Should I tell on my sister?

I need some advice, hopefully from some people that have a sibling and maybe some experience on how I should handle the situation.

My sister is a junior in high school and she likes to go out on weekends and do things that high school kids do, like drink alcohol. At first I didn’t have a big problem with it, because I knew that I wouldn’t be able to stop her, so the best I could do was tell her to be responsible, don’t drive, don’t ride with someone that was drinking, be careful, etc. I explained to her that there’s only one reason guys want girls to drink, but this didn’t seem to scare her.

In high school I would go out with my friends and do the same thing, but I followed all the advice that I gave to my sister. This was on a rare occasion too, as I would do it maybe once a month. I never drank so much that I couldn’t remember things, passed out, or threw up. I never even had a hangover, which is surprising, because a few times I thought I had drank a lot.

My sister goes out and drinks one night every weekend, and she’s told me that she’s drank so much that she’s both passed out and thrown up. This was the last straw for me. When I first found out, I told her that if her grades started to slip, then I’d tell my mom about her being a party girl. They’ve started to slip this year, my sister claims it’s because she’s taking AP classes, which is partly true, but I still warned her.

I’ve told my sister that I’m going to encourage my mom to impose a strict curfew on her (11:00 is what I’ll recommend, she doesn’t have one now), and just tell her to trust me on it without totally telling on my sister. My sister responded to this by threatening never to speak to me again, telling me she won’t respect me :rolleyes:, saying that I shouldn’t do it because it’ll make my mom feel like she failed as a mother, etc. (That second part is something that I told my sister that she’s trying to use on me now. When I first found out I told her that she had to be responsible because if she got hurt while doing it, it would make my mom feel like she failed.) She also used the “it’s my life, let me learn from mistakes on my own” routine, which I’m not planning on falling for, because she doesn’t seem to have learned any leasons.

So should I tell my mom about all this? I feel conflicted, I guess, because on one hand, I feel like I shouldn’t say anything because of a brother-sister kind of trust. Then on the other hand (the hand I’m leaning towards) I think I’m obligated to tell my mom so that she can take some action so that my sister doesn’t hurt herself. My sister will go off to college in a little over a year, so then there won’t be anyone to keep her inline. Would telling on her be the right thing? Should I have done it earlier?

Any opinions on what I should do?

i have a little sister and i feel your pain. i think you should NOT tell on your sister, what kind of older sibling are you if you cannot be trusted and counted on? she sounds like a pretty typical adolescent girl, not very self-destructive. drinking on the weekends isn’t a big deal, IMO. she’s not doing heroin right? AP classes are hard and seniors tend to lose interest in school (hence: senioritis).
i would be afraid that your strictness and seemingly not understanding ways of dealing with your problems with your little sister’s actions are only going to reinforce that she is rebelling correctly and will definitely continue to do it. If you live near her tell her to call you if she needs a ride. I always took my role of being an older sibling as support and guidance through experience, not disciplinarian. I, personally, want my little sister to know that i can be her confidant and will help her with anything she is struggling with. but then again, i was the bad kid and she is perfect. to each his own and each situation warrents different responses, but it doesn’t really sound like anything serious that you need to step in so that she doesn’t get in trouble. you are different people. she will probably continue to drink and on occasion she might even drink too much and throw up. she might even have sex someday, how will you deal with that? :eek: just tell her that you are concerned and tell her why. DON’T TELL MOM, she’ll just hate you for it. that’s my advice.

Hmmmm. Tough call. But then, you know your family better than most, if not all, of us do… what outcome do you predict if you tell your mom?

Do you think that Mom will impose that 11:00 curfew, Sis will adhere to it, stop drinking and get her grades back up, and that it’ll all be over? Or will your sister now resort to sneaking around, lying, and hiding things from Mom (“Yeah, so, um… I’ll be sleeping at Cindy’s tonight… we’re just going to watch movies, play cards, and eat Chex mix…”) AND from you, because you’ve suddenly become the Gestapo now?

