I am a 20 year old male about to join undergraduate, living with my cousin (15 yo, grade 8) and my sister (17 yo high schooler) in a single rented room.

We all live away from home for study reasons. My sister is a good student, has been awarded scholarships, and also does most of the work around the house. My cousin is very smart for his age, does work around the house as well (we each have our chores), but is a very poor student.

He has terrible handwriting, is bad at English spelling & grammar, and lacks basic math and science skills, which he will sorely need in high school. If he continues like this, I am almost certain he will fail his secondary school education.

To make it worse, he and my sister don't like each other at all. They are constantly on the verge of conflict, and I don't know to make them get along. My cousin repeats the same mistakes, which sets her off (he mostly ignores her suggestion), and my sister keeps going off over the little things he does.

For the 2 years we have been living together, I have been counselling him about his studies, but he has not improved. He obeys me, and doesn't hate me like he hates my sister.

Whenever I speak the truth about his studies to his parents, they react very poorly:

"Throw him out of the room, why are we paying if he does not study? Slap him!" etc.

I am tired of hearing this. How could I hurt him or throw him out?

Instead, I've tried to help him by giving him extra high quality text books to study from, and access to internet for research - I've also taught him how to search for information. Unfortunately, he seldom uses that book, and mostly watches cartoons on the internet.

I can't stay with him all the time since I have my own studies to do . I can only guide him.

How can I deal with them?

  • He's 15, living with 2 older girls... sounds tricky emotionally!
    – Layna
    Dec 22, 2016 at 14:12
  • I'm making some assumption here. Considering how bad your cousin's parents react when talking about his grades, he is certainly under pressure. Your sister is very smart and has good grades, she does not endure pressure from here parents. Your cousin is maybe a bit jealous or a bit angered when your sister talk about his grades, knowing he can't do the same and is put under pressure for it. Could you provide a bit more info on what triggers those quarrels ?
    – Dastardly
    Dec 22, 2016 at 15:30
  • Like my sister cleans the room and next time she finds a single very small piece of paper under his bed and his bed too remains messy all the time. There are many conditions like this...
    – Sahil
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:03

2 Answers 2


There's two, or even three separate issues which need to be addressed here.

#1) Interpersonal relationships

It sounds as if you guys are living in rather tight conditions. It's typically disastrous to pack 2 immature teenagers into such a confined space, with no room to avoid each other, and get over the various issues and pressures they are each feeling.

During this time of their lives kids are typically going through quite a bit of stress due to school, hormones, social pressure, etc. The fact that they are constantly stuck together is probably a constant aggravation, like an itch neither of them can scratch.

It takes a lot even for a mature, calm person to live with an individual they dislike. What you need to do is sit them both down, maybe separately at first, and explain that they need to start getting along. Get each of their version of events, and try to reach a compromise. Explain that you are all far away from home, and need to work together in order to succeed.

Ask your sister to count to 10 in her mind, and breathe deeply before she simply explodes and start yelling at him. Explain to her that there's no point wasting her energy getting, and being angry all the time. Teach her to learn a little bit of detachment from the situation - not everything your cousin does is meant as a personal insult to her.

As far as your cousin is concerned, get a short list of behaviors which really upset your sister, and ask him to correct those issues. Ask him to make an honest effort to improve those 3 or 4 bad habits, so that there will be less friction between them. It's important to also explain to your sister to not blow up if he makes some mistakes as he is trying to change his behavior, but rather work with him in trying to overcome those habits.

I know this is all much more difficult to accomplish than it was for me to say it, but I think you can get some real results if you can get them both to cooperate.

#2) School work

Your cousin's poor school work doesn't come as a great surprise. He is a young kid in a high stress situation, in an environment he may not feel comfortable in, and lacks parental supervision. Left to his own devices he is certain to simply slip further down the ladder, rung by rung.

He requires a parental figure to step in and correct his behaviors, starting now. I know you're a student yourself, and have a lot of pressure to deal with, but you're going to have to step up and give this kid a little more structure and guidance.

Simply handing over a textbook and internet connection is not going to do it. It is, in fact, going to lead to more procrastination, as you've already seen.

