What to do with an irresponsible older brother


Hi, i’m 23 with a brother who is 3 years older than me. There are 5 of us in total… i’m the only girl. 3 of my brothers are working or in school.

My problem with my one brother is that he has not been contributing to the household or been responsible with his schooling/money. He has been to i think 3 post secondary schools already, all of which he didn’t finish. He’s began programs several times but never finishes. For one program, he was in school all the way up to his exams, but then he SKIPPED his exams because ‘he wasnt prepared for them’. He has wasted so much of his and my parents’ time and money because of lost tuition costs.

He also bought a car a few years back, is still paying if off, and my parents have told me that sometimes they have to make his car and insurance payments for him. (I’m definitely going to tell my parents to stop doing that b/c he’ll become used to it and think they’ll always cover for him!!)… btw, he also lives at home.

He has been working at restaurants/bars throughout all this, but he tends to spend it on entertainment/food/video games and not save it.

A year ago, through a friend, he got an internship at a pretty good company and in his field (computers) and has been doing that job… but this is not a permanent job, and i think their full time offer to him would be contingent upon whether or not he finishes school. At the same time, for some reason he has been working as a waiter at a restaurant, even tho his other job is 9 to 5 and has a good pay…

Recently he told me that he’s starting up night school again… YES, on TOP of the full time job + part time job. I thought his plan had been to finish school after his internship, but all of a sudden he decided to take night classes.

Another problem with him we have is that he leads a very unhealthy lifestyle - smoking, staying up late, eating junk food…The other week, i guess it was bad timing, b/c my other brother, my dad, and myself, all had nagged him about different things within the same short time period… He ended up blowing up at my dad, telling all of us he hates us, and punching a whole in our wall.

He didn’t talk to all of us for a week until yesterday, when i just kind of extended my hand to him to make peace, then he shortly after came and talked to me and then we were OK again. .

Today i just found out from our mutual friend that my brother had just bought a new game console… quite expensive, not to mention the games you have to buy for it. This infuriated me because the other day when i asked him why he was doing 2 jobs, he said, “WELL! BECAUSE… YOU KNOW WHAT?? NEVERMIND…”… so like, i kind of feel like THIS is why. I feel like he is addicted to games, and always has to have the latest game console. I’m almost positive all his previous school attempts failed b/c he plays too many video games and has no self-discipline.

I’m infuriated too b/c now he’s going to waste so much time on that, AND expect to do two jobs AND night school??

Of course he’s not going to be able to do well in school again, and then what do you know, another wasted tuition. (I’m not sure if he paid for this tuition, or my parents, but either way, he’d be wasting time and money again)

I just feel bad for my parents b/c he never listens to them and puts them through so much stress. he doesn’t realize how much they have done for him…

I know that I have to talk to him, but I’m always afraid he’ll just blow up. And sometimes when i tell him things, he just has this “i don’t care or so-what? attitude”… I don’t know what to do…

Any advice is greatly appreciated…


This is not your responsibility. It is your parents’ responsibility. They are letting him get away with all this and treat you all badly.

The best thing they could do for him would be to kick him out and force him to sink or swim on his own. They are allowing him to be a child when he is an adult. This is a choice they are making.

You are also making a choice to still live in this household with all this chaos and disrespect. You are old enough to move out and get away from it all. Perhaps you should consider that. Take care of your own peace and your own life, and let your parents figure out what choices they need to make.


I agree it is frustrating to have an irresponsible sibling who takes advantage of your parents.

However, your parents are the only ones who can stop subsizing his lifestyle and enabling his behavior.

This behavior didn’t start yesterday-- they have been lenient with him for years and it’s partly their fault that he continues to expect this treatment.

They need to be strict, stop giving him money, and demand he pay them rent or move out. If they don’t-- no there is nothing you can do about it. He’s selfish and lazy.

The only thing you could do is move out yourself so you do not have to witness it on a daily basis.

It’s really your parents who have to grow a backbone here.


Thanks for the fast reply duskyjewel.

