Q: We have two grandsons; one is 11, the other 15. We love them both, but they do not get along well. The elder one is a go-getter, an excellent student and focused. The younger one is more laid back and drives his parents crazy as they try to get him to keep his grades up. Is there any way we can make a difference?
A: Love and patience are always boosters, which you are doing. Sometimes, in our childhood, a few wise words from our parents or grandparents can make a difference. When I was about 15, I remember being in a lousy mood and giving my wonderful mother a hard time. On one unhappy day, Mom said, 'Do you want to be in that negative mood for the rest of your life? Nobody likes to be around a sourpuss!" That did it.
At some point, your younger grandson will focus on his ambitions. Often our real motivations are hidden. One psychologist proved this point when he asked a patient what drove his ambition. The individual said, "Money." Later the patient discovered his real motivation was security.
When your younger grandson elects to take risks, he will become more ambitious. Watching his brother mature and be successful will help. Learning the secret to accept self-responsibility and not to blame others is an important part of maturing.
Lately, some psychologists have detected a shifting of some of our cultural motivations. Money and power are always in our forefront, but there appears to be a growing need for respect and ethics. Being overly ambitious and later finding yourself in prison is not winning. Think of financier Bernie Madoff, who now is serving time!
One of the most helpful things you could do for both grandsons is to ask them what their most important ambitions are and why so. That should prove to be helpful in improving the brothers' relationship.