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Personally, I am a 21-year-old male, and my family consists of my mum, dad and a younger brother aged 17.

To provide an overall context of my family before I talk about the problem.


Analysis of involved characters

(Might contain certain levels of bias)

Myself

Extremely academically driven, willing to work hard for the grades (Mainly interested in the field of Mathematics but not a prodigy in it, doesn’t fair well in linguistic subjects like global relations or possibly literature)

Freshman in a Computer Science course (Enrolled because it’s the course that my entry points could enter yet prospects are believed to be good, slight interest in programming though zero knowledge in tech trends and not IT savvy at all, and the belief that Computer Science is a subset of Mathematics and my skills might be relevant)

Not fairing well academically (50 percentile for all modules taken this semester, maybe due to lack of adaptation to new undergraduate life and employing of wrong study techniques from my previous education system or the major is filled with talents)

Lacking of all practical skills (Financial literacy and value assessment, handyman skills that every independent man should possess and interpersonal skills between people (I’m an introvert that just gets nervous talking to anyone)

Younger brother

Totally not academically driven, puts in the minimum effort yet still expects the rewards to be high and then rants about it later on. Simply put, happy-go-lucky.

(When one is lagging behind on the syallabus, and still intends to try for a good grade, of course the logical thing to do is to put in extra time for the subject. However, when my brother meets with this scenario, it seems like he doesn't put in that effort as I always catch him napping for more than 8 hours a day and assume he isn't the sort to wake up during wee hours to study since he's generally a sleep lover. He would just pray hard that the untouched topics, which is apparently a huge chunk, doesn't appear in the exam. After the end of the exam, he still harbours high expectations about his exam outcome and rants about it when the actual results are out, when he knows clearly he didn't even put in the minimal effort like what anyone would have done to deserve a good grade.)

Recently did very badly overall for all modules in a major examination in high school and wanted a change in specialisation to Engineering just because he thinks everyone there can graduate easily without much effort and has a lot of job prospects, even when he once said he dreaded it.

Is extremely tech-savvy compared to me, might be a better Computer Science candidate as opposed to me

Better financial literacy, better handyman skills, maybe better interpersonal skills? (He can talk a lot with other people including strangers, but I find his topics to be directed only towards making fun of/devaluing the other person and he just keep repeating the process and the other person happens to always be the tolerant kind)

Dad

Main breadwinner of the family through an active job, hence is too busy to take care about family problems and usually intervenes only when he deems necessary (For the current problem to be stated, he doesn’t find the need to intervene directly)

Very good financial literacy and handyman skills, since he was previously an engineer before switching to a managerial position elsewhere and was brought up under a family situation which forces everyone to be independent.

No emphasis on grades, but wants everyone to possess the same independence level as him.

Usually asks my younger brother “How to” problems regarding technology devices.

Mum

Obtains income from a passive source, leading a carefree life which involves seeking shopping and other entertainment venues.

Fairly good financial literacy, but depends on my dad for almost anything.

Like my dad, no emphasis on grades.

Like my dad, usually asks my younger brother “How to” problems regarding technology devices.


The Problem which snowballed after a decade long

My family lives in an Asian society where education seems glamourizing. Since young, even though my family doesn’t really actively compare our grades, from my perspective my brother seems to somehow be really bothered by the difference in our academic abilities, and also perhaps some small privileges I might get as the older brother. This is just a single possible scenario, it could also be the complete opposite: He's full of himself. I will just talk about the former case for now.

I recall an event when he first turned 12 and was about to transition into a new school. He consulted my mum about some academic matter, and of course my mum asked me to join the conversation since I have been through the same transition phase. I just gave my opinion on the corresponding matter and tried to help. Back then when he still bothered talking, he explicitly said I'm nosy and should just mind my own business. Now that I think back from his perspective, maybe he thinks "I'm devaluing him".

In his later year of growing up, he has become quite cold towards me or even bear some sort of grudges towards me, avoiding to ask help from me as much as possible even when he clearly needs it. He doesn’t even look me in the eye whenever I talk to him and keeps all conversation as short as possible, and if he had to take something (maybe pepper or instant noodles) of which happens to be more convenient by asking me to do it, he would rather do it himself. Sometimes I could unintentionally hear him hissing bad remarks behind my back as a way to vent his frustration after he got some kind of unfair share of a deal from his perspective.

At first the problem didn't really bothered anyone in the family and everyone just continued being involved in their own lives, until concerning relatives or friends start questioning such weird behaviour.