True, it is my parents’ responsibility, but that doesn’t mean that I should just stand around and do nothing. I WANT to help… i feel like my parents have a lot already to deal with.

I can’t just move out and turn a blind eye, knowing that my parents have to deal with him… i want them to be happy and i want my brother to be happy. I don’t feel peace with this stuff going on…

I was thinking that they should kick him out on his own for a while too… But from past events, I know that he feels already bad about himself and maybe jealous that me and my other borhter have already finished school. my other brother is still living at home b/c he is looking for a job and I am still living at home to save money and help out (we both just graduated a few months ago). If they kick him out, i feel like he’ll feel like even moreso that my parents favour us over him…

I know he has a tendency to be emotionally and mentally unstable sometimes… like he’s done drugs before and has seen a psychiatrist at one point. To be honest, a part of me is afraid if we did do something like “kick him out and force him to sink or swim on his own”,he WOULD sink, and do something to hurt himself or be like suicidal or something. i know it sounds extreme, but he has threatened that a long time ago and it scares me (obviuosly)…


thanks also, 1ke.

Actually, the more i think about it, you are both right that i should move out. maybe that also will motivate him to get his act together. and yes, my parents do need a backbone about all this…


He threatened suicide because it was the tactic that worked at the time. It got him out of whatever.

He is jealous because you and your other successful siblings have done the work it takes, and he has not.

He has got all of you walking on eggshells and catering to him by using inappropriate guilt to control you.

Your parents are causing this, and now you feel like you have to rescue them from it. Where did your brother learn to be manipulative… ?

The only way for this to get solved is for your parents to stop supporting and subsidizing his lifestyle. If they choose not to do that, then that is their unfortunate choice. Why should you also throw your life down the toilet in service of a person who refuses to do what is necessary to succeed in life? If you do that, it will be your choice as much as allowing all this is your parents’s choice.

And it won’t be fair to blame your brother for that…

EDIT: Just saw your last post. It really isn’t fair of anyone to expect you to solve this. I really think you should do what you can to get yourself out of it and live your own life. Trust me, when he gets really hungry and his friends are tired of him crashing on their couches, and none of you rescue him, the likelihood is that he will straighten up. Most people do.


thanks duskyjewel…

At first your advice seemed really harsh to me, but if i think more about it, you’re completely right…

thank you so much for your wisdom!


Well, unfortunately, I have experience with one sibling trying to help parent another. Due to the circumstances at the time, it was necessary for me to try, but it wrecked my relationship with my brother and gave me no high opinion of my mother. It’s not fair to expect that one child will be a substitute parent to the other child unless the parents are dead and there is no other choice.

I pray that someday, your family will find peace and healing, and that your brother will become successful and able to stand on his own two feet. I mean, think of what a tragedy of wasted opportunity and talent he is! He has as much right to a good life as everyone else, but he doesn’t have to tools to get there. He is going to have a long, hard, painful path, and hopefully your parents will cut him free and let him start on the road soon, for all their sakes.


None of this advice means that you can’t be kind to your brother. Of course you should still be kind to him, invite him to Church activities or give him job leads (:rolleyes: ). Be a good influence and example by the life you live. Be open and hospitable, but not a doormat.

But, you shouldn’t feel guilty about living your life.

And, you can certainly try to give your parents some nudging in the right direction, but ultimately it’s up to them to change their behavior.

You can only control you.


Thanks for the prayer for my bro duskyJewel, and thanks 1ke for your kind and wise advice.

You have both been a HUGE help… God definitely works through people :slight_smile: Prayers out to both of you…


It is not your job to keep the family from being dysfunctional. (I suspect you are a middle child?)

You are not the parent. That role is apparently up for grabs in your household. But you don’t need to run for the office. :wink: (By the way, it’s a thankless job. Don’t seek it out at this young age. Wait till you have help in the form of a spouse.)

You cannot fix two decades of childrearing errors on your own. Please look up “codependency” and read about it. Stop being co-dependent and become independent.

