I know this sounds like a stupid question, but how do I fix my brother? He keeps getting worse. I thought he was starting to act a little bit better, but I guess I was wrong. I know I messed up in acting the way I did when I was little and ended up teaching him to mirror me while he was still a little human sponge to anything and everything he would see or hear, but I know better now. But my example now is not enough to turn him around.

My parents don't do anything to counteract everything he does. I know I messed up, but I'm trying to make up for it now in any way that I can; I just don't know how.

He's worse than I ever was, but I guess I wore my parents down because at least they put up some resistance to me when I was little. What bothers me is that they yelled at me and told me what a horrible person I am when I start letting them see me upset, yet he does whatever he wants, and it's all okay. But that really doesn't matter because this isn't about me; it's about him.It's not that I want my parents to yell at him or punish him; I don't want that. I don't like seeing him upset. Even when my parents finally do get to their wit's end, and they start yelling at him, I end up going to my room and crying because I know that he's in trouble and he's upset, and they're angry too, and knowing that it's all just going to keep repeating because he's not going to listen. Even though I don't want to see him upset and I don't want to see him in trouble, and where he's going now is only going to lead him to be more upset and more in trouble, and he's dragging my parents in the process. He's 11, and last night, he told my mother off. I guess that's an improvement from him flinging his sandwich across the room in a temper tantrum after my mom "distracted" him. I don't know what to do, but I know it's my fault, and I'm trying to fix it; I just don't know how.


Basic rule number one: You can't make anyone do what is right. You can only encourage him. Ultimately, he must make his own choices.

I'll grant you that you didn't leave a good example and nice as your parents are, they weren't prepared for the storms of teenagers. You can't undo the past. You can't make your parents into the bedrock they need to be to weather this new storm. But you can help by setting a better example now that you are getting to the other side of your own personal storm and by giving him some good solid sisterly advice when you think he might be in the mood to listen.

I hate to mention this, but at eleven, he is barely entering the stormy years of adolescence. Since he started with little discipline, he will be more than a handful over the next five to ten years. You didn't cause this. Your parents did in part by not giving him the best training when he was the most trainable, but the majority of it will be due to the raging hormones hitting him as his body changes. Where most of your emotions showed up in moodiness, his will be displayed in fits of temper, rebellion, and rash behavior.

What you can do is when you can and when he will let you, mention as casually as you can that certain things won't work -- you know from experience. Suggest ways that he might solve his problem that he hadn't considered and which actually might work. It won't stave off all the problems, but if he knows you are someone he can bring problems to and get good direction from, you might get a chance to help steer him onto a better course. You'll know his moods better than most, so don't push when he isn't receptive.

That's where the problem lies: he's never receptive to my advice. I've been trying to set a better example for him for the past few years, and I've been trying to give him advice, but that doesn't work. He knows what he sees now, and what he sees now is that he can get away with just about anything he wants. I've tried to tell him at times about how yelling will get him nowhere and about how violence will just get him into trouble, but how can I make him see this? He doesn't see that now, and unfortunatly, by the time that he begins to see that, it's going to be more than difficult for him to adjust.

I know I can't control what he does, but I know that it's my fault that he acts as he does, and that my parents let him act as such. Once he gets older, he'll eventually be forced to changed, and his behavior is going to so much more ingrained into his brain; by that time, it's going to cost him more.

I don't know that you have any other advice besides setting him an example, but I'm telling you that setting him an example and giving advice will not work. I've been trying that, and the example isn't working, and advice, well, I get one of three responses: he rolls his eyes, he tells me "whatever," and goes to his room slamming his door behind him, or he hits and kicks me until he finally figures out that he can't hurt me and he storms to his room slamming his door behind him. Any advice you give him ends that way. He wants to do things his way, and he doesn't want to be told otherwise, even if it's just a suggestion.

I don't know that you have anymore advice for me, but I'm telling you, I've tried what you suggested with him, and it doesn't work. This doesn't mean I'm going to stop trying, given that I've got nothing else to try, but I need something else because this isn't working.

Neither you nor I can know whether it is working. As ridiculous as it sounds his outward response doesn't really tell me much and I doubt it tells you much. You have to remember you're dealing with a boy and often things are done to maintain the look of being tough and independent. The only hope I can offer you is to stay the course and, perhaps, practice your timing a bit more.

The reason I told you to set an example is simply because that is your only choice, not because it is a great choice or is guaranteed to change your brother. The fact is that you are his sister. You have no authority in his life. As you noted, all you can do is keep trying. Only your parents have the position and authority to mold his character. If they slip up, there isn't anything you can do to step in. All you can do is take notes and resolve not to repeat their mistakes with your own children.

When parents have an out of control adolescent on their hands, I am able to teach them how to get control back over their children. But such requires parents who realize that what they are doing isn't working and a desire to make changes. Like I said in the first note, though I know how to handle boys like your brother, I can't make others do what ought to be done. I can only encourage people to make good choices.

But again, let me point out that the situation isn't your fault. You might have contributed ideas to him, but he made his own choices. The only people who have responsibility in this situation are your parents.