Some recent examples include a monthly gathering over dinner with my cousins. My brother would always wait for me to sit down first, and intentionally choose to sit at the seat furthest away from me. My cousins will always question me when my brother is away for awhile like what happened recently, and I would find it awkward to reply.

Gradually, he closes his heart away from the entire family since I always raise my problems directly to them and they would gladly resolve it, and maybe my brother hates my “robbing of attention” and simultaneously feels that my parents need him more than the other direction and hence instills a mindset of “being superior compared to everyone else”.

To my parents, they don’t see my brother as having as much problems as compared to me (though I don’t completely deny that), so this should rule out the possibility that the cause of my brother's intention of closure is actually that I'm comparatively better than him according to my parents(In fact it's the complete reverse). If it was the other scenario, I cannot even reason why he's showing such signs.

They also think I, as the older brother, should be responsible for resolving the “decade long Cold War” between us (which clearly I’m not good at doing) and they don’t seem to be doing anything to help make that bridge happen. This is one of the things that they have been nagging me to do and it’s getting really annoying.

I don’t deny I don’t have my own problems too.


Question

How can I have a discussion with my brother in order to "make peace"?

  • Just to clarify; Is "decade-long" an exaggeration or has this really been going on for most of your brother's life? If it has been happening for a long time, it MIGHT require a long time-span to resolve. – user8671 Oct 17 '18 at 7:09
  • @Kozaky I am not joking as this situation has been going on for at most a decade, for as long as I can remember. I think it will definitely take a long time, but how do I properly start resolving this issue bit by bit. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 7:16
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I will tell you about my situation, which I hope can help you.

I have a younger sister, and we hated each other. Whenever we talk to each other, it was just to hurt each other. For some reasons, I wanted, like you, to improve our relationship.

What worked for me is attention. I offer my attention to my sister, about her daily problems, concerns and happy moments.

And this is life-changing. Of course at first it was really awkward (I still felt resentment at that moment, so being interested in her life was difficult and not natural). But now, I can say my relationship with her is completely different.


I believe this approach can work for you.

The thing is that your brother has its own role in the family, and you have your. But the role of a little brother can be much harder and ungrateful, especially if you are seen as more "successful". You then become the first, the best and the chosen one, while he might feel that he is only here to help with some tech problems. (Of course I choose exaggerated words, but try to walk a mile in his boot).

What you should do is making him feels revalued. Instead of looking on internet for a tech problem, go ask his help. After he helps, thanks him and most of all, try to get interested, ask him how does he know so many stuff, where he learns, etc... (In your description, you said that your mom/dad often ask his help, but you don't. Even if you feel you do, it's not enough :))

At dinner time, keep some discussion time to entirely focused on him. Be curious about him.

Of course, at first, he will be closed, and not really want to talk with you. But be consistent, it's a matter of time.

Another thing that help my relationship is a discussion room between all the family. Create a chatting room with your family member, and casually share pictures / thought during the day. At first you might be the only one, but one moment he might come to do the same. At that moment, be sure to react and discuss about what he says, showing you grant him your all attention

  • About your suggestion on "making him feel revalued", do you mean I have to make him think that I value him and think he's better off than me? Because I've been doing that for awhile and I never once thought that I possess more useful skills than him. It's just I don't understand why he has this intention of closure. Is it because he feels devalued or is it because he feels he's too good for everybody. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 8:57
  • I have updated the post. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 9:37
  • "Because I've been doing that for awhile and I never once thought that I possess more useful skills than him". I didn't question this, and it look like from your post that you value him. But between the truth and what your brother thinks, there might be a huge gap. I am also the oldest of the family, and I realized only recently how much siblings compared themselves to the oldest. It's crazy. And it's not consciously. His defense is to exclude you : so his world is not "Prashin and me", but just "me". Maybe that's why he wants to exclude you and be far. – Astariul Oct 18 '18 at 1:04
  • I think a discussion with him is not going to solve the problem. His method succeed : he's now far from you, and a discussion with someone without that much value will not make him change. I think you need a more 'long-term' method to restore the relationship. Because that's what you need : restoring this relationship. I feel like he despise you. You need to gain back his confidence, in order to have an healthy relationship, where your brother is not going to compare himself to you in anyway. Maybe try to apply what I said in my answer. – Astariul Oct 18 '18 at 1:08
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    I also advise you to force yourself to spend some time with him. Use an excuse to get together at first (Like : "my computer is not working, would you help me ?"), and get interested in what is interesting him (be impressed and ask him to teach you or something like this). Obviously at first he will not do it heartily, but maybe with time, spending time together and discovering each other again will help you guys. – Astariul Oct 18 '18 at 1:11
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From the way you describe yourself, I would say you seem quite a humble person. You are honest about your own problems and shortcomings. I can't see that you have done anything to give your brother the impression that you think yourself to be superior to him or anyone else. What your brother has are insecurities about himself, and he is directing the anger that stems from that against you.

