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To meddle or not

A close relative's fraternal twin boys are almost 10.   Since they were toddlers, the one boy, I'll refer to him as "Joe",  has displayed what I think is an unusual level of resentment and animosity towards his brother.  I have watched them together on many occasions and Joe seems unable to leave his brother in peace.  

The other twin, "Sam", is rather nerdy, easy-going, and talkative.  He is unusually articulate for his age but is less physically coordinated and I may suffer from dyslexia, altho his parents are not forthcoming on that.  To me Sam seems a more or less normally developing personality.   He can develop strong focuses on certain things that interest him - bringing them up tediously, but not any more than a lot of other young children.

"Joe" does not talk as much, is watchful, more aggressive, more coordinated and athletic, and of slighter build.  He does better academically and can concentrate when he wants to.  He also indicates a deep need to win in everything.  He will even cheat to do so and then become incensed and call everyone else a cheat if he doesn't win, often ruining the game.  

Sam can play alone and by now prefers to.  For a long time Sam didn't react to the aggression from Joe, but as he's gotten older, he has started fighting back.  I have seen Joe watch Sam and then sidle up to quietly suggest they play something together.  Sam reluctantly agrees - rather like Charlie Brown with Lucy, which ends up with Joe yelling insults and abuse or starting a fight.  From conversations with other family members, this happens most when one or both parents are around.  (Although it may happen when the boys are alone as well.)

Bottom line is that I think the whole family and Joe in particular could benefit from family counseling.  I think Joe has deep seated insecurities (probably not due to anything the parents have done wrong), just that he craves control and has subconscious fears he can't verbalize.  Since the adults are bigger, he goes after Sam.  I think he resents Sam's confidence as well.  But recently I've seen that he has now moved to yelling awful insults at his parents and even hitting his father when he has tried to discipline him.

I do not know if the boys can ever become friends at this point, but I do see the stress this is causing the family as a whole, particularly his mother. Sam is unhappy and Joe certainly can't be.  I have talked to other family members and they also see the problem, but apparently feel the parents don't want any advice.

The parents are intelligent, educated people, and I am boggled at their solution to this.   They get angry at Sam for not ignoring Joe's taunts and tell him he should just "walk away".   They have been told by other parents of twin boys with this problem that eventually the more passive boy hauls off and beats up the bully and that "solves" the problem.  !!   I for one can't believe people expect a 9 year old to solve a problem that the adults don't even understand!  And that violence is the solution!

Should I just go along with the rest and ignore this?  

Mind you, I have said nothing to either boy about any of this, although I have tried to befriend Sam when I can.  

If I can't *say* anything, is there at least a book or something I could give to the mother that might help?  Or should I just butt out?

I don't know where else to ask about this situation.   I really love my family and don't want to become persona non grata by butting in.  But we all know depressed or dysfunctional adults who could have benefitted from professional childhood intervention.  I don't know why middle America finds it so unthinkable to get help for their kids?
5 Responses
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1350925 tn?1277384525
Some twins are like that. I have a 6 year old and twin 4 year olds. My boys can be that way sometimes. But what u described it happens a lot. The parents shouldn't get mad at sam, he is just protecting himself. The parents need to step in and get joe help, befor it gets worse. It sounds like maybe u should bring it up, just be careful how u do. Family counseling would be good for them. And maybe have the boys do acitivities together where they both can win. Good luck.
Helpful - 0
144586 tn?1284666164
You will become persona non-grata by butting in.

Your input will not be perceived as being "helpful".

Counseling will not result. What will result is you being asked to stay away from their children and them forever.

This is not to say that what you suggest may not be helpful.

This is a no-win situation, unfortunately.
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Avatar universal
While twins definitely tend to be that way, it sounds like the parents are neglecting to discipline Joe (which is more apparent with the way they tell Sam to ignore Joe's behavior).  Perhaps they feel like kids, especially twins, tend to take care of themselves when they hit a certain age.  You can try to offer advice, but it sounds like the parents have found their excuses for the behavior and made their minds up on how to handle it.  They will definitely take the word of other parents with twins over yours because multiples can be very different - problem is they're not so different that they don't need regular parenting, too.  Perhaps you could be subtle and suggest that Joe and Sam get enrolled in a martial arts class - it can teach Joe some self-discipline and teach Sam some defense strategies.
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535822 tn?1443976780
I have seen this  I watched and I could see that the parents showed a bias and favoritism towards one and that twin,they are indentical  twins, was the one who acted out,one was outward looking ,bossy, always the center of attention the other was quieter gave in to the other one, allowed her to boss her, when perhaps standing up to her may have been better,as they got older I have seen resentment created and it was definatly caused by the parents ,allowing the behaviors and showing a favoritism . Good Luck
Helpful - 0
Avatar universal
It is hard to choose a best answer.  I wasn't aware this was expected here.  My inclination to avoid confrontation leans me towards caregiver222.   I suspect s/he is correct.  

I will say that I don't think the parents are showing favoritism towards Joe.  It's more complicated than that.  He is more worrisome and needs more prolonged attention for discipline so that appears to be more attention.  Which may be what Joe is after - more attention of any kind being better than less - it gives him some feeling of success when he is the center of even bad situations.  (This is my amateur psychology at work.  :P)

I am unclear about martial arts training.  I know there is a mental and moral component to it - teaching fairness and politeness, etc.  But I suspect the polite aspects would take a back seat to the kicking and hitting parts when they weren't in the class.  I could be wrong.

The bottom line is that I think Joe is very insecure and fearful.  Example: adults casually laughing and making jokes about Dad getting arrested for setting off some small fireworks in their backyard. Joe became almost hysterical about it.  First he got very quiet and despondent looking.  Then almost crying when he explained why.  At first his mother was comforting, but then became disgusted at his being a baby when he continued to cry and be physically clinging after we all assured him we had been joking.  

In an effort to legitimize his feelings I apologized to him for not recognizing he was being upset.   At this he became angry, yelling at me for the joking.  Needless to say this broke up our little party.   He ended up cuddling up to Mom again.  He was just 9 at the time.   Neither his brother nor younger cousins showed any upset at the jokes.

I should point out that I don't see these boys frequently.  I spend a week on vacation with the family and see them mostly on holidays/birthdays for a few hours.   But I know other family members and friends have also seen problems with Joe.  

I am sorry for the whole family but mostly for the boys and Joe in particular.    I think he is just learning to internalize his problems - hide them from parents, and become more clever at manipulation because the parents don't know how to deal with his behavior.  And gentle soul, Sam is obviously being damaged.  

Without professional help, I really fear an unhappy outcome for all concerned as the boys become teenagers.  However, I am going to take caregiver222's advice and not say anything since I really don't know how to do it in a way that would get the parents to act.
Helpful - 0
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