Since his English leaves a lot to be desires, start by speaking only English with him. Your sister and you should both only be speaking to him in English, and asking him to repeat any sentences that he says in your native tongue. Simply don't answer him unless he speaks English. Correct any poor grammar as he says it, otherwise he will retain his poor vocabulary, and not improve. i speak from personal experience: I had a Korean friend who, over 10 years of living in Canada, barely spoke decent English. I corrected him relentlessly, to the point where he wouldn't even want to speak to me anymore, but later thanked me when his English improved by leaps and bounds.

Now, as far as his homework is concerned, a lot of his poor performance is probably related to his difficulty in dealing with the English language. As that starts to improve, so, most likely, will his marks, because he will be able to understand what's going on in class, and read his material with a higher level of understanding. However, there's another aspect to it all, which is his own personal sloppiness, and irresponsibility.

Encourage him to write down daily and weekly lists of homework assignments due, homework, or upcoming tests. Ask him to cross off all the items for that day before he watches cartoons. Encourage him to do better by congratulating him when he crosses an item off the list, and maybe reward him when he gets whole lists done (buy him an ice cream cone, take them out for pizza, etc.)

When doing this, explain to your sister that your cousin lacks the discipline and motivation which she has, and that you encouraging him doesn't mean that you're favoring him over her. She should try and help him as well, but if they dislike each other that much it might just be better for them to leave each other alone at first.

Build that sense of accomplishment in him every time he does something for school. Tear him away from his cartoons not by threat, but by challenging him to do better. To rise above his current apathy. Remember, he will not improve unless you actively get him involved in the process.

  • @ManishYadav - no problem, I hope you can get them to work together, and get your cousin interested in his school work. I myself have a cousin who was doing really, really well in school, got into university with great marks ... then dropped out. He let his own pressures and insecurities drive him. 5 years later, he's working a dead end job, just hitting up pubs, gaming, and watching soccer. No one knows what to do with him anymore, and although he knows he will regret it (probably already does), nothing can convince him to go back. Don't let your own cousin fall into this trap!
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 15:48
  • A parental guidance won't be possible in his case because his parents work in very remote area where there is no good education facility and even for him I think they won't be able to leave the job and come here and guide him.
    – Sahil
    Dec 22, 2016 at 15:58
  • @manishyadav - I understand that. Your sister and you need to guide him to the best of your abilities. Like it or not, you're basically the father figure in his life now. I'm not saying that you have to pick up that responsibility, but think twice before refusing it. Teach him to get a sense of achievement out successfully completing school work.
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:05
  • I have been trying since last two years. But now I guess I chose the wrong method. I will try with something new.
    – Sahil
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:07
  • And previously he used to reside with my parents but even my parents failed to improve him. There too my sister and my cousin had trouble with each other.
    – Sahil
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:08

I admire that your reaction is to help rather than to choose the easier 'kick him out' solution.

It is difficult to know how to help but there a few tried and true methods that might help.

  • have a community meeting and decide on the rules, which are the same for each of you.
  • try writing down on separate pieces of paper things that you each want from the shared accomodations. These are wants not rules. Keep them realistic.
  • there are likely to be the same things listed by each of you, so you use those things to build bridges to understanding each other.

Your concern with the study habits of your cousin is a generous trait in you. Perhaps you could set aside a little time to help him with schoolwork. However, this is not your job. It is his. You may offer and model good study habits, but your job is to look after your own studies. No one said it is easy or fair. If he or your sister are jeopardising your own studies, you may have to change your living arrangement.

You cannot tell his parents how to parent. If you feel you feel the need to protect him, call in your own parents to help, or if you are truly afraid for him, call child protection services.

Best of luck and I hope it works out.

  • 1
    this is not your job. It is his - yes, it is, but you're talking about a teenager in a very stressful situation, who lacks parental supervision. It's incredibly easy for him to go down the wrong road at that age, and very difficult for him to later recover. If his cousins don't help him, it may soon be too late. And yes, maybe his parents really didn't put enough effort into raising him, but it's far too easy to judge. It sounds like these kids are abroad, trying hard to make a better life for themselves. I've been in that situation, it's not as cut and dry as you make it out.
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 15:51
  • @AndreROM well hi! Nope, it is not cut and dried. It is a multi-layered issue. I think you made some good points. That is the beauty of the different answers. The OP can pick and choose to arrive at a personal solution.
    – WRX
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:00
  • thought I recognized your user name. I've seen you on Worldbuilding, haven't I?
    – AndreiROM
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:06
  • I do like Worldbuilding, so yes.
    – WRX
    Dec 22, 2016 at 16:23

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