Many insecurities can he helped by reassurance. For example, telling someone who feels unloved that you love them can help. However, platitudes do not usually help. That is if somebody has really convinced themselves that a problem exists they need evidence to prove otherwise. For example, a policeman shouting "there's no need to panic" will actually be interpreted by most people as "there is something to panic about, he's just not telling us".

So, you do need to talk to your brother, but likely you are going to need to do more than just tell him that no rivalry exists between you.

As has been said in another answer, you need to show him attention, that is give him your time. A single conversation probably won't fix things. Is there something that you used to enjoy doing together? Some kind of activity? When you go out to play a sport, watch a movie, have a meal or a drink together, you are out together as equals. It will help him focus less on your day-to-day activities where you are academic and he is not.

You might start by suggesting that you do something together. He may be surprised, but accept. If he does, then you could find a good time later to discuss your past problems. If on the other hand he refuses right there, it could be a time to have the discussion there and then.

You could say something like:

I really miss the relationship that we used to have. I don't understand why you are so cold to me these days. We are brothers. I love you, and I view you as an equal.

I feel that something like this focuses on the positives and the truth about how you feel. I think at this stage you should avoid raising what you think might be his problem. Let him bring that up if he wants to. If he does, that is good because you can finally talk it out.

If you can both agree to move forward, make sure you continue to give him attention and make time for activities where you are together as equals. Also, are there some things about which you could go to him for help? Don't manufacture a fake situation - but could he help you with something he is good at and you are not? If you learn to rely on him a little it could boost his self-worth and show him that you respect his abilities.

It sounds like your parents would support you both in whatever you choose to pursue. I don't think you do get "benefits" for being the older son - you just hit certain milestones first. I'm sure that if your brother was identical to you and pursued the same academic path he would get identical treatment from them. This may be worth noting to him if he brings up the subject of favouritism.

  • I have updated the post. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 9:37
  • We both have a hobby of watching horror movies, but he doesn't want to watch them with anyone else. Regarding seeking genuine help, I am doing that already but like an earlier answer, it might not be enough and I don't know if what I'm doing now might actually backfire depending on the actual thoughts he has(whether he thinks he's too good or he's undervalued). I'm not really directly thinking about his problems, but rather his thoughts. But I cannot figure out exactly what are his possible thoughts unless I think of his problems. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 9:43
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When you say things like:

Totally not academically driven, puts in the minimum effort yet still expects the rewards to be high and then rants about it later on.

Do you think your brother sees it the same way?

People (and kids in particular) can be very good at picking up who believes in them as people and who holds negative ideas about their character.

From the way your question is written I can tell that you care deeply about your brother and love him on one hand but there is no mutual trust between you.

I might be misinterpreting but it sounds from your perspective that your brother does not believe you are on "his side" and thinks that it's an adversarial situation. When you say things like "puts in the minimum effort and still expects the rewards to be high" I think it might undermine trust.

It sounds like your brother needs your family to be available emotionally to hear him out and instead you're always trying to fix problems for him.

I would consider trying to genuinely do your best to be on his side. It's not your job to fix him or change him nor is it to give him career advice. I do think there is value in establishing a relationship with him that rewards trust and loving.

As some general trust-building advice (a lot of it also written in the other (good) answers here):

  • Apologize for not being emotionally available to your brother and make a commitment to do better. That is - own up to yourself and then to your brother for trying to fix things for him rather than being there for him.
  • Make yourself genuinely available for discussion. You can do this for example by telling him "Hey, if you ever need to talk about something just the two of us, you're my brother and I love you and I'm here for you".
  • Do not judge him for being "lazy". Instead whenever he puts effort into something call him out on it (positively) and compliment him.
  • Start doing nice things for him that show you care (which you do) while acknowledging his independence and difference from you. If he plays a sport start showing up to his games, if he likes a certain computer game buy him an expansion, if he likes cooking buy him a utensil etc. These don't need to be expensive or two time consuming.

As a disclaimer, I might be reading this wrong - so take care when applying the advice above. If you have any doubts about the mental state of your brother please speak to a mental health professional.

