Disagreements with Parent

I’m a 17 year old male living with my divorced mother. I’ve started taking RCIA classes, which is why I’ve decided to post this on here, even though my post is unrelated to Catholicism.

More and more, I feel like I have to be the parent in the house. Not because I want to, but because I have to. My mother is a nice enough woman, but doesn’t have the guts to be hated by her 12 year old daughter. She is concerned only with maintaining a friendship between the two of them, even if it means her daughter becomes, frankly, a brat.

Tonight, for example, my mom and I were in the kitchen. She asked me to have my sister feed her bird. So I go to her doorway, and ask her to do it. Melanie (my sister) has loud music on, but I know she can hear me. After several requests, I walk to the computer (which was what was playing the music) and go to pause the music. She slaps me, hits me, and tries to keep me from turning down the music.

Instead of hitting her back or something, I grab her arms together firmly with one hand and turn the volume down with the other. As I do this, she raises my arm to her mouth and bites me with a good amount of force. This is in addition to the yelling which she continues for some time.

I, of course, let her hands go, and notice that my mom has walked in. I ask if she had seen what had taken place, and she says that she had. Any yet… she does nothing. She starts getting ready for bed. I ask her if she is going to punish Melanie-- After all, she did bite me after slapping and hitting me. She says that it was my fault, that she had no choice since I was holding her arms.

I then take things step-by-step with her, explaining what happened. She says over and over that she had seen what happened. So… I go even slower, making her reply to how I acted.

“She wouldn’t respond, so what should I have done besides turning down the volume?”
“She started slapping and hitting me, so what should I have done besides grabbing her arms?”
“She bit me, so I let go. What are you going to do now?”

Melanie is the youngest in the family, and I think my mom feels an automatic compassion for her. My mom was the youngest, and had 4 older brothers who were quite mean to her. I don’t think anyone would say that I am at all mean to Melanie. Whatever the facts, though, my mom always sides with her. Even after she admitted that I acted perfectly, she took no action to correct the situation. Her outlook was, “Well, she’s not biting or hitting now, so lets just move on. She won’t do it again.”

Melanie is constantly disrespectful to both me and, more importantly, my mom. After she bit and hit me, my mom sends her to feed her bird. She yells throughout the activity about why it isn’t fair what I did and how she shouldn’t have to feed the bird and how I shouldn’t hold her arms together and all sorts of other claptrap.

I keep the fourth commandment in mind, but I also feel like “honoring” means telling your parents, respectfully, when they are wrong.

Melanie gets whatever she wants from her, just because she knows she won’t be punished and that my mom will do anything to keep her from being angry. When I point this out, my mom just shrugs it off, generally saying that I’m being disrespectful for trying to correct her.

My grandparents agree with me; They’ve felt the same way about my mother for longer than I have. They’re a bit like her, though-- They’re unwilling to really fight to fix things, although they have talked to her about my sister several times.

The worst part, paradoxically, is that Melanie is, for the most part, fine when she is just around me, or just around the grandparents. Being around Mom gives her more freedom. She knows that without Mom to protect her, neither my grandparents nor myself will allow her to act as she does.

What can I do? I’m terribly frightened about when Melanie really enters her teenage years, and want to try and make her better before it’s too late.

Sadly, without your mom to back this up- there is not much you can do.

I speak from experience. My youngest bro. was 6 when my parents divorced. (I was 18- he was 6) There were 3 other kids in the middle.

I would brush Aaron’s teeth b/c he wouldn’t do it (gross) and try to get backup from my mom. She didn’t care. She was too wrapped up in her own depression to start a fight.

Now- he is 16, and dosn’t listen to her, or really care what she has to say. He’s not “wild”, but he knows she has no teeth to “make” him do anything (chores, clean his room, etc.)

