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My 16 Year Old Son Feels He Can't Measure Up To His Older Brother

by Mandy
(England Uk)

I have two boys, 16 and 22 whom I love very dearly. My 22 year old went in the army at 16.

My 16 year old son, who I would do anything for, is just so angry and bitter. He thinks I love my elder son more. He says his brother is lucky and can do anything. Both of my boys are very talented in different ways.

My older son Jason is a wiz with computers and writing letters and problem solving, where my younger son Jake is a wiz at repairing things. He is a more hands-on lad. Give him anything to repair or master and he can do it. He can lay floors and put up blinds. There is nothing that he will not have a go at.

Jake loves bikes, taking them apart and rebuilding them. I am forever telling him I love him, but this just isn't enough. He gets so angry when he can't make himself heard. He does not want to do his exams because he thinks I will be disappointed in him. He thinks I have no respect or love for him. He could not be more wrong.

He is breaking my heart, watching him make a mess of his life just to prove a point. I have tried to talk to him, but he just lies to me and tries to convince me--or is it himself--that he will be worthless.

My son's anger is getting bad now, because people are starting to get hurt emotionally. And he is breaking things up. I just want the best for my son and I want him to come to terms that Jake is what he is and Jason is what he is. If Jake could see this, there would be such a great strength between us.

I cannot live without either of my boys and I will never be put in that place were I will have to choose.

From a very distraught mother, with love from the bottom of my heart.

Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello Mandy, and thanks for telling your story here. It is great that you love your sons so much, and that you see the talents and gifts that each possess. I will try to help.

First, I want you to consider that there's nothing wrong with Jake. Just consider the possibility that his anger is there for a reason, and it's your job as a parent to find out, and address his needs.

I suggest you spend some high quality one-on-one time with him, and just listen. Do activities that he chooses. Don't ask questions, just make conversation by telling him what you like about the activity. In other words, connect with Jake in his chosen world. Do not try to "fix" him. Do not worry about him. Try not to see him as broken--just see him as a child trying to communicate something through his emotions.

Also read this page on parenting and teen anger management: adolescent anger management.

Follow all of the recommendations on those pages, and I think you'll get some good results.

Believe in your son Jake. See the very best in him always. His anger is a symptom, it does not define him. Your job is to find out the "story" behind Jake's anger. It's not always easy, but if you set your mind to it, you can do it.

Above all, focus on the good in him, rather than letting yourself worry about his anger and his bad behavior. The positive journaling exercise on this page will help with that. I encourage you to write in a journal daily about his positive aspects, until you find yourself automatically focusing on those in your daily interactions.

He needs you to believe in him, Mandy. And you need to believe in yourself as a good mother.

Now that Jake is growing up, and Jason's already grown, you also need to look at the need to begin letting go. It sounds like you might be a little too attached to your sons, and Jake's anger might be his way of pushing away and getting his independence--being a "good boy" might not feel strong and independent to him.

You will do the right thing here, Mandy. Read each of these pages carefully, and do the recommended exercises.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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