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I have a brother who is currently thirteen years old this year. My cousin, who is six years old, is currently staying at our house as his father recently divorced, and things are rather messed up at my cousin's home situation. Thus, my father has decided to help his brother, which is my cousin's dad, by letting my cousin stay at our house.
The thing about all this is that my brother has a very strong objection against my cousin's staying over at our place. Perhaps it is because of adolescence, but my brother uses my cousin as his punching bag. He often "lectures" my cousin, many a times using violence to "teach my cousin how to be a good boy", as he puts it. As a third party, I can see that my brother's behavior is completely insane and absurd. He gets really fired up over every little accidents or mistakes that my cousin does, even something simple like my cousin spilling a little water on the dinner table. I mean, come on! My cousin is only six!
It gets real hard to watch when you know you can't intervene. I've tried many things, from talking things over with my brother, intervening in my brother's "lecture" sessions with my cousin by asking him if whatever he is lecturing my cousin is reasonable, and telling my parents how bad the bullying goes. My dad is hardly ever home, and my mum often is out, so when the bullying occurs, it is usually when they aren't home. As such, my sister and I are the only ones who actually know how serious the bullying gets.
My brother gets blinded by his anger really easily. That part makes me worry the most. There was once when he was swimming with my sister and my cousin. My brother and sister were playing a game, in which they faked that they were drowning. My cousin thought it was real so he said to my sister "XXX be careful!" And just because he called my sister by her name and not "Sister XXX", my brother got pissed off and said "What did you call her?" My sister, of course, told my brother to drop it because hey, it wasn't such a big deal! But he was apparently, so angry that he pulled my cousin's leg and submerged him underwater even when my cousin was saying sorry and pleading for him to let go.
The bullying continues to get worse, and I can tell that my mum has "given up" on trying to advise my brother. My cousin often asks me why is it that my brother keeps bullying him. I feel really horrible and desperate for some advice as to how I can help to control my brother and his anger. This is a plea from his sister. If anyone out there has experience or any advice, I would really appreciate it if you can share some with me.
Response from Dr. DeFoore
Hello Victoria, and thanks for telling your story here. It is very painful to watch bullying, and not be able to do anything about it. It is especially sad that your parents are not intervening on your cousin's behalf.
Even your brother is a victim. He is receiving the unspoken message from your parents that his behavior is acceptable, and that will cause him problems later in his life.
I have written a very long section on bullying, and I think you will find some ideas on that page. Ideally, you could get your parents to read it also, or even your brother.
Meanwhile, I suggest that you tell your brother that you expect him to do the right thing and treat your cousin with kindness and respect. Do this in a loving, kind way, at a moment when you are both calm. Do this repeatedly, until the bullying stops. Say it with a smile, if you can do so genuinely.
Believe in your brother, your parents, your cousin and yourself. Focus on the goodness in all of your hearts.
My very best to you,
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