It’s discusting- b/c I ws not raised like that- but then, I knew my dad would beat the c**p out of me if I talked back to my mom…

The best advice I can give you is to keep telling her what your sis is doing wrong (major stuff) and what will happen if she is “left to go”. (Thats all I can do)

Also- advise her to listen to Dr. Ray Guarendi (sp?) on EWTN radio or internet - Tues-Thurs. He is a GREAT child psycologist- and VERY funny and entertaining.

God bless you for caring- you can pm me if you need someone to talk to about this- discovering you are the “parent”, and your mom is happy to be the “child” is VERY hard, and VERY disturbing. Stay strong in the Lord! (And welcome on your journey to the Catholic faith!)

As much as you seem fairly level-headed, you need to stop being the parent. Neither your mother nor your sister is going to accept you as an authority figure.

I understand your desire for what should be ordinary discipline, but it is not your job to provide it. At 17 and living at home in this situation, at best you are an older brother.

Take, for example, the above situation you described. You went to her room to tell her, and it seems reasonably clear that she heard you.

That should have been enough. Enforcing the request was not your job; your only job was to convey the request your mother gave you.

As long as you continue to step in to discipline your sister when your mother is there, your sister will continue to play the game and win. You need to realize this is a game of her and her mother’s making; and no matter what you try, she is going to beat you at the game.

As much as it is going to frustrate you, your mother is responsible for disciplining your sister. You need to take care of yourself, and at 17, that is usually a full time task. If she sasses your mother directly, or disobeys her, or ignores her, that is an issue between your mother and her, and doesn’t involve you. Your mother has to deal with it, in whatever fashion she decides. If you stay out of it as much as possible - meaning not enforcing anything your mother uses you to do - and she is using you -, then it will be up to your mother to enforce it or let it ride. You are free from the distraction of being caught in the middle, and your sister won’t be able to use you to manipulate the situation further.

I know what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I agree, on two fronts.

First, I used to be more passive. But… my mom still did nothing. And my sister was still mean, to both her and me.

Second, I don’t know if I could live with myself if I let my sister ruin her life. Its not my responsibility, I know. But if I’m getting beat up on the street, I hope that a good samaritan will help me, even if there’s risk for him, and even though it isn’t his job.

I’d like to be able to resume a “hands-off” approach. I just don’t know if I can.

Am I being completely illogical?

[quote=screensaver400]I know what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I agree, on two fronts.

First, I used to be more passive. But… my mom still did nothing. And my sister was still mean, to both her and me.

Second, I don’t know if I could live with myself if I let my sister ruin her life. Its not my responsibility, I know. But if I’m getting beat up on the street, I hope that a good samaritan will help me, even if there’s risk for him, and even though it isn’t his job.

I’d like to be able to resume a “hands-off” approach. I just don’t know if I can.

Am I being completely illogical?
[/quote]

Screensaver, your desire to help your sister is perfectly reasonable.
The problem is that the desire to help is not the same as the *power *to help.
You don’t have the power to provide discipline for your sister. Any attempt to do so will make things worse.
Stay out from between your mother and your sister.
Make no attempt to enforce any orders or requests on your mother’s behalf. Doing so only gives your sister the excuse to pretend that you (and your mother) are being mean to her. (Of oucrse you’re not being mean, but the truth doesn’t matter. What she wants is the excuse.)

May God bless you and keep you, and your family as well.

Just wanted to add my 2 cents. Know how you feel. My mother was widowed at the ripe old age of 39 with 9 kids me being the oldest girl. I stepped up to help care the younger kids with no help whatsoever from her or the other brother and sisters closer to my age. I spent a good 10 years in absolute depression, but I never gave up caring and helping them. My mother than got sick about 5 years after my father died and things got much worse. I tired keeping them in line I would go to school and speak with the teachers I would make dinner, do the wash pay the bills and just be there. My mom in her day was a wonderful parent actually did nurture us very much as babies she was a holiding mother,but she was a depressed and anxiety ridden person. How I got through it is this I prayed often and always at least tried to do what needed to be done. 2 of my brothers became drug addicts my youngest sister didn’t graduate from highschool and became and still is today and unwed mother and I am still there if they need me. Mom did pass away at 49 years of age. When I had my daughter the first thing I thought about because she looks like mom is I am parenting my mom, because I felt the same way I was constantly parenting her. So here it is do your best to help your mom keep honoring her even though it may not turn out the way you want it will be okay. You are not the parent and can never replace the parent, but at some time in the future your sister will appreciate you. 1 of my brothers has been clean for awhile we still struggle with the youngest. I don’t know what my part is in all of this, but I do know I have no regrets and God has been very good to me. So pray and keep moving forward you will be okay and mom will appreciate who you are.

