5

Background

My 13-year-old brother suffers from depression that has lead to anger issues. He also hangs out with the wrong crowd.

Prior to and leading up to his birthday he kept insisting that he really wanted item X and was very excited about it. He very carefully told my parents exactly what he wanted and provided a link to the exact product well before his birthday.

Fast forward to the day of his birthday, he unwraps item X and immediately recognizes that it is indeed not what he wanted - instead being a very similar item that has a few very obvious missing parts at which point he throws the item on the ground and runs out the room crying.

My dad had looked up X on Amazon and found the clickbait "NEW! 2018 Model" of X (no such genuine product exists) at a cheaper price so bought it instead.

Question

I now feel bad both because I knew more than most people about how much X meant to him and because I know that issues like this are tearing my parents apart. How can I sympathize and support my brother about X while supporting with my dad in him trying to reprimand my brother about throwing a fit about a "newly received gift" without them both being angry at me?

  • Is money a concern in your family (and so somewhat excuses your father looking for a cheaper present)? – Anne Daunted Dec 6 '17 at 18:33
  • @AnneDaunted Money is not a factor at all here. we do try to save money where we can but definitely can afford something like this. – Name Dec 7 '17 at 1:51
6

Edited to address the edit:

How can I sympathize and support my brother about X while supporting with my dad in him trying to reprimand my brother about throwing a fit about a "newly received gift" without them both being angry at me?

The way I see it, your brother didn't throw a fit about a "newly received gift". If your brother didn't know what he was getting and acted the way he did, it would be as you say. But it's much more complicated than that. Your brother threw a fit because, once again, his express wishes were ignored. That's very, very different. It's not a fine line. It's a big red flag for your dad.

My answer doesn't change otherwise. It's not your job to support your dad's opinions, especially if they entail the hurt of someone you love. It's his job to shape the values of his children. Say he had a fight with your mom. Would he be right if he demanded you support him in his actions and was hurt when you (rightly) refused to get involved?

In love, you console and support what is supportable for both.

If you need a more specific answer (a sample dialog), leave a comment and I'll edit further.


As @baldPrussian said, please frame it differently in your mind than "taking sides". Taking sides implies being against one party. There's a difference between being against someone and being disappointed in something they've done.

When I read your question, I was disappointed in your father's choice. A better course to take, since the present wasn't going to be a surprise anyway, would have been to ask your brother if "this new version" would be even more desirable than what he asked for. But he didn't do that. You say he has often disappointed your brother in a similar fashion before. That's unfortunate, and it hurts your brother.

Your brother was deeply disappointed. I don't blame him. I don't even condemn the way he reacted if this is something that happens often. How is a depressed 13 year old who has placed in your parents' hands some hope for feeling good about something only to have it dashed supposed to act? He could have handled it better, but he didn't, and that probably hurt your father.

It's sad for both of them.

How can I sympathize and side with my brother about X while siding with my dad in him trying to reprimand my brother about throwing a fit about a "newly received gift"?

How about changing the scenario to:

How can I be supportive of both my father and my brother?

Be consoling, not condemning. Console your brother because you understand better than most how sad he is. Console your dad in that he thought he was doing the right thing. But if your dad demands of you to agree with his criticism of your brother, tell him that's not your job.

It's the job of the parents to help guide the child.

I hope your family is involved in family therapy. If they aren't, you might suggest it, or talk to your school guidance counselor to seek a way to advance this issue. I wish you all the best.

  • 1
    Interesting insights, we are homeschooled so we don't have a guidance counselor (except mom) so that may affect your answer a bit. on a separate note, when I was wording the question, I knew that my line about taking sides would be the core idea behind some of these answers and tried to phrase it differently. I meant how can I be supportive of both my brother and my dadbut couldn't find a way to phrase it. Will edit for clarification – Name Dec 6 '17 at 13:50
1

There isn't a "right" or "wrong" side here, except that your parents kind of messed up by not following instructions for whatever reason. If it's not an expensive gift and they have the means to pay for the proper one, that sends a message that your brother will receive about not feeling valued. From his perspective, he told your parents not only exactly what he wanted but how to get it - and they did that wrong. Of course, from your parents' perspective, they thought they were doing even better.

I'd first of all get rid of the idea of "siding with" anyone. If you do that, the other party will see that and most likely reject what you are trying to do. What you want to do is support both parties as well as possibly mediate.

The first step, I think, is to help your parents understand that they were trying to do the right thing, but took a step they shouldn't have. Yes, they thought they were getting him a new model, but it wasn't what your brother asked for. If he's depressed and has other issues, having your parents make the first step here would be beneficial. I recommend that they apologize for getting the gift wrong. Most likely they won't be able to send it back, especially if it got broken from being thrown down, so that's money lost.

I can't do much about your brother's medical issues so I won't try to advise on that. That's a job for a paid professional therapist, not some stranger on the internet.

WRT your brother: he should understand that your parents really tried to do the right thing and just didn't do things right. This is where it will take some gentleness from you. I'd suggest talking with him and lay it out; "Mom and Dad really tried. They know how much this meant to you and they thought they were getting you a newer model of the gift. They really feel bad about the whole thing". Your brother sounds hurt; I'm assuming that he has a good relationship with your parents. If he doesn't, then this will be harder.

Once he understands that Mom and Dad feel bad about the mix-up, the next step is to get him to realize that his actions caused them some pain as well. If he can, he should then apologize to your folks for his actions and acknowledge that they did their best and things didn't work out as he hoped.

There's one lesson here that I as a parent teach my kids over and over again: life is full of disappointments and my kids need to be able to withstand them and understand what happened. Right now isn't the right time to bring that lesson home, but after things calm down and people's heads have cooled down, it may be time to have your parents help him understand that. That doesn't mean "aim low" and "settle" but it does mean that sometimes, even with the best intentions, the results aren't always what was desired and we need to be able to understand that and work through it. Being able to withstand this will help him be a more well-adjusted individual.

  • Perhaps two things that I didn't mention in my question that bias your answer a little bit - "Getting a newer model" (except when they completely overhaul it every 10+ years) isn't really possible as it is a uniform for an activity he is in. 2, this is nowhere close to the first time Dad has disappointed him in a similar fashion. – Name Dec 6 '17 at 1:08
  • That really changes a base assumption. – baldPrussian Dec 6 '17 at 2:48

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.