but am I still enabling him by continuing to talk to him?

But in the end, his behaviour doesn't change. He desperately wants to go to college so in the summer he applied to go (all on his own) and started. But he's just too impulsive and found it was more fun to play video games than to go to class. Even know, he's talking about using the GI Bill to go to college.

I realize it's my parent's problem but I'm having a really hard time blaming them. They are my parents too and I think they did a fine job raising me. I'm a happy, well-adjusted adult, currently seeking a graduate degree and married. I guess they fell into the trap that if it worked for their first child, it will work for their other one.

My parents have sat him down and explained what the rules are. They've done it several times and he says he fully agrees with them and complies for a short period, then reverts. Him joining the Air Force is a result of their ultimatum (get a job and contribute to the household or get out).

I know above I said this behavior has been going on for years and some of the disrespect has, but he was going to school and doing things most teenagers do. His staying out for days at a time started this past June after he finished high school. I should also add that he did have a summer job and apparently they all loved him but it was for the government (my parents live on an Army post) and he didn't have to do anything. I guess that was the first time he didn't get fired. At the end of the summer he started college but that fizzled shortly. It was at that point he decided to join the Air Force and the two months he sat around not doing anything he was waiting for his turn to come to go to Basic.

Of course I think that during that time he should have been helping my dad (my mom was away in Iraq at the time) with the house instead of being a bum but he couldn't really get a job while he was waiting to go to Basic.

It's a bit ironic, but he's told us numerous times that his number one fear in life is "being a bum on the streets". He just doesn't understand that if he keeps it up that's exactly where he'll be.

I agree that my parents should have called the cops when my brother hit my mom but this was only two days before he left so I think they were just eager to get him out of the house.

My brother saw a few psychologists a few years back, like I mentioned. Two (or maybe three) said there wasn't anything wrong with him except lack of maturity. They told my parents there really wasn't anything they could do (which I think is BS, but it's probably because he was uncooperative). The last one said he was depressed and prescribed an anti-depressant. For many months my brother told my parents he was taking it but it wasn't until much later did my parents discover him just hoarding the drugs in a drawer. He did see that psychologist for a few visits but she said that it was up to him if he didn't want to come anymore. I guess my parents let him stop going, trusting the psychologist to tell them if he really needed to keep going.

I know my mom is very scared he'll snap under pressure because he lacks coping skills and try to kill himself. My mom tried to have him committed earlier his year because he just seemed so very depressed, but none of the psychologists would agree to it because he's never actually threatened anything. He's given no indication he'd do something, we just get a 'feeling' from knowing him.

Sigh, I guess it sounds like I'm defending my parents. Perhaps I am, I don't know. One thing's for sure, he's not going back to live with my them.

Quote:
It is time to shut the door. If your parents realize he needs tough love then they should not delegate that particular (and most important) love to a third party (military)


I don't think my parents are neccessarily delegating that job to the military because joining is something my brother really wanted. But at the same time he *does* need something and he knows it. He admitted to me that he's hoping the military straightens him out. If he gets kicked out, what should we do? Are there special camps that specialize in the tough love, or should we just shut him out and hope he survives long enough to get his act together?

Ironically, kicking him out really won't be a problem. He hates living at home and is desperate to leave (he wanted to leave when he was 14). But the legal thing keeps coming up and there's no way my parents will co-sign for anything or give him money. So I guess right now the biggest problem is what to do until May.

Sigh, I know this is long. Thanks for listening.

#10 of 49 OFFLINE   Jeff_Krueger

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Posted December 07 2003 - 05:14 PM

well if he ends up comming back and your parents have to deal with him(legally that is) perhaps they could have him committed this time around since he has displayed violent behavior (against your mom that is). At the very least he probably needs to be reexamined by a psychologist, maybe something going on that may be treatable.

How did he graduate so close to turning 17? did he skip a grade previously?

Also I don't think talking to your brother would be enabling him, you certainly don't want to encourage his behavior, but you shouldn't need to shut him out emotionally to do that.

I don't know what else to say, I've never had to deal with a situation like this. But goodluck and I wish you and your family well.

#11 of 49 OFFLINE   Leila Dougan

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Posted December 07 2003 - 05:20 PM

Quote:
How did he graduate so close to turning 17? did he skip a grade previously?


Yes, but it appears to have been a mistake. He skipped a grade in elementary (2nd or 3rd). A year or two later the school wanted him to skip another grade but my parents said one was enough. I also skipped a grade and graduated a month after turning 17, so I guess my parents figured that if it worked for me it would work for him too.

Thank you all for you kind words. It really means a lot to me.

#12 of 49 OFFLINE   Glenn Overholt

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Posted December 07 2003 - 08:51 PM

What a tough spot to be in!

I came up with two more thoughts. One is that you haven't mentioned any girls, and that isn't normal for a boy that age. That does bring up a delicate situation, so I won't go there.

The other thing was that you said it started about 3 years ago. As an unlicensed shrink I wonder if something traumatic happened to him that made him change like he did.

I think that some people's mental growth can be 'stopped' under certain severe circumstances. He may be stuck at '14' for the rest of his life, and will just have to learn how to cope with adult situations.

Has anyone talked to any of his friends?

Glenn

#13 of 49 OFFLINE   Vickie_M

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Posted December 08 2003 - 03:54 AM

Glenn was dancing around a couple of things that I'll just come right out and say.

One is that your brother is gay and is trying to fight it, or, and this I think is more likely, he was molested in some way years ago, and his anger and confusion are coming to the forefront now.

The reason I think the 2nd scenario is more likely is that your brother sounds exactly like my brother, in practically every way. It's not the kind of thing people talk about and if it were true in your brother's case I'm not surprised that his therapist wasn't told.

