My Brother RUINS Family Functions. What do I do?!
I don’t know what to do! Every time we have a family gathering, I find it so embarrassing to invite extended family because of the way my younger brother acts. He curses uncontrollably, in front of our parents, older relatives, guests, and even the children. He never tries to control or discipline is child, all the while acting like his son is better than everyone else. His son talks back to him, and sometimes insults him, in front of everyone, and he never even attempts to correct him for the blatant disrespect his son is showing to him and everyone else. He has (out of earshot of myself or my spouse) said cruel, hurtful things to my kids, and routinely disregards my rules and wishes regarding my children and their safety. I know that I should probably cut a person like that out of my life, but he is my baby brother. My parents will never do that, so I would have to stop going to holidays at my parents’ home, and I can’t do THAT. What, if anything, should I do?
Angry in Abilene
That IS a very sticky situation that you are in. I can totally understand why cutting him out is not an option for you. You shouldn’t have to give up your whole extended family just because of one person’s bad behavior, not if you can help it.
Unfortunately, it sounds like your brother has been acting out for a very long time. The best solution would be for you guys to talk about this issue. Communication is almost always the best solution. You can try to talk to your brother, even if you need to get the help of an outside, unbiased party, like a mediator. Let him know how upsetting his behavior is to you and your family. Sometimes an intervention by family members and loved ones can have a profound, and often lasting effect on a person. Simply hearing everyone he loves telling him how much his actions have hurt them can be life changing for some people.
Of course, not everyone will respond well to being confronted by their family. If talking to him doesn’t help, you can try to get your other family members to agree to take a united stance and bar him from gatherings until he agrees to change his behavior. There are 2 main pitfalls to this plan, the first being getting everyone to agree to stand their ground and not invite him. This might prove impossible. Some parents just aren’t willing to dish out a helping of tough love and then stick to their guns, no matter how much it might help their child in the long run; it’s just too painful for them to do. If you CAN get everyone on a united front, you face your next challenge: what if he says he’ll change, but then just acts the same? I mean, we have to give a person a chance to change, right? Of course we do. But if he decides to call your bluff, show him it was never a bluff. He broke your agreement; what do you do now? Ask him to attend family counseling. Only if he agrees to attend AND after he has attended at least one meeting, will he be invited back to family gatherings. And it doesn’t count if he storms out before it’s finished.
If none of these things work in your situation, you may just have to do the hardest thing of all: ignore him. It sounds simple, I know, but anyone who has ever tried to ignore someone who truly offends them with their words or actions knows, those 2 simple words, ignore him, can be harder than climbing Mount Everest in shorts and flip-flops without a guide. If you know your brother is going to be, or is likely to be at a gathering, be mindful who else you decide to invite. Also, explain to your guests ahead of time that your brother is, well, a bit of a jerk. Often times people can be a lot more understanding than we may think. After all, there’s one in every family!
It’s also very important that you make sure to discuss with your children their uncle’s antics. I’m sure you’ve already been doing this, having been dealing with him for so many years, but it’s a point that is vital and worth stating, even if it seems obvious. We can’t always protect our children from negative words said to them, or influences that are, shall we say, less than ideal. What we can, and must do, is mitigate any damage done by having open lines of communication with our kids, making sure to talk to them even about the uncomfortable subjects. And this can NOT be fun to talk about, so I would definitely file it under the heading ‘uncomfortable subjects’.
Dealing with unruly family members can be the trickiest of affairs, and even those who are normally the picture of poise and grace can sometimes be reduced to looking like a raving lunatic when presented with this mightiest of challenges. All we have control over is ourselves and how we behave. And maybe that is the lesson that you can impart to your kids from all of this, and that we can all take away. Sometimes, we can’t do much about someone else’s behavior. Every person makes his or her own choices. Which means it is up to each one of us make the choice to set personal boundaries, so that we can lessen the effects other people’s choices have on our lives. Sometimes all we can really do is learn to Abide.
I hope that some of this can help guide you towards finding the right solution for your situation. As always when traversing life’s choppy waters, you just have to keep your head up until you can get past it. Sometimes it’s easy like Sunday morning, sometimes it’s a hard day’s night, but one thing that never changes: it’s always worth the ride.
Hoping you find a way to Abide,
Rev. Andie Lynn Mayton
Ordained Dudeist Priest