My pre-teen brother destroys my family harmony

The Yomiuri Shimbun Dear Troubleshooter:

I’m a 16-year-old high school girl. My brother, a sixth-grade primary school student, spends most of his time at a game center. It has made my home atmosphere uncomfortable.

He goes out almost every day and doesn’t come home until a little before 7 p.m. He usually gets money from our mother that he spends there. Once he spent as much as ¥7,000 that he got from our grandmother, probably because my mother didn’t give him enough money. I suspect he’s been influenced by our father, who likes gambling.

Because of my brother’s problem, our parents argue and my mother vents her frustration on me. All these things are very frustrating for me. When I’m studying on the second floor at home, my brother is sometimes noisy downstairs. It’s distracting, so I ask him to be quiet but he won’t listen to me. My mother scolds my brother, but the next day, she’s on good terms with him again. I think my brother doesn’t take her seriously as a result.

When I’m irritated and warn him to behave better, he finds fault with what I say instead. My parents also say to me: “You’re noisy. Be quiet.” We had a family meeting about this, but it didn’t work.

Every day I come home to find things this way. I’ll take the university entrance examinations next year, but I can’t concentrate on studying and preparing for them.

R, Tokyo

Dear Ms. R:

Your family is very important to you. You’re also an admirable member of the family who is concerned about your younger brother. However, your feelings aren’t understood appropriately and you’re treated as a nuisance by the other family members. I think it’s unbearable for you.

It’s true your brother’s behavior is a concern. The whole family should admonish him to help improve it. Your parents have quarrels and your mother vents her frustration on you, probably because they’re worried about how to deal with this matter.

As a way to get your family back to what it used to be, I suggest you not criticize your brother or parents too strongly. No matter how much you tell people about what’s right and what’s wrong, they’re going to disagree — even if they understand it from a philosophical perspective — if you criticize or accuse them first.

You should rather listen to your brother intently and carefully about how he is feeling now. Also, I suggest you actively provide topics of conversation besides this matter to your family, to help create an atmosphere where you can discuss such topics naturally and openly.

It’s an important time for you, too, as you take entrance examinations next year. As your family situation may not improve quickly despite your efforts, you need to prepare a suitable environment for your study, such as finding the time to study at a library, and think a good deal about your future.

Masami Ohinata, professor

(from March 26, 2016, issue)Speech

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