Category Archives: Sibling rivalry

Festive musings from the motherofall


The last day of 2015 is an important one for Ethan Fox Dear.

Born on 31st December 1999 (with a middle name inspired by 20th Century Fox!) he has reached the grand old age of 16 and celebrated in style.

He went to the local burger bar with five of his closest friends, resplendent in Selected Homme checked shirt, Ted Baker flying jacket and Tom Ford cologne!

Ethan is a teenager with hidden depths – even to his mum. He is a paradox of thoughtfulness and kindness coupled with steely determination and, at times, brutal honesty. Not for the faint hearted is his appraisal of why I should stop moaning about my lot.

His personality has been forged in rivalry with his brother, but also undercurrents of insecurity, a consequence of his lone wolf demeanour – he’s never been one to follow the pack – and his red hair.

It’s a sad indictment that in the 21st century people are still pilloried for the colour of their hair.

2016 will be an interesting year for Ethan. His prelims are in January and his Highers in May.

He’s very good at English (though quite why is a mystery, as he doesn’t seem to read much) and after a shaky start in Maths was recently described by his teacher as a natural mathematician. The other Highers he’s sitting – Biology, Chemistry and Geography – reflect his interest in the natural world.

He recently completed the My DNA questionnaire on with the overall conclusion that he is ‘a thinker, constructor, performer and chiller’.

The analysis went on the outline his core skills, potential areas of weakness and things he may want to work on including actively allowing and welcoming criticism and making a conscious effort to plan your time.

Good advice for adults of any age, let alone one aged 16.

Ethan is on a voyage of self-discovery and it’s absolutely fascinating to watch it unfold.



Six things you should never say to your teenager

Act your age, grow up… Phrases that trip off the tongue in the heat of the moment that may only make the situation worse.

I love squirreling away snippets of information that might prove useful in the future, and that goes for my professional life as well as my personal one.

I’ve read ‘Raising Boys’ by Steve Biddulph and ‘Confident Teens’ by Gael Lindenfield and have a well-thumbed article by Dr. Richard Woolfson on the subject of teenagers from The Herald from years ago.

Apparently, the teenage years are characterised by an angst about becoming independent and making your own decisions. Angst on the other side of the coin – by parents – perhaps comes from failing to acknowledge this fundamental point.

Here are six things that you might be tempted to say to your teenager and the reasons why you shouldn’t. With thanks to Dr. Woolfson, Gael Lindenfield et al.

This is my house and while you’re under my roof you will follow my rules

This is right up there and I remember my own Mum saying this. Parents do this to let teenagers know who’s in charge and to lay down some boundaries – as, to be quite honest, what else do we have in our armory!

The temptation for the teenager will be to actually go somewhere else and that’s not ideal for anyone (I remember frantically searching for Ethan one Christmas morning. Can’t remember what we argued about now). What you might want to try instead is “I know you’re upset. Can we not just sit down over a cup of cocoa and talk this through?”

Young people have got it so good. It was different when I was your age…

The teenage world of today is light years away from what it was like even 20 years ago. Parents say this to try to put trivial complaints in perspective. If at all possible, you don’t want to highlight the generation gap. Something like “The world has changed since I was a teenager, but I understand why this is important to you…” is worth a shot.

Count yourself lucky that this is all you have to worry about

We say this in an attempt to put things in perspective whether our kids are having a moan about spots, or not having the latest designer gear/tech.

“Small” problems like these can be magnified in the mind of a confused and tentative teenager. Paying the mortgage, running a house and work problems are all beyond a teenager’s experience. Dr. Woolfson recommends: “I can see why you are worried. Maybe you and I can work together to find a solution.”

When you are older you’ll understand why I am saying this

A classic appeal to their better self, highlighting our greater life experience and maturity. Trouble is teenagers think they know it all, or want it to appear that way. A comment like this is patronising and belittling. “Because you are older and more mature now, I think you’re smart enough to understand what I’m saying.” might earn you some grudging respect.

Your brother didn’t behave this way when he was your age

We say this to make a sibling understand that their behaviour is unreasonable, and to use their older brother/sister as a benchmark. It’s never a good idea to draw unfavourable comparisons between siblings. It just increases resentment and makes the younger think you prefer the older. I’ve tried “You’re really upsetting me. Can we talk about what we could do differently so we can get along?” with some success.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Nothing strikes fear into a teenager like this question. Trying to find a career path can be hugely daunting and asking this only hammers that home. I’m going to cover this in other posts, but I used to work at Skills Development Scotland and is a fantastic resource to help young people explore their strengths, skills and interests and how they relate to the world of work.