Oh, Brother!

Dear Stephanie,

My brother is 22 and, although he certainly could be doing worse, he has always been the cause of much family contention and isn’t moving in the direction he could/should be.

He recently graduated college and continued right into his MBA at the same school, with no work experience or plan of what he wants, and did not want to answer any questions my family had or take any advice on maybe waiting and getting work experience in the field he thinks he wants to work in first. Leading up to graduation, he did not put much effort into recruiting for jobs he wanted. Once he saw he wasn’t getting any job offers, he just decided to keep going to school. I’m not sure if he really thinks this will help him get a job, seeing as it was really a lack of effort on his part that resulted in him staying in school.

Grad school is not a plan he had or something he ever expressed interest in before, and he did not have a reason (that he told us, at least) for continuing school. From our experience and what many successful people have done, we all agreed it would be better to wait and perhaps have more of a plan before paying for a graduate degree. He didn’t listen to what anyone said and just signed up for the program. He is also at a temp job but not treating it like an opportunity for full-time employment.

He is living with my parents now, which in itself is not a problem, but he has never gotten along with the family very well and doesn’t help around the house, interact with my parents, or even answer their simple questions most of the time. I know it is hard on them because they want to help him out any way they can and he barely speaks to them. Even if they aren’t probing or trying to offer advice, he is unresponsive and doesn’t want to be around them.

We joke about it as a family, but I want to be able to help him out. What can I do to get him to listen, or at least want to have a semi-serious conversation? Do I leave it alone and hope he’s just a (very) late bloomer?

Sincerely,

Trying to Help a Brother Out


Dear Trying,

Thanks for writing in. To be quite frank, it sounds like your brother is self-centered and needs to grow up. He’s taking your family’s interest and your parent’s generosity for granted. It must be really frustrating when your whole family is trying to help him but all your getting is the reaction from him that you mention above. However, on the other hand a MBA is never a bad choice; even if he is going about it in an unconventional way and he is unsure of what he wants after he gets his degree. A business degree will always be applicable in any field he will eventually pursue and future employers will take notice. So, I think maybe, cut him a little slack in that area. Just because it is not the exact way you or other people would do it, does not mean it isn’t the right choice for him.

If you still want to have a serious conversation with him about his education, I would approach from the angle of helping him discover what he wants to do after school. I don’t doubt you that he didn’t put the effort into finding a job, but maybe he did not put an effort in because he has not found something that excites him and motivates him. Which, if I am being honest, IS an immature outlook, but an outlook none the less, and one that many many people subscribe to. I would try to have a low pressure, brain storming type conversation about what he likes and wants to do in life. He probably needs some inspiration, and as his sibling, who is better to help him with that? Maybe, it will help you see him in a new light too.

However, the way he is treating your family is unacceptable at his age. Sounds like he needs a real heart to heart (knock upside the head) to be reminded how lucky he is that he can live at home without contributing to the household while pursuing further education and still be a rude person and family member. If I were you, I would remind him constantly how good he has it and that he owes your parents more than a thank you. Obviously, I am no parent but I would also suggest to my own parents to give him a taste of reality. Leave him alone and don’t ask questions but since he has a job, he can pay some rent. He can cook his own meals.  He can buy his own food and he can do his own laundry… Or whatever other benefits he’s getting from living at home. This push in to a faux deep end might accelerate his delayed blooming process and help him and realize that your family has been more just roommates at a boarding house to him.

All in all, I think you should keep talking to and encouraging your brother to be a better person, family member, student and future employee. It could be like talking to a wall for years, but the optimist in me hopes one day he will get it.

With Love,

Stephanie

If anyone else has any other suggestions or a different approach, please leave a comment below.

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