Dear Dr. Bill,
We have two sons, ages 16 and 17. Our younger son has started a “friendship” with a girl that his older brother has liked for a year. The 17-year-old now accuses his brother of stealing all his friends and says he hates him. The 16-year-old argues nobody can choose his friends for him, and he could care less what his older brother thinks.
Because our older son isn’t as outgoing as his younger brother, this kind of thing has happened before, but with male friends. Because our boys are so close in age, they’re always going to have mutual friends. So what should we do? Do we restrict our 16-year-old’s access to this girl? Or do we tell our 17-year-old to GROW UP and live with it?
This is a great opportunity for BOTH your sons to learn to grow up a bit. They’ve allowed selfishness and jealousy to interfere with their relationship and cause tension in the family.
Your 17-year old needs to stop blaming and take responsibility for his own friendships. Meanwhile, your 16-year-old needs to start treating his brother with more kindness and respect.
Start by re-affirming your love for each of them, but tell them that you’re very disappointed with their behavior.
Let them know that their self-centered attitudes are going to need to change, and that you’re going to assist them with that change by implementing some firm consequences. Tell them that every time they display selfish attitudes or behavior, there will be a loss of a certain privilege. If it’s clear that both boys are in the wrong, both of them should experience the consequences.
As far as the dispute over the girl goes, her feelings are her own, and ultimately she’ll be the one to decide if she likes either of the boys. Your role is to set clear guidelines on dating and relationships, and to make sure both of your sons treat the girl with respect.
Thanks for writing Karen. If you have a question for me about family issues or Christian living, click the “Questions” link on the Culture Connection page.