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This is a bit of a tricky one but here goes:

I'm in my mid-twenties and (for various reasons) currently live at home with both parents, my 15 year old sister, and my 17 year old brother. I regularly help out with family stuff - morning/afternoon school runs and other "taxi services" in particular - and, especially as there is a bit of an age gap, feel like I'm in an 'authoritative' position a lot of the time.

My problem is that both siblings can be very uncooperative, unpleasant and (in my sister's case) even rude or abusive at times, and there's a lot of friction whenever they need to do something they don't enjoy.

I completely understand that they're not my children, I'm not their parent and it's not my job to discipline them. However, I do still feel responsible for them in some ways and I do try to act as a role model for them.

I also don't want to insult the effort my parents have put into their (and my) upbringing but I sometimes feel as though they get away with whatever they like and there are few to no repercussions for bad behaviour. This has been going on for as long as I can remember and it's really starting to cause me a lot of stress and upset. I cannot wait until I can leave home but financially I have no idea when that's going to be possible.

I'm often late for work in the mornings because they simply don't get ready for school in time (they're late regardless of who takes them in the mornings) and being the messenger for requests like "come down for dinner" or even "it's time to wake up" is usually met with aggressive arguments and sometimes swearing and vocal abuse from my sister.

A few examples of their typical behaviour:

  • My sister rarely eats with the family at mealtimes and hasn't for several years now. If forced to she will be surly and uncommunicative, sometimes throwing tantrums, demanding to leave the table early, or simply storming off at some perceived insult. Usually she eats in her room or the sitting room and we put up with it because "it's easier than having the argument".
  • My brother seems incapable of getting up in the morning. I have found a half-way solution in that I go into his room and keep pestering him until he gets out of bed and starts getting ready. This isn't fool-proof though as he has been known to get back into bed and fall asleep again when dressed. Am I wrong in imagining a 17 year old should be responsible enough to get themselves up in the morning?
  • Both siblings are frequently unhappy, tired or feeling unwell. Unsurprisingly, when they feel like this they're more likely to snap or become aggressively argumentative.
  • After having read some of the questions on the site, it almost seems like my sister is displaying many signs of Oppositional Defiant Disorder. She hates school and her other brother, she's angry most of the time, is usually generally argumentative and can take offence at almost anything.

Both siblings can be absolutely wonderful if they're in the right mood, but that is rare. I'm becoming increasingly concerned they have learned behaviours and attitudes that mean they will struggle in later life.

I would love to talk to my parents about this but I just don't know what to say or what suggestions to make. Especially without hurting their feelings or implying they're bad parents. Both of my parents are under a lot of pressure and stress at the moment and neither of them deal well with confrontational discussions about these sorts of things which makes things doubly difficult.

Hopefully this all makes sense!? I feel as though my siblings need to learn some self-discipline and become much more responsible for their actions and behaviours towards myself and others. However, I have no idea how to get them to cooperate and see this and getting my parents' help with this seems impossible. HELP! What can I do as a sibling to make everyone's life easier?

  • If you say (without any negative emotions in your voice), "I'm going to be late to work because you are both so late this morning," what's their response? – Acire Feb 26 '15 at 12:37
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    Another Question which might have some helpful discussion (although a quick browse of it wasn't very enlightening) parenting.stackexchange.com/questions/8984/… – Acire Feb 26 '15 at 14:30
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    I'll try to compose a real answer at some point, but I would say that as of now there's no reason for you to be late to work because of them, especially if you're trying to improve your financial situation. I would give them a "I'm leaving at [time], whether you're ready or not. I can't be late to work anymore, so if you're not ready I'm leaving you behind." It'd be unfortunate if that means your parents have to do something, but really... If they want to use you as a taxi, it needs to be done on your time table or not at all. They're old enough to suffer the consequences. – user11394 Feb 26 '15 at 20:53
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    @bjb568 What Erica says is pretty much on target. While eating at a set time isn't really a big deal, aggressively opting out does cause friction in the family and is usually combined with some kind of "scene" with slamming doors, shouting and similar. On another level, I do also worry that although my sister might not particularly want to eat with us, it's probably also quite isolating for her as well. We don't get many opportunities in the week to sit together as a family and talk so it does feel as though she's building up a large emotional distance from us. Not ideal... – Tommy Feb 27 '15 at 20:13
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    @Erica Yes, it's not so much about the "tradition" of eating together (although I suppose you could say our assumption is that we will eat together). It's more about losing the chance to interact in a meaningful and positive way with the rest of the family (if I can put it so formally). Chatting and sharing experiences together could be a great way to support both siblings and help them grow but it's actively being rejected. Which isn't fun for anyone who does 'join in'. – Tommy Feb 27 '15 at 20:22
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Ultimately raising your siblings is your parent's responsibility, not yours. Helping them out is a nice gesture, but eventually you will move out and they won't be able to depend on your help. The solution depends a bit on how much of an obligation you have to help out.

If part of your living-at-home arrangement is giving rides, etc. then you need to do as @DavidBoshton said and get authority and backing from your parents. Your parents should respect you, your time and your feelings enough that they shouldn't leave you hanging out to dry when you have to deal with your siblings' bad attitudes. You are just as much their child as your brother and sister are and are just as deserving of their respect and consideration.

If your help is more of a courtesy for your parents, you can still go the delegated authority route or you can explain that you can't help anymore if your siblings are causing you problems. There is a point where you do have to stand up for yourself and your right to get basic respect and consideration from others. If your brother won't wake up so you can leave on time (and be on-time to work), you may have to leave without him and let him fend for himself. I know that will be hard and will cause conflict, but it should force the issue to resolve itself. Either your parents will do everything they can to get your brother moving in the morning or it just won't be your problem anymore. (On a side note, bailing out your siblings every time they are late will never give them the motivation to get up and get moving. Missing a bus and having to walk is great motivation not to miss the bus.)

No matter what solution you end up going with, you will need your parents help and support. They are the authorities over your siblings and really have final say in how they are raised. Talk to them and work something out first and then put it into practice and stick to your guns.

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    "If your brother won't wake up so you can leave on time (and be on-time to work), you may have to leave without him and let him fend for himself." Yes! +1 – anongoodnurse Feb 26 '15 at 18:13
  • This is pretty much what I would have answered(but probably more tempered!), so I won't bother writing my own. +1 – user11394 Mar 3 '15 at 4:37
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You need to get delegated authority. Since you are doing things with them that the parents would do, you need to get the authority of the parents to complete the tasks smoothly. I'm glad you know that they aren't your children, but you're acting in the capacity of a childcare worker, so you need to have the authority to do that. Agree a set of consequences with your parents that you can apply to the kids if they are uncooperative and of course there's the "Mum's asked me to get you to do X so if you don't do X I will have to let Mum know that you're being uncooperative" and then mum must then back you up. If she doesn't, you have to step out of this role as ultimately if they don't listen to you then they could be at risk of harm.

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