Whatever happened, whatever's wrong, you have to try to get it into your brother's head that he has a future, but his fears of a bleak one...
Quote:
It's a bit ironic, but he's told us numerous times that his number one fear in life is "being a bum on the streets". He just doesn't understand that if he keeps it up that's exactly where he'll be.
could yes, certainly come true. He's also at risk for cults who zero in on wounded, angry and rebellious people like him, who are searching for something and don't know what it is. This is about your brother, not mine, but mine was caught up in horrible cult who screwed him up terribly. He was able to break away from them but his mind never recovered. He's now living in a jerry-built shack in the woods with other homeless people. I can't help him, he doesn't want help. He was an intelligent, scary-talented person. If he had gotten the therapy he needed when he was 17-18, he could be doing great things now. It's tragic.

Don't let your brother go. Help him any way you can.
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#14 of 49 OFFLINE   Paul Bond

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Posted December 08 2003 - 04:02 AM

Leila,

Your situation sounds quite a bit like with my younger sister and myself. Dad, Mom, and myself were all pretty much laidback folks, but Karen was a bundle of energy with a penchant for pushing the envelope. Then tearing at the envelope - ripping the sucker - slashing at it - and finally blowing it up!!! She did understand the word 'no', she just took that to mean find another way to obtain whatever it was she wanted. As a result, she was constantly being punished until she began to create her own little dreamworld where everything was the way she wanted it to be. At that point, any time something began to tell her things she did not want to hear, she just 'went away' until they stopped annoying her. That situation and many others have pained my parents and her for many many years. She even got to the point once of hitting my mother. Mom told her to leave the house and not come back. And she did, but after a week or so, Mom gave in and let her come back. She never hit again, but that's been the pattern over the years. She goes too far. Mom lays down the law. Mom gives in. Everyone is happy for a while. It all starts over again. I know this isn't advice, but it is a warning. Your brother has been doing pretty much the same as my sister, except instead of a fantasy world, he has computer games and movies. At 42, my sister still cannot support herself. My mother pays most if not all of her bills as well as an apartment (they are both happier if she doesn't live at home). I have told them both on more than one occasion that when the time comes that Mom is no longer around, she will be on her own. I will NOT take care of her. It's not nice. It's not 'family'. But it's my choice and she knows I mean it. Maybe THEN she will take responsibility for herself and her actions.

Good luck. Try to keep your folks from taking the same path mine have.

Paul

#15 of 49 OFFLINE   Ted Lee

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Posted December 08 2003 - 08:32 AM

boy...not sure what to tell you leila. all i can say is i hope it works out for you.

just some random thoughts...

are you *sure* he's not on drugs? the inconsistency in his behavior makes me think he may be.

also i was originally thinking he may have some physical disorder (brain "defect"), but then you say he often exhibits cognisant behavior - cleaning, cooking, keeping a personal journal, etc. so then the issue is why does he sometimes regress? then it's possibly psychological...dunno....very tough.

tough love sometimes work...sometimes it doesn't. my parents tried that on me. we had a security gate on the front door and bars on the windows. the gate could be "hard locked" from the inside, so no key would work. my parents told me if i wasn't home by midnight, then i wouldn't get in the house. my response? cool...now i have an excuse to stay out all night! Posted Image anyway, you get the point. it sounds like he's been wanting to get ou of the house, so "throwing him out" may be exactly what he wants. possibly it could be better to force him to stay home and fly straight??? not suggesting...just wondering.

also, maybe he's just going to be "one of those guys" for the rest of his life. maybe he's just hard-wired to be a slacker...people like that exist. it's unfortunate, but if he is indeed hard-wired, nothing will ever work. you may have to face the fact that he's a lost cause.

one thing for sure: he'll only change when he's ready.

vicki's statment about him being gay or molested seems pretty harsh and that's not what i'm thinking. but, in these times...it's certainly something you may want to consider. have you ever asked him such a direct question?
 

#16 of 49 OFFLINE   Christian Behrens

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Posted December 08 2003 - 10:41 AM

When you mentioned that the school wanted him to skip another grade, maybe he is one of those super intelligent people?

If those people - especially while growing up - do not get the right kind of attention and stimulation that they need, they might fall through the cracks of our "normal" society that typically does not know what to do with these people.

Just another thought...

-Christian
"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." (Benjamin Franklin)

#17 of 49 OFFLINE   Mark Shannon

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Posted December 08 2003 - 10:54 AM

I would tend to agree with what Christian said.

Some people think that most delinquents are simply bad people, who set out to cause trouble in school, and society. Is it possible that he is just too smart, and gets bored with "normal" things, requiring only that he be challenged?

Perhaps he should take another IQ test, or something called, I believe, a multiple personality test (I beleive it is used to see in what areas one excells). Maybe this will give him an idea, at least, of what to do with his life.

#18 of 49 OFFLINE   Richard Travale

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Posted December 08 2003 - 11:10 AM

Lert me preface this by saying my only experience with this is on ER, but is it possible that your brother may be bi-polar?
I'm sure some members who have experience with this condition could chime in as well.

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#19 of 49 OFFLINE   Joe D

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Posted December 08 2003 - 11:17 AM

Have your brother join the Marines as someone previously had stated.

The Marines are a little more tough than the Air Force.

#20 of 49 OFFLINE   Eric_L

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Posted December 08 2003 - 01:26 PM

Ya, tough love (aka booting him out of the house) could help him mature or it could have negative results. Thats life.

The point is though, that the results will be his, not your parents. His troubles are NOT your parents problem. They are his. He forfeited his rights to live there the moment he raised his hand against your mother.

If they boot him and things work out (fairly probable if the have the fortitude to stick with it) then he will be better off.

If they boot him and things don't work, then he was destined for that anyway and living at home only jeapordized your parents (mother in particular) safety and health.


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