What Should I Do if My Little Brother Disrespects Me?

You can improve your relationship with a disrespectful younger brother.
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You've just completed a major project and you settle in front of the television for some much-needed relaxation when your little brother plops down and changes channels without asking. When you let him know his behavior is unacceptable, he responds with a wave of his hand and some annoying eye-rolling. If your younger brother constantly gives you grief and disrespects you like this, you're probably fed up with him. You need to learn the best things to say and do that will help improve your relationship and minimize your frustration.

1 Understand Where He's Coming From

It can be helpful to understand why your little brother chooses to disrespect you. Examine your own behavior to determine whether he's retaliating for the way you treat him. Although it might be difficult, try showing him respect when you interact with him. Younger siblings often react badly if they feel ignored, and they may act out as a cry for attention. Showering him with affection and devoting some special time to him just might improve his behavior.

2 Stay Calm

It's always best to control your anger even if provoked by an extremely annoying person. When your brother behaves disrespectfully, don't respond in anger. Remaining calm gives you the time needed to respond in a more effective way that won't escalate the conflict, suggests Preston Ni, a communications professor with Foothill College, in his article "Ten Keys to Handling Unreasonable and Difficult People" for Psychology Today. He also advises that it's smart to respond only to the most extreme provocations; try to ignore the small ones.

3 Try Humor

Using humor might also be helpful if you know what sorts of comments are likely to amuse your brother. Responding to him in a joking way might make him laugh and can help diffuse the situation. Sharing a good laugh together can ease the tension between you and you might just discover you're no longer upset. But avoid mean-spirited humor, such as sarcasm, which might provoke your brother into increasing his disrespect.

4 Call a Family Meeting

If all your efforts don't improve the situation, consider arranging a family meeting. Let your parents know how much your little brother's disrespect is bothering you and listen to any advice or insight they might have. If your parents show favoritism toward you or your brother, you'll need their cooperation to help correct the situation. A family meeting provides the opportunity for everyone to make their feelings heard in a non-confrontational way. It can also help everyone come to agreements about how they will treat each other in the future.

Freddie Silver started writing newsletters for the Toronto District School Board in 1997. Her areas of expertise include staff management and professional development. She holds a master's degree in psychology from the University of Toronto and is currently pursuing her PhD at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, focusing on emotions and professional relationships.