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Monday, May 5, 2014

Being Your Brother's (or Sister's) Keeper

Dear Bro Jo,


I only recently discovered your blog, and gee do I wish I had found it when I was being a stupid teenager and steady dating. This would have been extremely helpful.

Anyway, I shall not waste your time wining about things that I can no longer fix.

The real reason that I am writing to you is because I am concerned about my younger sister. She has been steady(?) dating since she was thirteen, and in the last three years she has had a relationship with over twenty boys. Hence the question mark next to steady.

It isn’t steady at all, but she considers herself committed to them for however many weeks she stays in that “relationship.”

Now she is sixteen, and dating is actually allowed. My parents have set up rules about who she can date, and have set up Meet the Date rules.

You are probably thinking “This is not a question.” You would be right, it isn’t.


Sometimes, okay, a lot of times, my sister breaks these rules.

She goes on dates with nineteen year old drop outs. She goes on dates with guys that are currently using recreational drugs.

And sometimes I find out about it. I want to know, is it the right thing to do to tell my parents?

My sister has come to resent me on some level, because I was in charge of determining which of her friends were okay to hang out with. I went to high school with her, my parents did not. So if her friend invited her to a party over the weekend, I was the one that told my parents what kind of person they were. (As in, will this party have drugs?)

I have heard her and her friends calling me words that I don’t feel like repeating, and this has gone on for years. I always felt like I was doing the right thing by playing the “snitch.” But recently I had a friend tell me that it was her life, and that I should stay out of it. I date who I want, and let her date who she wants.

And who cares what rules she is breaking because hey, its her life.

And now I am confused.

I realize it is her life.

I know she has to make her own choices... but.... I love her.

And I don’t know what to do anymore. I don’t really know if I should trust my over protective older sister senses, or the advice of my friend. But, from reading your blog, you seem like a pretty smart guy.

Can you ease my confusion?

Thank you in advance,

- The Snitching Sister

Dear Snitch,

In general, no, it's not okay.

Consider: What's your goal, here?

And is it a Righteous Goal?

If your goal is to harp on your parents, tell them they're wrong, or get your sister punished, those are unrighteous goals, and you should let it go.

If your goal is to help your sister because you love and care about her, that's a righteous goal, but it is crucial that your desire to do good be followed by things that will actually accomplish good.

Resentment and contention do not bring change or positive improvement.


I try to not criticize parents in my writing; no one can truly know what's best for a child as well as the people God entrusted that child to; we who critique from the outside are just that, outside; it's very difficult to have an understanding of the nuances of what's going on, the time and energy put in; and we need to remember that long before it's our responsibility to get that child to the Celestial Kingdom, it's theirs.

But I think I can say with fair analysis based on the (albeit limited) information you've provided that your parents have done you a huge disservice: they've put you in the role of parent so that they can ingratiate themselves and buddy up to their other child.

As you've seen, it doesn't work.

Remember that when you become a parent.

It was your parent's responsibility to find out who your sister's friends are, and what they're like, and not just rely on your input. They needed to be talking to her about her friends, inviting them over to the house, calling the parents of those friends to be sure they'd be chaperoning the parties, and getting to know those families and what kind of people they are. Inviting people to Church and into our homes isn't just about spreading the Gospel, it's also very valuable to know the people your kids spend time with.

Remember that, too.

I believe that a line has to be crossed before it's okay to "rat out" your siblings, and that line is that there has to be certain and immediate physical or Spiritual danger.

So here's what I think you need to do.  If you hear that your sister is about to go on a Serious Single Date with a boy who's likely to be high, drunk or stoned when he drives her around, or that his (or her) goal is to have pre-marital sex when they're together, follow this pattern:

1. Consider the source. Are you getting information or hearing jealous gossip? 

2. Talk to your sister. Rather than snitch to your parents, go to the source with your love and concern. 
"Hey, I heard you have a date this Friday night! Who's the guy? What's he like? Are you excited? Is he a nice guy? What are your plans?" 
Don't grill her. 
Show genuine sincere interest. 
If in that CONVERSATION (where you actually do more listening than talking, by the way) you begin to have your previous concerns confirmed (as in, yes the guy she's going out with is the rumored addict, or she begins to talk about "protection") then ASK her for permission to be concerned. (It's a great technique that I highly recommend.) 
"Hey, you know I love you. I've heard some not nice things about that guy, is it okay that I'm concerned?"

See the difference in the approach? 
Can you imagine how it might be taken differently than things you've done in the past? 
If she asks why you're concerned, then be honest but open. 
"Well, I've heard he drives drunk. Is that true?" 

3. If she's convinces you on any level that the rumors are false, that you're jumping to conclusions, that you have nothing to worry about, then tell her you're glad, you hope she has a great time, and let her know that if she does ever end up in a bad situation that she can call you for help, anytime, no questions asked. 
THAT'S how you build the Relationship of Trust that siblings should have with each other. 
Now, if in this conversation she confirms your fears, you let her know that you're worried.
You suggest that she go to mom and dad for help if needed. 
You testify of her worth and value and say things like "I just don't see why anyone as awesome as you needs to be risking your future like that". 
And if the danger is real (BE CERTAIN) and imminent, THEN you go to your parents.
You still don't rat her out. 
What you say to them is "hey, I was talking to sis and I'm really worried about this date she is going on this Friday". 
When they ask you why, you're ONLY RESPONSE should be "you know, I think you need to ask her about that". 
Don't get in the middle. 
If they do step up to the parent plate, that's a win-win. 
If your sister comes to you angry and accusing you of ratting her out, you say "hey, all I told them was what I told you, that I was concerned about you; I didn't give them any details".
Which will be true. 

That's my advice, anyway.

Oh! And don't be uber uptight. 

There's a huge chasm between "not a good idea" and "Spiritually damning".

Respect the gap.

Good luck!

- Bro Jo

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good advice of how to ask for permission to be concerned. I've often become the parent figure with my many younger siblings and some friends, and I've been conflicted and annoyed etc. by turns at how to express what I think but not just be a parent, since I'm not one, and if I act like one that confuses the other person on what our relationship is anyway. I've always had a tougher time "being a sibling" to my younger ones than my older ones.