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Question from GivingToo Much

Dear Lindsey,
I am having trouble saying no to my younger sister.  She frequently "borrows" money, clothes, shoes, and other household items.  I use the term "borrows" loosely because that term usually indicates that the person pays you back or returns the items.  I rarely see any money paid back.  She conveniently forgets to return the borrowed items to me.  I'll actually have to go over to her apartment and take them back myself if I really want to see them ever again.  I know it's wrong of me to keep lending her money or things, but she's younger than me, is just starting out a career, and really has no one else to turn to.  I know that once she becomes more successful in her field she'll be able to provide for herself.  Our parents passed when we were both young and I've basically been a parent figure to her our whole lives.  I feel obligated to take care of her, but at the same time I feel I'm just feeding into her neediness.  My husband is starting to get fed up with me constantly giving in to her and recently told me if I don't say something he will, and it won't be nice.  I really don't want a family feud on top of everything else.  What should I do?
- Giving Too Much

Dear Giving Too Much,
I actually feel bad for your sister because it sounds like she hasn't been taught the proper life skills to take care of herself.  I usually only save my pity for abused or starving children or animals, but I've been hearing a lot about improperly raised adults lately so I think I may add them to the list.  It seems as though there is a obscene number of adults who were never taught how to properly take care of themselves. 
First, you need to sit down with your sister and let her know you don't appreciate being taken advantage of.  She's an adult and needs to start acting like one.  I understand people fall on hard times once in a while, but it sounds like she's not even trying to be independent. 
Second, when she comes to you for things tell her NO.  It's not that hard.  It's two letters; N and O.  Just do it.  It sounds like she's never heard that word from you in her life.  You're just enabling her bad behavior by giving her things every time she asks.  I mean, if she's about to be evicted and homeless, then that may be an exception.  You most definitely don't want her living with you; she'll never leave.
Finally, teach her some life skills.  Show her how to balance a check book, set a budget, and manage money.  She's obviously lacking in that department and needs help.  Maybe your husband can help out and add some positivity to the situation instead of wanting to yell at her.
In the long run, she'll become a better adjusted adult if she learns how to be independent.  She'll also have more self worth knowing she can live life on her own with out having to constantly run to her big sister for help.  If that all fails, then you better pray she finds a rich husband quick!  You could tell her to hang out at a medical college perhaps.
Lots of love,

1 comment:

  1. Working with teens at a boarding school, I see them at the tail end of being raised poorly. Can't tell you how many 18 year olds I've met who can't do their laundry, clean a bathtub (I have more than one hysterical story about inept bathroom cleaning), or write something as simple as a thank you note. It's a sad state of affairs when a kid hires moving people and a maid to move out of a dorm room, not because they have the money, but because they just simply don't know how! I will say though that I've met more impressive independent young people than inept. I'm amazed every day by 16 year olds at the school who show an incredible amount of common sense and good judgement.