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Help with Siblings Getting Along


​I am a widowed mother of two teenage boys, ages 16 and 14. My oldest is very outgoing, has lots of friends, plays sports and lifts weights, and school is important to him. He also has a girlfriend. My 14-year-old son is very different from his brother. He is interested in basketball and has been shooting the basketball in the driveway during the COVID-19 crisis. But he is not interested in school and says he won’t need to know the stuff. I tell him he at least needs to demonstrate he can learn, retain information, take a test, and do well in school, but he just tunes me out. What does interest him in school will stick but what doesn't won't. He needs to demonstrate an ability to learn. As much as I know he loves me, my words around initiative, responsibility, etc. are kind of like garbage. He needs to hear this from someone who he respects other than me. He doesn’t have really close friends. He does have some friends, but mostly interacts with them online. He doesn't get invited often to hang out with friends. I feel like he needs to work on bettering himself in all aspects of life, to be that person people want to hang out with. I pray for a person to come into his life who can be a good friend and really be positive influence and inspiration. I feel like his older brother could be that person, but they interact like “typical brothers.” His older brother is often critical and makes fun of him when he gets something wrong. From my perspective, the interactions are overarchingly negative. I've tried to ask his older brother to be more like a friend or a coach and to help his bother become a person he can be proud of. Am I asking too much of my older son? Thank you.​


kids fighting

Thanks for writing in. Isn't it interesting how two brothers can be so different in so many areas? What are some other things or activities your younger son values besides basketball? Sometimes, to motivate kids to take care of their academic requirements, it's effective to require that they cannot access the things they like until their assignments are completed. This gives them a personal reason and motivation to complete them. If you set something up like this, be sure you can enforce it.  

As far as your expectation for your older son to be a friend and coach to his younger brother, it is not unrealistic. However, that probably won't happen as long as he is allowed to be critical or make fun of his brother. Those are disrespectful actions whether they are toward his brother or anyone else. It may be a good idea to address with the boys how to show respect to each other and with others. You can teach them what respect is, what it looks, what it sounds like, and exactly how to be respectful. In some families, if one family member is disrespectful to another with a comment, a sigh, or even a roll of the eyes, there is an immediate consequence that consists of an apology, including doing an act of kindness for the person they were disrespectful to. You might try that, too. 

Your older son probably would not treat his friends the way he treats his brother or he wouldn't have good friends like he does. So, it is likely he already knows his behavior is not acceptable, but he is getting by with it at home. As long as this is allowed to continue, your hope that they could be friends is probably not going to happen. So, at a neutral time, we recommend you address this to both of them as a concept or a character trait that you want them both to have in your home and throughout their lives. 

Let us know how this goes, and if additional suggestions are needed, don't hesitate to let us know. We will do what we can to help.