I’m not trying to sound like a smart-ass, here, and I think your concern for your sister is genuine and wonderful. However, I also think that when you get TOO prohibitive (again, this is assuming we’re not talking about a heroin addiction, a daily alcohol problem, or flunking out of school), kids that age will often do things out of “You’re Not The Boss of Me” spite.

I know that it’s a thin, thin line between a “kids will be kids” approach and the necessity of a full-on intervention, and only you can say if your sister’s habits are just part of her adolescence, or if they could mean a serious problem.

I do think it’s important, however, for her to be able to confide in you, because if she alienates everyone in the family, she could wind up with a serious problem that nobody knows about. So if you feel like she really is in trouble, try at least not to threaten or judge. It’ll only turn her away. Also, don’t dangle the “I’m telling mom” thing over her head–tell or don’t tell, but if all you do is make threats (and then don’t back them up), she’ll start blowing you off and/or resenting you, because even though you mean well, it will seem like you’re just trying to be manipulative.

I don’t envy you right now, but I do admire you. You’re a good big brother! Just remember that your sister is a young woman, very close to adulthood, and if she hasn’t had a curfew up to this point, she’s not going to take kindly to one NOW, when she thinks she’s pretty much grown.

Nobody can answer WHETHER you should tell your mom but you. But you should put aside issues of “trust” and “counting on big brother”. You told her in advance what you would do. There is no issue of betrayal.

So concentrate on the question of whether it will work, or just make things worse.

The reasons people have posted for not telling are good and true. She should be able to count on your status as big brother confidant, unless she is putting herself in danger.

Drinking until you puke is not putting yourself in danger. Young people that are learning how to drink need to find out their own limits, otherwise they’ll never know not to exceed them. If she starts using dangerous (not to minimize the potential danger of alcohol) drugs, or drinks so much she gets alcohol poisoning, then you’ve got an issue. But I imagine if she has to go the the hospital for alcohol poisoning, your mom would probably find out anyway.

Also, I don’t know where you are or what the standards are like there, but 11:00 seems pretty early for a HS junior. My curfew until senior year was 12:00 and I was always the earliest one to have to go home (not to say you should measure the discipline in your own family by any standard but your own), and it always chafed at me.

Good lookin’ out, though. At least you care.

I’m with yojimboguy here – you warned her about her dangerous behavior, you warned her about how you’ll spill the beans if she doesn’t stop, now it’s time to follow through. It isn’t pretty, but it really is for her own good, and it isn’t as if you’re just pulling this from thin air.

I was in a similar situation with my sister not long ago. What finally made my decision was this: If I didn’t say anything, and something happened to her, would I ever be able to live with myself knowing that there was the possibility that I could have made a difference by telling my parents. I decided that I couldn’t.

I think the way you go about telling your mum is important though. With my sister, I went to her and told her what I was going to do, and when I was going to do it and why. (ie I’m concerned that you’ll hurt yourself and I love you too much to let that happen, so I’m going to talk to mum after dinner tonight). I offered to let her come with me, and I encouraged her to come forward and talk to mum before I did - I offered to help her work out what she would say and how.

The result - she was pretty angry at me, but she understood where I was coming from. She ended up talking to my mum before I did (without me). I still went to my mum like I said I would and told my mum what I was concerned about and why.

Has she stopped? Not really - she’s getting better though. And I know that I did everything I could, so if something happens, I won’t blame myself.

