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19 year old son holding grudge, being mean to 17 year old sister

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19 year old son holding grudge, being mean to 17 year old sister


19 year old son holding grudge, being mean to 17 year old sister



My son and daughter have not gotten along for years, and I have to admit when he went to college, it was nice not to have to deal with the tension between the kids.  History of the tension is that both of my kids were abused by a neighbor's son just a few years older than my kids.  I only recently found out about that after both of my kids were treated for depression starting in middle school and high school.   My son found a group of friends in high school and tried to impress them by telling a few tall tales.  A year later when my daughter started high school, she had a few shared friends and called him out on a few of the things he said.  His friends basically dropped him and said they were just taking pity on him because he was a loner.   My son started saying mean things to my daughter and has never let it go.  also, when she was dealing with her depression/am issues, I think she started a few stories about my son's new friend and also took money from my husband's wallet.  My son suspected it was my daughter and was hurt when we asked both kids if it was possible their friends took the money because they had come to our house when we were away for one night.   Things went somewhat well for several months after having a counseling session, however a few arguments occured over my daughter's boyfriend who my son hates.  He wouldn't let him come to the house.  She started posting her feelings on a private instagram account whenever they fought and one of their shared friends showed my son the posts.   Since that time, their relationship has been very strained and it was a relief when they were separated when he went back to school after winter break.  He had to come home early due to the COVID issues and now they are back to the old routine.  She tries to be nice to him and eventually he says mean things, and she walks away or cries depending on the situation.   I know he's having a tough time being back home because we have expectations for him and he feels like we've done nothing but nag since he came home (get a job, clean your room, etc).   My job has been extremely stressful and I'm having a hard time dealing with this situation.  


I don't know if I should let them work it out themselves or make them talk to each other.   My son expects me to punish my daughter for her instagram posts.   She feels like he's never supported her and is tired of feeling like its her fault.   So, does anyone have advice on whether I should just be letting this go or try to do something to make them talk to each other?  I love them both and trying not to take sides, but it's so hard to see him hurt and defensive and it's hard to see her cry.  

Star contributor

Re: 19 year old son holding grudge, being mean to 17 year old sister

Hi @RogueMom and thanks for sharing.


It sounds like you're feeling quite exhausted by your children constantly arguing. It also seems like you feel as though you're stuck in the middle, and you don't know what to do next or how to make it better. It definitely is not an easy situation to be in and I can understand how you're probably just craving some peace right now, especially during COVID-19.


It's tricky. I'm not sure whether you should encourage them to chat and make things better or stay out of it. It is hard to say. I'm wondering - are you seeking professional support at the moment? I know you're not directly involved in the arguments, but it would be hard to watch and professional support could be useful. Also, have you ever considered family/systemic therapy? It may be a good option for you/ the family. Smiley Happy

Parent/Carer Community Champion

Re: 19 year old son holding grudge, being mean to 17 year old sister

It sounds like the whole family is suffering from the anger and animosity between your children. Some sibling rivalry is normal and even character building, but it sounds like your kids may need some intervention.

Have you got a partner or strong adult to support you? Could you sit down with your teens (preferably separately so they don’t start a fight) to discuss the negative feelings and actions you have been witnessing? On a good day, mind you!  It might require a lot of fore planning and thinking. Be prepared for the backlash.  It’s important to remind your eldest he is actually an adult now and you might be expecting more adult actions from him. Don’t worry - this will take years. You could explain that you understand feeling frustrated and angry in response to various situations, but that you will not tolerate them engaging in constant battles and hateful fighting in your home. Maybe you could start a peace policy in your home, but I couldn’t do this because then that means I have to be peaceful 😊

You can let your kids know that anger is a reaction to hurt or fear. Acknowledging the underlying feelings is always more effective to diffuse anger than simply labelling the anger, which just seems to reinforce it. “I hear you're very angry at ________. I wonder if you're hurt that he called you a liar.”

Try not to get dragged into the argument. Only engage when they are not being negative. Actually, with teens that might be a lot of the time. Hmmm

It can help to have very clear expectations, chores and boundaries. For example, my kids are not allowed to use the word stupid or similar put downs. We don’t have family rules but values so we might say that a behaviour is helpful or kind and considerate. Means we can change the rules a bit without them realising because our values are the same. I can’t emphasise enough how well this has worked since they were very little. Values may include things like; honesty, kindness, helpful, respectful, trust etc.

Have consequences and follow through on them. If your son isn’t contributing to the household bills – as an adult then he is relying on you for food, shelter, clothing, electricity, internet etc. Daughter too.  So, privileges can be outlined clearly, like using your power to charge his phone or internet to play games. Life sucks when you can’t find your phone charger… It helps if you explain clearly why the privileges have been lost and be prepared to negotiate. “This seems to be becoming a habit. I can’t allow people in our family to treat each other so disrespectfully, so if I see that again, there will be a consequence.” I am always prepared to negotiate.  I will ask how they are going to fix/repair the damage done. Maybe talk about the values they ignored.

You mention that your son wants you to punish your daughter. What does he consider suitable consequence? Is he also aware that she isn’t responsible for his ‘friends’ horrible behaviour? Should he also be held accountable for his actions? Should they have a chat to the shared friend about breaching their trust (a value)? There are lots of behaviours described by you that theoretically could be punished.  Where would he draw the line?

Continue to foster a strong relationship with both teens with one on one time. This can also be a good time to model how to react to conflict. You can remind them that they will be siblings and (hopefully) friends forever in a quiet way when they are on positive days not when they are in the middle of it.

You can still empathise with both children and respect their feelings while disagreeing with their behaviour.  It can be very powerful to have someone say “I can see how upsetting that was for you…” Even more so if they can eventually bring themselves to say it to each other. There may never be an apology, but this comes a close second. They are entitled to their feelings but are still responsible for their actions.

So, he is allowed to hate the boyfriend but why does he get to ban the boyfriend from the house?  That is a lot of power for a 19-year-old to have. If you are finding your son is a dominant force in the house, and believe me I know about that, maybe its time for you to get help reasserting yourself as the adult in charge. That’s a tough one. Once again it can help to focus on adult choices and actions.

Maybe working on a big project together or volunteering could help them bond over something positive.

After all that I can strongly recommend counselling. I have personally had success with EMDR: Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing which is a psychotherapy treatment that was originally designed to alleviate the distress associated with traumatic memories or PTSD. My psychologist uses it with ex service people. I have had a great turn around in my relationship with my eldest sister not that she was aware there was an issue. I just hated living in her shadow. Now I call her and chat with her freely and without feeling obligated as family. Apparently, they can even do it via online vid chats.

I know this is heartbreaking to watch. Hopefully, you will see a slow change. Big hugs.