Dear Annie

Disrespect from family

Dear Annie: I’ve spent years watching my youngest brother tear my family apart, and now I need to make it stop. Coming into high school, he was bratty, angsty and entitled, but he was also the baby of the family and, let’s face it, a teenage boy.

Fast-forward to four years later, and he is never sweet, never thankful and never kind. My parents both work multiple jobs to keep our family afloat and are nothing but kind and understanding. All they want is their son back. But he is a nightmare, both in and out of the house. He won’t keep a job. He won’t do his schoolwork. He won’t respect my parents. He takes money from my mom’s wallet and has been caught with drugs and alcohol. None of their punishment has ever worked; he just refuses. I’ve struggled to keep my mouth shut over the years, because they’re the parents, not me. They’ve even tried therapists and counselors, but that hasn’t made a difference. Honestly, I don’t think he is ill. I just think he is selfish.

But now it’s coming to a breaking point: He turns 18 in a month, and his principal just called to say that if he makes one more mistake, he’ll be expelled. How far can rock bottom be? My sister moved away because she can’t handle it, but I can’t watch my parents’ hearts and spirits break any more. What can I do to fix this mess and keep my family sane?

— If He Only Had a Heart

Dear If He Only Had a Heart: The first thing you can do is to take that enormous burden off your shoulders. Though I commend your kindness and concern for your brother’s behavior, it is in no way your responsibility. The last thing your parents need is two unhappy children. Perhaps you could stage an intervention in which each of your family members writes your brother a letter saying how much he is loved but firmly laying out how he is hurting himself and the family. If drugs are the problem, he may break down and ask for help. Worst case is that he will have to hit bottom before seeking help. But knowing that he has a loving family is a major plus.