It’s hard, but loving someone is about giving them what they need, not what they want, even if it costs you.

by jkbelle:

Telling on her is not something I want to do. I feel like she needs to put more thought into her actions. I’m also afraid of what could possibly happen to her, and how I would feel knowing that I might have been able to prevent it. I think I’ve provided advice/experience by telling her that she needs to be responsible if she’s going to do it. Unfortunately I’m not close enough that I could give her a ride if she needed one. When I am home I stress that no matter what time it is, if she needs a ride she is to call me and I would come and give her a ride.

by auntie em

We have an alarm system in the house, so to preven sneaking out all my mom would have to do is set the alarm and not give my sister the code, then she’d be in. I’d also recommend that she not be allowed to stay the night at friends. She’s pulled a stunt like you mentioned before. She spent the night at a friend’s house and called my mom the next morning when she woke up late and wouldn’t be home on time, she claimed she was sick from eating some bad pizza. When my sister got home I asked her what she really did the night before, and she fessed up and claimed “I’m never doing that again.” She’s gone on to do it plenty of times since. Not because she tells me every time, but it’s a lot easier to tell when she comes home and spends all day sleeping.

About that second part, I kind of messed up on that one already. When I was IMing my sister last night I was trying to convince her to calm down her partying. She got mad and signed off and sent me a “stop trying to ruin my fun” email. I replied and told her I was going to tell our mom to give her a curfew. I admit that I was kind of pissed because she’s misinterpreting me saying “be careful, and take care of yourself” as trying to ruin her fun. Another thing she says is that she shouldn’t have a curfew (she doesn’t yet), because I never had one. She doesn’t seem to understand that not having a curfew comes with responsibility.

by yojimboguy (to rjung too)

I know, I told her that, conveniently she claims not to remember me telling her this. :rolleyes:

I’m wondering about making it worse though. She will only be home for another year. I couldn’t care less if this makes her hate me (and let’s be honest, something like that would wear off in teenage girl land eventually), but I don’t know if it would just be delaying the inevitable.

by White Lightning

Maybe you’re right, but I definitely think drinking until you pass out is dangerous. Excluding the danger of the possibility of choking on puke, there are plenty of other dangers I can think of, and I’m sure even more dangers that I’m not thinking of. The passing out thing was kind of the last straw combined with everything else.

11 is early, but she’s never had a curfew before. Ever. We are/were both lucky to have never had a curfew, but she’s abusing it.
She’s also had a real bitchy attitude that’s been getting progressively worse over the past year, and I’m not sure if that’s from the partying or typical teenager know-it-all syndrome.
[after previewing]

robinc308, I agree completely, I think I’ll go along with my original plan of just asking my mom to trust me and give my sister a curfew, be a little tougher on where she’s going and with whom, and spare her (my mom) the details.

This is the time in your sister’s when addictions form, and binge drinking, passing out, drinking so much one vomits…these are not things that a responsible drinker does. I absolutely hate this “drink 'till yer an idjit–oh man, I was so f-cked up! Cool!” mentality.
I think you should be worried, because the risks are high–a friend of mine from high school drank so much she passed out. She woke up with a man on top of her, raping her and was too sick and disoriented to defend herself. She has a lot of shame from this, although she knows logically that she shouldn’t…but shame isn’t generally logical. Alcohol consumption lowers inhibitions, yes we know, but it has human consequences beyond just “ohmygawd–oops.” Another friend has a history of getting drunk and having one night stands, she’s not proud of that, but it’s a pattern she can’t really seem to break, kind of like her binge drinking.
Your sister shouldn’t already be having problems with alcohol as you have detailed; “all the kids drink and get drunk, it’s just a teenage thing” doesn’t excuse her from personal responsibility for her well-being.

What planet do all you folks live on?,1056,1162,00.html

I could go on and on…

Her behavior is illegal, irresponsible, and dangerous to herself and others.

We are not talking about talking on the phone when she had been grounded, or even skipping class.

And, it’s only “normal” behavior because society is too full of the likes of people like all the previous posters.

I am not a teetoller, by the way, in fact I enjoy alcohol. But I am also of legal age to drink it, and am responsible enough not to drink to the point that I have poisoned myself and made myself ill.

If you found out she was playing russian roulette, would you still be feeling conflicted? And, you are afraid your mom will feel like she “failed”, how do you think she would feel bailing her daughter out of jail? Or burying her?