God Bless
Kathleen

I think you need to just back away from your sister and interact with her like a brother, not like a parent. It sounds like you have overstepped your bounds and are trying to exert authority with Melanie that a brother shouldn’t have. You are her brother, not her father.

Don’t tell her to feed the bird and force compliance. Obviously it doesn’t work. You could have told her that her mother wanted her to feed the bird. Once she didn’t respond and you knew she had heard, you should have just gone and told your mother that you had told her and she wasn’t responding and left it to her to deal with. You then get out of the line of fire, avoid conflict, and leave the problem with the person who has the authority to deal with it. If she chooses not to deal with it, it’s her problem.

[quote=mumto5]I think you need to just back away from your sister and interact with her like a brother, not like a parent. It sounds like you have overstepped your bounds and are trying to exert authority with Melanie that a brother shouldn’t have. You are her brother, not her father.

Don’t tell her to feed the bird and force compliance. Obviously it doesn’t work. You could have told her that her mother wanted her to feed the bird. Once she didn’t respond and you knew she had heard, you should have just gone and told your mother that you had told her and she wasn’t responding and left it to her to deal with. You then get out of the line of fire, avoid conflict, and leave the problem with the person who has the authority to deal with it. If she chooses not to deal with it, it’s her problem.
[/quote]

I agree… let your Mom deal with her. It’s great that you are concerned… but you are only the brother and without your Mom backing you up… your sister is never going to respect you as having any authority whatsoever… so bottom line… there will be more bites in your future.

Your sister sounds like a brat but you will be grown & gone before too long so she won’t be your problem.

I do think you should pray for her though. As you probably know… the teen years are filled with difficulties.

[quote=screensaver400]I know what you’re saying, but I’m not sure I agree, on two fronts.

First, I used to be more passive. But… my mom still did nothing. And my sister was still mean, to both her and me.

Second, I don’t know if I could live with myself if I let my sister ruin her life. Its not my responsibility, I know. But if I’m getting beat up on the street, I hope that a good samaritan will help me, even if there’s risk for him, and even though it isn’t his job.

I’d like to be able to resume a “hands-off” approach. I just don’t know if I can.

Am I being completely illogical?
[/quote]

No, it is not illogic. It is the emotions that you are struggling with, caused by the fact that you care.

The emotions are not wrong, or evil, or disturbed, or illogical. However, they are not necessarily the basis you need in order to make a healthy decision.

One of the hardest lessons we have to learn is that we cannot truly control another. You cannot control your sister because you do not have the authority of a parent, and neither she nor your mother is going to give you that authority.

Your sister is an independent agent, and she pretty much will do as she pleases, and she will continue to manipulate situations (and you) in shich you involve yourself beyond what is proper. She does this because she effectively has your mother’s permission. The source of the problem is less your sister than it is your mother, and I seriously doubt you are going to effect a change in her.

As much as you may feel responsible for your sister, you are not responsible, either before God or society. Your life will be more calm and peaceful when you can come to terms with the fact that this is not your responsiblity, and in fact, to a certain extent, when you attempt to make it your responsiblity, you are actually exacerbating the situation; you are giving your sister a means of escallating the confrontation.

Quit confronting her. Part of her behavior is being triggered by your involvement in trying to parent.

You will be able to livve with yourself when you can recognize what is actually happening, when you can recognize the dynamic, and when you stop getting sucked into the “dance”. That, and when you can acknowledge that she is not your child. She is your sister.

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