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My 20-year-old brother has some bahavioral problems which cause significant stress to me and my parents. He is short tempered and can not take suggestions even when politely expressed. He turns aggressive and resorts to blaming. For example, the other day he showed some pictures he took and I just mentioned that one of the pictures was a bit underexposed (dark) he was visibly upset. In fact, I can not even say some words of praise for any relative or friends (his or mine). He tends to get hostile as he interprets this as his own insufficiency.

Because of this and his controlling nature, he has difficulty making friends. He had a friend, but there were problems between them as he asked the friend to not be friends with some other people whom he does not like. He does not have any friends now.

He does not have clear understanding of boundaries, and tends to control other people. His world view seems to be revolving around himself. At times he is a caring brother, but at other times he has a profound lack of respect for others' feelings.

I think that there are some aspects of parenting that may have lead to these issues. My mother is an overcaring parent. She is always available to him and helps him with trivial-est of all decisions. They talk to each other ~3 times in a day on phone (he goes to college in a different city). She wakes him up in the morning so that he can go to college in time, asks in the evening about the day, whether he has had food or not, etc. Further she does not set any boundaries with him, often he has unreasonable expectations from my mother and she gives in to his expectations. She goes at great lengths to save him any small difficulties. In short, she treats him like an infant or kid rather than an adult. I think this has resulted in him

  1. having a high sense of entitlement,
  2. having a poor understanding of boundaries, and
  3. not being able to take any suggestions/constructive polite criticism.

I have discussed with my mother several times that her over-protective parenting is seriously impeding his personality growth as an adult and causing these problems. She agrees with my point of view, but seems to be unable to look at her own behavior in an emotionally detached way in practice. Thus she is unable to amend it. She still continues to think of him as a child rather than a grown up man.

How can I help my mother see that her overcaring and overprotective behavior - however well intended and arising out of motherly affection - is highly damaging?

  • @anongoodnurse see question in meta – pojo-guy Dec 3 '17 at 9:37
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You say,

She agrees with my point of view, but seems to be unable to look at her own behavior in an emotionally detached way in practice. Thus she is unable to amend it. She still continues to think of him as a child rather than a grown up man.

Your mother also sees you as a child (though she may not treat you in the same manner), and it's hard for some/many parents to hear the advice of their children as that of thinking, knowledgeable adults. It's also very difficult to change well-established patterns of behavior.

You have tried conversation and reason. You can keep trying this. Add the literature to your discussions. Look up boundaries and read about them. You can discuss healthy boundaries between your mother and your brother.

In short, she treats him like an infant or kid rather than an adult. I think this has resulted in him (a) having a high sense of entitlement, (b) having a poor understanding of boundaries, and (c) not being able to take any suggestions/constructive polite criticism.

You may be right about the first two, but I think you may be wrong in blaming your mother for that last character flaw.

For decades, parents have been blamed or credited for how their children turn out. That's fine when the kids turn out well (who doesn't like to assume responsibility for success?), but not so good when they turn out badly.

The truth is that people are born with character traits, just as they are born with illnesses/predispositions to illness. No one "blames" Down's Syndrome, Cystic Fibrosis, or Autism on parenting. Likewise, there are children born with distinct personality traits: introversion, extroversion, tactile defensiveness, etc. Ask any parent of multiple kids: they are different from birth.

Your brother may have been catered to, but please don't blame all of his problems on his mother.

My older brother (now long deceased) had Oppositional Defiant Disorder. No one had a label for what he had back then. But ask anyone who grew up with such a sibling and they will tell you their sibling wreaked havoc on their family life. He made my life at home by turns funny, dramatic and often hellish. Yet it was definitely not the fault of my parents.

I'm not saying your brother has ODD. I am saying don't blame your mother for things for which she may not be responsible/has no control and cannot fix.

Do discuss boundaries; they will make your mother, your brother, and you healthier in your relationships.

But for the deeper personality problems your brother has, I would suggest therapy, which I would suspect he will be resistant to.


What Are Boundaries
Having a conversation to assert your boundaries

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  • Thank you so much. It is helpful to see your perspective. I will read up the links, and pass on to my mother. And I just have one more thing to ask you. I strongly suspect that my brother has narcissistic personality disorder : he craves for other's praise, is extremely touchy and gets really annoyed at slightest criticism, and lacks boundary understanding. Of course, I am no one to diagnose and we shall try to convince him to get professional help and diagnosis. My question to you is : Can you suggest some good books that might help my parents in case my brother is indeed having NPD ? Thanks. – psuedo Dec 6 '17 at 20:44
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While I feel it is a tough situation that you're stuck in, I'm curious why you feel responsible to correct your mother's behavior. It sounds like your brother is very sheltered and entitled, and I think you've hit the nail on the head as far as reasoning goes.

However, in what you say here:

She agrees with my point of view, but seems to be unable to look at her own behavior in an emotionally detached way in practice. Thus she is unable to amend it. She still continues to think of him as a child rather than a grown up man.

I, personally, do not know any parent that can actually look at what they are doing like this. Most people, in general, aren't going to be capable of stepping back and being completely detached from their feelings and situation. There is probably a reason that your mother feels the need to baby your brother. Is he the baby brother? Are you treated the same way?

However, I've also known people that are 30+ years old and have parent-child relationships like you've described. I understand how frustrating that can be for you, but it is doubtful that you'd really make any headway in convincing your mother to stop. Via domino effect, it is also doubtful that your brother will stop behaving this way with your mother enabling the behavior.

In fact, I can not even say some words of praise for any relative or friends (his or mine). He tends to get hostile as he interprets this as his own insufficiency.

If this is entirely true, your brother may be experiencing some feelings of inadequacy. While not personally knowing your family dynamic, it is hard to tell why. This also means suggesting therapy will probably be ill-received, but that's probably the best bet in terms of getting him help.

What you're asking for isn't impossible. However, it is pretty improbable that you'd manage to convince your mother to stop without knowing why she is doing what she is doing and to get your brother the help he wants without him feeling the suggestion is berating his character.

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