And before you start flaming with trite statements like “well, there’s irresponsible adults who drink, too” and “just because she’s drinking doesn’t mean she’s going to get killed”, be aware that a great many of the irresponsible adult drinkers are so becuase of the drinking they started as teens and no one cared enough about them to intervene, and also be aware that as of yet, alcohol is not a factor in as many as 50% of accidents caused by adults, as it is with teens.

There is a reason why there are legal drinking ages: It’s because teens are not mature enough to make the kind of judgements that need to be made on a daily basis when they are SOBER!

If you loved your sister, you would have no qualms about “telling” on her, especially since you did already warn her you were going to. If you really believe she would “never speak to you again” then not only is she immature and irresponsible. she is also manipulative. And if she should truly decide not to ever speak to you again, at least she will have better chance of being able to indulge in her little snit for a lifetime, instead of until she makes her first fatal error becuase she’s too drunk to make a wise decision.

Last but not least, I have a sister and a son. And believe me, my need to know as a mother far outweighs my need to be “liked” by my sister. My son has no siblings, but if he did, and I found out that sibling was aware of my son’s illegal activity of any sort and didn’t tell me, they would both be in trouble, and I would feel more of a failure over the child that hid that from me than the one engaging in the activity.

Tortuga, it took me so long to compose my post that you posted in the meantime. As you are the first poster before me that showed any common sense, I do not count you in my “what planet” and my “all the previous posters” comments.

You sound like a wonderful, loving and responsible older brother.

Tell your mother.

First of all, she has a right to know that her daughter is engaging in harmful and dangerous behaviour.

Second of all, you’re sending the wrong message when you threaten to take specific actions if certain behaviour continues and then don’t follow through. That says you can’t be trusted to be good for your word.

You are under no obligation to hide your sister’s secrets just because you’re her brother. Yes, cetainly there are confidences that siblings share that should not be broken. This is not one of them. She may resent you for the short term, but eventually she will come to understand that you acted not only in her best interest, but with a very deep love in your heart for her.


Don’t let her manipulate you into being her enabler anymore.

In my experience, I have seen ‘binge drinking’ almost universally defined in the literature as drinking more than 4-5 drinks in one night (and/or ‘drinking to get drunk’), drinking only on rare occasions. In other words, every single college student in the USA that falls anywhere between the range of non-drinker and raging alkie. Not to mention that, compared with people who drink every single day and people that need to drink to “unwind” or for stress relief, binge drinking is supposed to be the UNhealthy choice?

If you are drinking in a safe environment (i.e. in private, with people you know and trust), and you pass out or throw up, what’s the harm? Again, outside of the risk of alcohol poisoning, and without any signs of alcohol abuse, there’s no reason to get all worked up just because we have uncovered an underage drinker.

Well, I absolutely hate this “people that drink are stupid! They don’t know what’s good for them, but I do!” mentality. (If you don’t have this attitude, Tortuga, then I’m not talking to you.)

I just reread the OP for the fourth or fifth time, and I still don’t see any evidence of ‘problems with alcohol,’ unless you define drinking it as a problem with it. If she’s being unsafe or irresponsible, by all means, have someone have a talk with her about being responsible if and when she drinks so that she doesn’t get into trouble. Oh, and did I read that right that it’s her personal responsibility for her well-being? So why should anyone else be telling her how to live her life?

Oh no! :eek:

Maybe, maybe not. I don’t think we have enough details to judge. Underage drinking is not inherently irresponsible behavior.

Again, it sure doesn’t look that way to me. Dangerous to others? Is she driving? Operating heavy machinery?
I think we need to draw some distinctions between warning signs of irresponsible drinking and warning signs of being a 16 year old. Doing stuff her parents don’t want her to do? Blowing off school? Acting like a brat? Check. But instituting an unprecedented and unfair curfew is not going to make her reconsider her errant ways. Curfews don’t work preventatively. Only treating kids as if they are capable of making intelligent decisions does that.