  • Well like I said, it will contain some form of bias definitely and perhaps I didn't provide actual evidence to prove that laziness. I definitely didn't say those words in front of him, but for the purpose of writing the context for this post, I had to do it. I have already updated the evidence anyway. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 13:15
  • @PrashinJeevaganth the idea isn't to gather evidence or to judge his level of laziness - the idea is to be there for him unconditionally and support him as he makes better life decisions. – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 17 '18 at 13:20
  • No what I mean is I totally agree with your suggestions, but the undermining trust part seems like you interpreted it like I told him those words explicitly and hence I gave him the impression to think that I think he's lazy. Even if he indeed is, I didn't say those to him at all, but because I'm writing this post to paint a context, how can I not write it down. – Prashin Jeevaganth Oct 17 '18 at 13:29
  • @PrashinJeevaganth I will clarify, I did not think that you have told it to him directly. It has been my experience working with 17 year old programmers for years that they have a very good sense of knowing who believes in them and it's possible your brother feels you don't believe he is hard working (or worse - does not believe himself to be capable of being a hard working person). That's why I suggested what I did - it might be a miss. Thanks for the comment I will clarify my answer :) – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 17 '18 at 13:31
  • @PrashinJeevaganth you may not have said those words to your brother, but the fact that you used that sentence to describe him shows what you truly think of him. This, combined with what seems to be an attitude focussed on "fixing" him will definitely get to him even if you think it doesn't. I find this case interesting because it is very similar to malfunctioning romantic relationships, I think you could also look up some questions about solving a romantic partner's problems being perceived negatively. – Brian H. Oct 23 '18 at 14:41
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Sorry, this is a long one!

A few things struck me when reading your post:

  1. He's seventeen - Teenagers are well known the world over for being moody, thinking they know better than everyone older than them (Quick! Elect a teenager president while they still know everything!) and with high needs for sleep (often at times that don't match up with normal adult circadian rhythms). So a certain amount of the behavior your seeing is probably to be expected, that said as you describe it things do appear to be somewhat excessive.

  2. Is extremely tech-savvy compared to me, might be a better Computer Science candidate as opposed to me

This, combined with:

Usually asks my younger brother “How to” problems regarding technology devices.

and:

Like my dad, usually asks my younger brother “How to” problems regarding technology devices.

rang a big bell for me - from what you describe you have historically had the better record academically and given your brother's younger age he might not have fully recognised that achieving that required substantial effort on your part.

Now however you are studying in "his" specialty - from how you describe it he's the go-to member of the family for technology and computer-related things and I think this could have triggered the following response:

Oh great! Now Prashin is muscling in on my territory! Doesn't he know that computers are my thing? He's pushing me out of my "place" in the family

I actually think this is extremely likely, and I'll explain why:

of course my mum asked me to join the conversation since I have been through the same transition phase. I just gave my opinion on the corresponding matter and tried to help.

Siblings are often living under the (often mistaken) impression that their parents are "keeping score" and tend to always compare themselves with their siblings as being their first reference point.

Unfortunately for the younger sibling they can never catch up - they are always 4 years behind!

What your mother was doing of course was trying to help your brother by getting you to offer your input because you had recent experience of exactly what he was going through. But that doesn't mean your brother interpreted it that way! I could easily see that translating as:

Mom doesn't even want to help me with this, of course she's brought Prashin in, because Prashin is soooo great and he didn't struggle with this at all!

Basically I expect he felt completely undermined there and is now trapped in a cycle of trying to prove he doesn't "need" your help with anything and he can be an "adult" and should be respected as such. This is supported by the way that he has learned many "adult" skills that he doesn't technically need yet (handyman, financial nous etc), and it's telling that they are ones where you haven't excelled yet.

To that end I imagine the way your parents would ask him for help with technology would boost him massively, it was his niche, what made him special (and therefore loved and wanted by his parents) and you going in to that field (when it wasn't your area previously) is going to look to him like you are trying to take that away from him, you and I know that's crazy of course - but to a teenager everything that everyone else does is about them!

And remember this:

I always raise my problems directly to them and they would gladly resolve it,

Well, when your brother tried to do the same (when he was 12), they didn't - they turned to you. To a twelve year old child that probably felt like a slap in the face.

So what can you do?

Well, I think the best thing you can do is start showing your brother that you need him, you mention that you are struggling to adapt to the tech aspects of your Computer Science course - could you ask your brother some things that he might be able to answer for you?

You'd be showing him you value him, that you see him as an equal, and you'd be dispelling the Legend of Prashin that he might have built up and more importantly you are opening a dialogue with him where he has the "power" and the position of respect.

Otherwise I think you might just have to give him time - at 17 some of us are still dreadfully immature, and you may find that as he progresses into "true" adulthood he becomes somewhat more approachable.

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