20-year-old brother who does not do anything, help?

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    Hi everyone,

    Two years ago I posted a tiny message on life choices, in which I had some very wise answers that I read avidly.

    Today, I am asking for some advice on a family situation which I have no control upon. As it is taking its toll on me and the rest of my family emotionally and financially, I thought that maybe some shared past experiences or advice could help me see with a bit more light onto what’s going on.

    To be brief, I am a 24-year-old final year masters’ student in politics and my older sister is working as a language teacher in Asia, we both financially support ourselves and when we can, we help our mother as she has heavy back issues which means she cannot work anymore and has thus very little income.

    The problem is my brother, a 20-year-old twat. Since he was 16-year-old he has made life tedious for all of us (me, my sister and my mother) Me and my sister were lucky to go into private schools which had a very good educational system back in France while my brother went to the shittiest public school possible during secondary school. I know for a fact that it was very very difficult for my mother to push my brother to keep going to high school (before university) from the age of 16 until 18, as he often skipped classes, lied and didn’t care the slightest to study.

    He was asked by teachers to retake each year in high school, yet through my mother’s pushing (going to the school and promising to the teachers she is watching her sons’ steps, while borrowing money to make him go to private tutoring classes that prepare for final exams) he didn’t and finally ended up earning his diploma, he decided (with loads of ”help” from my mother and myself as he did not know what he wanted to do, said maybe I will go to university, as a ‘why not option’ yet didn’t make a single effort to do anything.

    One thing that is important: my brother, since he is 15, has stopped doing anything by himself expect than for playing football, thus during adolescence we did everything for him, meaning I wrote his cover letter, student loans letter and made his C.V. for university and part-time jobs, etc, which I know is the worst thing to do to actually help someone learn do things by himself but I will explain later why I did this if you are still reading this.

    So after secondary school, he flies to England and starts his first year studying Football & Business studies, which he failed completely as he didn’t go to classes and would lie to us for an entire year. Then at the end of the academic year after lots of tensions and fights when he came back home he says he might want to go back to university to start all over again. However no university wants him due to his poor previous university results. So again me and my mother check all admissions processes, do the applications etc as its a whole vicious circle, he says I will do it if it’s for any task but doesn’t in the end and the deadline is gone that’s always what happened so in the end we do it (my sister stopped helping him since he stole money from her twice the day before leaving for his first year of university). We find another university ready to take him for another first year, yet I find out in the middle of the year that he did exactly the same than during his first year, i.e. not going to classes and not giving a single fuck.

    I know for sure that is it not a solution to keep on helping him and do things for him, but from my mother’s perspective if you are a single mother with three kids and you’re poor living in an area where kids his age finish either in prison or selling drugs (not all of them but some of his friends) you are scared to kick him out of the house in case he starts doing proper bad things that could jeopardize his future, and at 17-18-19-20-21-year-old you are often an arse so you don’t realize what suffering you may cause. There are many other reasons why my mother doesn’t want to kick him out. After failing to go to university for another second year, he registered for another year in another university and another completely different course (Economics) yet again since the start of the academic year he did not search for an accommodation nor for a job etc etc the list is endless. and I found myself into some crazy situations where I would hate him and not want to help him at all for a day, but then then my mother would call crying he did this and that and that she was so tired and I would hate myself and help him look for a flat/job etc. The worst in this is that even if I found him rooms to visits etc, he doesn’t make the effort to visit the rooms, do the applications for bursaries etc. The more I am writing the more I realised that it will never ever be a solution to do things for him but I feel like my mum is always thinking she’d rather help him to get out of the house asap if that involves doing the room visits yourself, or application for unis etc. What she does not understand is that by doing that he still doesn’t do shit and is still at home, going from time to time to university yet I am sure he will fail this year again as he doesn’t seem very much involved as usual.

    If a big slap in the face is needed such as him getting kicked of the house for real, I know my mother has tried gently but he says she will have to call the police to kick him out. Me and my sister are abroad so we cannot do much, and there is no male presence that could physically kick him out that we know of. As we live in social housing, my mother does not want any problems with the guardian who reports any troubles going on in these social housings and kicks out the people making trouble. So tensions are high some days, and some other days it’s getting better as things get quieter so my mother gives him the car keys or is quite nice to him.