Teens… not mature enough to make good decisions… even when sober. Yep. I think it’s clear enough how valid these opinions are. Maybe we can get Jester or Mercutio, or any of the other less-hyped but equally capable teenaged Dopers in here and you can explain to them how immature they are and what poor judgement they’ve got (is a :rolleyes: really necessary here?).
Again, just to be clear, I’m not ruling out that this girl needs a talking to, or even that she has got an alcohol problem. All I’m saying is, I don’t see any evidence of that in any of Dignan’s posts, and if she does, ratting her out and trying to get her curfewed isn’t going to help at all. I’m also saying that underage drinking isn’t inherently wrong.

Let’s put it this way, If, gods forbid, anything should happen to your sister and you hadn’t told your Mom, how would you feel?

Your sister may be pissed at you for a while but she’ll get over it and she’ll love you for your concern in the long run.


Do NOT tell on your sister!

What do you think is going to happen? If your mom clamps down and keeps a tight leash on her for the next year, she’s just going to go that much more crazy when she gets to college. She needs to start learning to make smart decisions for herself, and treating her like a baby is not going to accomplish that.

Talk to her. Emphasize that you love her and you want her to take care of herself, both for her own sake and for her family’s sake. Talk about stories you’ve heard about things that can happen if you get out of control with alcohol, so she knows what to look out for. Encourage your mom to talk to her, if she doesn’t already, about not taking silly risks.

Building trust with your sister will help her a whole lot more than reigning her in for a year. Offer to pick her up anywhere, at any time, with no questions asked and a guarantee of secrecy, if she’s ever in a situation where there is no one sober to drive.

how old is she? 16, 17, 18?
i’m still not used to the US attitudes to drinking, i’m glad i never had this issue with my parents.
i think you should try to tactfully suggest to your mother that your sister is going out too much, but leave it up to her to put 2 and 2 togethr about what else is going on.

for the last 2 or 3 years of high school (15-18) my sister, friends and i would go out 2 or 3 times a week to pubs, clubs, restaurants and other places where we drank sociably (although not legally, until we turned 18, of course) with our friends…and we were picked up by our parents at 12:30am or 1am. we did cut down the partying in the 6 weeks or so before important exams!

my parent’s rules were that this was to be at weekends, or only one school night a week, we had to pay for transport, food, drink concert/cinema tickets from our own allowances and that we were to be where we said we’d be at all times.

and i can categorically state that things never got out of hand on these nights.
could your mum implement similar rules? they respect your sister’s age and dignity, wthout leaving her completely unrestricted.

however, there were occasions when a friend would have a free house for a night or a weekend, and we’d have those teenage house parties where everyone got sick, laid or unconscious, and not necessarily in that order.
but at least my parents knew where i was!

it seems strange that in the states that the ONLY place where teenagers can drink is in unsupervised private parties, with no security and little parental knowledge.

alcohol needs to be put into the correct context: as an accompanyment (never could spell that word) to a meal or a night out. not the centre of the evening, not as a tool to get laid or to have fun and that being drunk is nowhere near as much fun as being slightly tipsy!

I was in a similar situation with my younger brother.

There are a few things I’d like to note in my situation which, if they are different from yours, may make a difference in how you take it.

I am two years older than my brother, and while we get along very well, and played together all the time as kids, we never confided in each other. He does have a bit of a hero-worship thing going on, and he is much more afraid of displeasing me than my mother. Weird, I know.

My parents are very reasonable, from how I see it. The legal drinking age in Quebec is, how shall I say it? Only a suggestion to most bars and shop owners. When I was 16 and 17, and I made friends with an older group of people who met at a bar sometimes, I just asked my mom if it’d be okay if I went. She knows I don’t like alcohol very much and am responsible, so she said okay. I have been going to bars and having maybe one drink, two per night since. 5-7 drinks per weeks is actually very healthy for you, as long as it’s in moderation.

