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"My teenage brother's behavior has deteriorated badly"

Hello Ayal,

I wrote to you a couple of months ago with a question concerning something to do with myself and would now like to ask you about my brother. He will be fourteen in March, he has just moved to up to the upper school (last September) and since being at the school his behavior and attitude has deteriorated badly. My mum gets letters and phone calls from the school frequently, he has only been back at school for two weeks after the Christmas break and already there have been two letters and three phone calls!!

I think a lot of it has to do with the company he keeps and the fact he is easily led. He even got himself into trouble with the police, he was arrested for being in a stolen car (joyriding) and yet this is not really the Mark we know and love. Yes it is still the same child but it is like he has changed into somebody different and it was almost overnight.

My mum has become very protective of him since he has been very badly behaved and it is doing him no good at all, his dad (we have different fathers) is not much help either. I on the other hand am quite strict with him when I am looking after him because I will not put up with him as he is but now I am getting to the point where I do not want to have much to do with him at all. He is becoming an unlikeable child although I love very much as always.

He has always been spoiled and never had much discipline, it seems as though our mum has gone from one extreme to the other, although I have had to stop her from severely thumping him on one occasion because she used to do that to me and it achieves nothing but hurt and anger. However as much as I do not agree with physical punishment I am beginning to wonder what else we can do.

I spent a lot of my time from the age of 14 looking after my brother and as a result I know him better than anyone, my mum realizes this and often says this herself yet when I point out things about my brother; things that are going on, have been and will be happening she gets angry with me. I have always seemed to be able to kind of foretell his future in a general sense and I know when he is telling lies when my parents do not.

I do interfere I admit that but only to try and help because my parents do not seem to bother. They let him stay out of the house all day everyday from morning until night at weekends and during the week from when he gets home from school until it is time for bed. The fact he is always late home, sometimes up to 40 mins, does not seem to bother them either nor do they do really know who he is with or what he is up to.

In my eyes this is not good and to be honest I do not think they are caring for him very well and the way things are going he will not have much of a future. I feel very responsible for him and try to teach him to be kind, polite and fairly well behaved, I know he is not going to behave perfectly as he is a child but his behavior at the moment is totally awful.

They threaten to ground him, to ban this or that but they are empty threats and he knows it. I get more out of him than they do in terms of better behavior because he knows how far to push it with me, what I expect and the fact I say what I mean. I am not a perfect big sister (I am 22 and he is 13) but I do have a good influence on him and I am worried sick about him but more than that I do not understand my mum's behavior where this is concerned, this is not the mum I know.


Hi - I think that what is going on is that your brother has hit puberty, and he has all of this sexual and creative energy coursing through him that he doesn't know what to do with. This is a really important time in his life, a crucial time when he needs a lot of direction, which, it sounds like, your mother and her partner aren't giving him. In tribal societies, when a boy or girl reached puberty, it was honored and recognized as a major event, a life changing event in a person's life, and there were special rites of passage ceremonies to commemorate and acknowledge it. Big time. It recognized that this person was becoming a man or a woman, and guidance was given in a powerful way how to become a good strong man or woman. It's very important to do this. Unfortunately, however, we don't really do that in our society, and I think it leads to an amazing amount of problems.

Your brother is feeling lonely and probably lost and bewildered by these strong changes happening to him, and no one, besides you, it sounds like, is giving him any positive direction to take. Therefore, he is channeling all of this powerful energy into destructive means, or finding ways to use it to cause trouble. He doesn't know how else to deal with it. When groups of kids ban together and do destructive things, or get into trouble, what they are really seeking is spiritual guidance - they are looking for the means to harness this incredibly powerful, creative, life force energy flowing through them, to move into adulthood, and if no one shows them the way, they turn to one another and act it out in a way that can be very harmful. Your brother needs a strong male guide to take him through this time. There are certain people who do offer vision quests, rites of passage ceremonies, programs for teenagers, but it works best, too, when there is someone in his life, a male role model, whom he respects and wants to emulate, who can guide him through this. Your mom and his father sound, from what you said, oblivious to what is going on.

Maybe you can talk to someone you trust and respect, if you have a minister or someone who is tuned into these things - maybe a guidance counselor at school, etc., and perhaps if you share this information with them, they can then talk to your mother and your brother's father and see if they can get some clearer idea of how they need to go about dealing with this powerful time in your brother's life. Your mom is probably angry because she doesn't have a clue what to do or what's going on, so she's not dealing with it. Maybe she doesn't have the inner strength to do so - but at this point in your brother's life, it is the father, the male's responsibility to guide him. If your step father isn't a strong man, he probably feels he doesn't know what to do either. In which case, they need some guidance and help. If someone they respect as an authority can explain it to them, and get them on track with this - especially the father - then that would be good. If they don't deal with this in an appropriate manner, you're right - there could be a lot of difficulties down the line.

Check out a web site for a camp that offers a great summer program for teenagers, called the Walkabout - it's very much a rite of passage, fun filled, challenging experience, and has been life changing in a very positive way for a lot of teenagers. Maybe if you showed it to your brother, he'd be interested just for the fun and adventure of it - present it that way to him: "Hey - look what a neat thing I found on the net!!", etc....and see if he gets interested. In the meantime, if you feel that your mother and step father can hear this, it's important that they get on board and deal with it in an appropriate way.

Blessings, Ayal

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