You need to blaze the trail out of that house. Show your brother that there are benefits to “playing the game” and getting a job and getting out. Eventually you all will be gone. And if your parents get tired of your brother living in their basement when he is 40, they may finally take some action. But the other posters are right. He is very manipulative here. And they have allowed him to be lazy and irresponsible.

You don’t have to throw yourself on the pyre to prove a point. Get your own life. Your brother just may follow your example.

Good luck. And stop trying to fix other people. You can’t do it. Don’t nag him. Praise him for going to night school and working two jobs. Tell him how much you respect that. Don’t prophesy that he will fail and then it turns into a self-fulfilling prophesy.

who knows… maybe his game playing will lead to a very lucrative career in the computer field. You can’t change him. But you can encourage him when he is doing things right. In that respect, then he might listen to negative things more openly. And you can show him it is possible to move out of the family home and fly on your own!


Hey, things probably seem pretty bad right now, but there’s still time for him to pull out. Some guys seem to take a bit of a round about way to grow up and in a few years he might be totally different.

I watched a coworker do that just this year. Your post describes this coworker perfectly…unhealthy, smoking, manipulative, poor money management, stays out partying every night…at least he’s a good worker, lol!

Anyways, just this past year he saw the light. Why, he’s lost 20lbs, stopped smoking, moved out of his parent’s home, returned to his Catholic roots, become chaste, stopped drinking…He’s improved on everything except the video games! (Just this week he stayed up all night playing Halo 3) :eek:

To their credit, his parents kicked him out, but unbeknownst to them, he had already put a deposit down on an apartment.

He really has no clear reason for growing up. It just happened. Interestingly enough, he says his head feels different. Maybe it’s just a case of biology. :rolleyes:


Pray for him.

But basically, he’s an adult and capable of making his own decisions and living with the consequences of those decisions.

Don’t lend him any more money.

Don’t co-sign any loans.

Don’t let him crash at your house or mooch any meals.

Don’t let him babysit your children.

Don’t let him borrow your car.

Be polite, but don’t act as an enabler.


I am having a similar problem with my older brother. I am 21 and he is 24. He has always been irresponsible such as not helping with chores around the house. His problems have gotten much worse recently. He has been to four colleges, changed his major many times and has never completed a program. He is still attending school but it doesn’t seem to be a big priority in his life.

While attending school he also works as a waiter full time. He is always complaining that he needs a better job however and my father got him a part time job at his company. He almost never shows up to work however and after just a couple of weeks wants to quit because the boss doesn’t want hire him for a full time job. He is always coming up with these ideas that he is just going to be offered a career with no education or experience.

Meanwhile, his spending has gotten out of control. He and his girlfriend eat out every day and are always going out to the movies or going out with friends, spending money every day. He then claims that he doesn’t have enough money to make his car payment, buy gas, or even buy groceries. He eats all the food I buy with my own money and refuses to help clean the house or do the dishes and then complains if the house is dirty. He also bought a dog that he doesn’t even take care of. He is at work a lot and when he gets off of work he goes out with friends claiming that he needs a social life too.

I try to tell my dad that he needs help and he will keep acting irresponsibly unless someone intervenes and stops enabling him. My dad says to just let it go and not cause trouble. I am worried though that if we just let him keep behaving this way he will never be able to take care of himself.

He has recently been talking about getting married, having children, and wanting to live in his own house. I am afraid that with the way he has been acting however, he won’t be able to handle this lifestyle and me and my father will end up helping him out of trouble for the rest of his life.

Does anyone have any suggestions about how to deal with this situation? I love my brother and it hurts to seem him engaging in this self destructive behavior.


Encourage him when he does well and be positive about his capacity to do even more. If he seems discouraged about his past, remind him that he is still young and has plenty of time to make goals and reach them, and the talent to do it. Remind him it is OK to take a little longer than someone else to get going on a career, but that he’ll also be glad he did. Most of all, tell him you love him and thank him for the good things he brings into your life.

You might want to read Melody Beattie’s “Co-Dependent No More.” It is a very good book about how to live your own life and let others live theirs.


This thread is reeeeaaallly old. :blush:


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