    Right now my mother is visiting me for a few days and I don’t know what to think as when she’s got financial problems due to my brothers’ financial dependence I feel guilty and even so I try to help sending money from my study bursary or part-time job that I have. I know I hate doing that as it’s because of my brother’s years of not doing nothing that still makes us struggle makes ends meet instead of finally trying to have a normal life. Yet I cannot say no for helping my mother when she complains the lack of this and that as I feel guilty because I know she is just trying to do her best to help her last son being independent and having a decent life.

    Anyway I know is post is like supra-extra-mega long and I wonder if anyone will read it, but I have no idea what should I do. It is very exhausting to worry about that and hear my mother crying or being so anxious about my brother and now I don’t know really, any help would be appreciated,


    Thanks for reading



    I know this is a super long post and I literally have purged all my feelings in this post, maybe I should have waited before writing all of that but just to give you an idea on how to handle situations where it seems there is no solution?


    Many many thanks and much respect to anyone who had given time and support on this website !


    Dear Samantha:

    I re-read your previous thread as well as this one. Reads to me that you chose to stay in London. Regarding your brother: he was not born being who he is now. And he was not formed in a vacuum. He was formed (Formative Years they are called, those childhood years) in the context of his family: your single mother as the major influence and his two sisters.

    This is what I understand about your mother: she attended a poor secondary school, felt and feels that she had little to no opportunities to better her life. While you studied in London, she stayed with you repeatedly, so to find opportunities in London to better her life. Her efforts failed.

    She worked hard to offer you and your siblings better opportunities, send you all to private schools and a higher education that will lead to you having better lives, and perhaps, being motivated by the three of you helping her, in turn, have a better life.

    Your sister and you are already helping your mother financially. Your brother doesn’t seem to be motivated to help her financially, unlike you and your sister. Not only that, seems like he doesn’t mind that she spends money on him without it yielding any fruit for her.

    Why, I wonder, the difference.

    Do you have any idea, why he is not motivated by the same motivation as you are, as well as your sister?



    Hi Anita,

    Thanks loads for your answer. So fortunately in the end I moved to Belgium to do my masters and actually the message you sent along with the others helped me a lot in making my decision and being clear about it ! I thank you for that!

    I will answer a bit later on that but to be honest I don’t really know why he is not really up to doing things, its very hard to communicate with him properly


    Thanks very much for your thoughts on that, hoping you have a beautiful 2018 year ahead of you 🙂


    Dear Samantha:

    You are welcome and thank you for the good wishes. Figuring your brother’s motivation, what drives him, and what doesn’t, can be helpful to you. If you want me to help you come up with a good possibility or two regarding his motivation, you can share about him more, here on your thread: any memories of his behavior as a young child, an older child… his struggles, social life then and current, his attitude toward your mother, toward you… toward others in his life. Any contact he had or has with his father. Does he admire someone, someone he knows or not, and what does he admire about such person or people.



    Hi Samantha,

    Here’s a dirty little secret: Not everyone is meant to go to college (!)

    Clearly, college/university is not for him. They don’t want him. He doesn’t want it.

    But then people think on the other spectrum is jail/homelessness/death.

    My Real World Practical Suggestion for him is: The Military. He can’t sleep in. He will get yelled at. He will get the dominant male presences he so desperately needs. He will be paid. He will suffer Consequences. And he will (eventually) come home a real man, and motivated.

    Then there is trade schools and simply working in a shop.

    College AGE (18-22) is the time to study, travel, explore, and live his dreams. Right now he is living the dream: that of his mother and sisters worrying about him and taking care of him.

    At the age of 23 I would stop enabling him and would frankly work on your mother more than on him. He will be too old for the local gangs and will probably become homeless or get an enabling girlfriend.

    But my instincts are saying: The Military.





    There is a reason why the phrase “tough love” and the word “enabling” exist.

    There is the fear of “what if” if you or your mother don’t do things for your brother but can you really predict if that is really the best for him?  Making decisions out of fear is not the best approach in making the best decisions.

    You cannot control your mother and my guess is that she would rather enable his irresponsible behavior than kick him out.

    It is painful to stand by and witness your mum doing things that are not good for her financially (and emotionally).  I am highly doubtful that you can influence any change with her or your brother.

    No real useful advice here.  I believe that the only person I can control is oneself.

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