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The family snitch?

When younger sister catches older brother stealing, should she tell mom?

As difficult as it may be, our elder says, “Yes.” And do it now.

Dear EWC:

Hi! I’m a 14-year-old girl. My brother recently turned 16 and he has always been the short-tempered “doesn’t really think through his actions” type of person. I love him to death, it just seems like his hormones are making him go crazy and he’s really changing… I miss how it was when we were younger. Recently I caught him stealing money from my mom (it was only 7- 8 dollars but that doesn’t make it ok), I confronted him about it and he returned it, but that’s not the first time I caught him going into my mom’s room. I kept telling him not to but I think he thinks he’s sneaky and won’t get caught. I even have a suspicion that he has been stealing my step-dads cigarettes every once in a while. I don’t know how to tell my mom without ruining my relationship with my brother even more, or if I should even tell my mom… I just wish he would go back to normal.

William replies:

Thank you so much for writing. I am sorry to hear about your dilemma. I have to tell you what I’d tell my own granddaughter, or any other young person asking me for advice on this topic. Yes, tell your Mom, and do it right away. Your brother is playing with fire. Stealing is dishonest, and most people get caught eventually. I understand you don’t want to harm the relationship between your brother and yourself. He will be angry with you. No doubt your Mom and step-dad will impose some punishment on him that he won’t like. That’s what he deserves.

This puts you in an awkward situation, I know. No one wants to snitch on family members when they do something wrong. Even adults like myself have this initial instinct to keep quiet when we see a loved one doing something illegal or immoral. It’s hard, but people need to be held accountable for their actions. Not necessarily because what they are doing right now is terrible. It’s because you love him and you want to protect him from a lot more trouble in the future if it escalates. Typically when people get away with a “little bit,” they keep doing a “little more” until it’s a “big thing” that causes them a lot of trouble.

You can’t put him back the way he was. He’s growing up, and he’s veered onto the wrong path. If you “out him,” he’ll blame you, and there will be friction between you two for a while. Maybe a long while. Eventually, with maturity, he likely will come to his senses and understand what you did was for his own good. Even if he does hold a grudge for a long time, wouldn’t you think that would be better than seeing him expelled from school, or worse? Often we have to do the right thing when saying nothing seems to be the easiest way.

Thank you for giving me a chance to help. Take care!

Family
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