My brother, on the other hand, at the age of 15-16, started going to bars. I know this because I once met him in one, quite unexpectedly for both of us. He even hung out in the bar where we knew all the bartenders. I spoke to him about it, and he asked me not to tell Mom. I told him that I thought she’d be okay with it if he was responsible, but he said she’d think 15 was too young (and she probably would have).

So I didn’t say anything, but I strongly suggested that he tell her himself. Then, one night, he came home drunk and threw up for two hours, with my mom taking care of him, of course. She figured it out pretty quick. She’s not exactly happy with him going out to bars, but her problem is really with him getting seriously drunk, which I never have.

Now, for my advice to you: Tell her to tell your mother. Hearing it from her will be way better than hearing it from you. Best-case scenario would be that she’d be allowed to continue her lifestyle to a certain extent, not the way she is doing it now which is, indeed, dangerous. Maybe if she didn’t have to sneak out, she’d come home for curfew instead. If she was only allowed to drink so much, maybe she wouldn’t go overboard. This is only HMO, and I’m not a parent, either.

So, binge drinking is supposed to be a healthy choice? No, I’m sure I must be misunderstanding you on that point. Just remember that all things are relative. And I think you missed the point that I was making, and lorinada was making with the links s/he posted that binge drinking and irresponsible drinking behaviours practiced early on can spell out alcohol addiction in the future. And I believe that there are plenty of college students out there who are not binge drinkers, teetotallers or “raging” alkies, and I am one of them, not that that’s germane. Alcohol can be enjoyed in moderation, like any other beverage without such “drama” attached to it; but it doesn’t sound like this little sister “getting it.”

My friend thought she was with people she knew and trusted. And one of them raped her. When you pass out you are no longer in control. As an aside, this guy thought she wouldn’t mind him having sex with her because she’d had a crush on him–isn’t that just adorable? "Date rape"happens.

Actually check out the signs of incipient alcohol addiction, and the studies regarding how addictions form, I think the OP should be concerned very concerned about his sister.

Alcohol poisoning is not to be flirted with either.

Random Points

I just don’t understand this idiotic party hardy attitude about drinking, it really shouldn’t have such drama attached to it. Heck, and if you over-imbibe and embarrass yourself, and/or throw up, it doesn’t mean you belong in a program, etc., it should only be an issue if this becomes a pattern of behaviour as the OP intimates. The sister has let alcohol effect her school, her family life, has become ill, and it sounds as if this is not on the odd occasion. I was raised with a fairly casual attitude toward alcohol and its consumption; if I wanted a beer with dinner, hey fine, no big thing. I celebrated my 21st birthday with my family and had a glass of champagne and was thankful (ooh, I’m starting to hear a really preachy tone:“uphill both ways! ANd I was GLAD!”) that I wouldn’t have to put up all the noisy bar bullshit and puking on the curb that I’d seen so many other birthday kids “treated” to—honestly, it’s not like we hadn’t ever had a drink before, like a “blowjob” or “cherry bomb” or “buttery nipple” are code words for nectar of the gods. It’s like people are celebrating their right to be ripped off by American clubs, with their covers and inflated drink prices.

Unfortunate but true, there really might be nothing that can be done, and sometimes people have to make their own mistakes, but it is one part of being a family that you try and prevent them from harming, or being harmed.

Tortuga: My point about binge drinking was that almost all other patterns of drinking I’ve heard of seem to me to be more dangerous signs of alcoholic behavior. The term has all these negative connotations attached to it, and yet its definition in the literature is ridiculously broad. All things are relative, indeed – and so the vaunted ‘danger signs of alcoholism’ are usually a load of crap. I maintain, furthermore, that having 5 drinks in 2 hours once every two weeks is more healthy than 2 drinks per day 14 days running.
I’m very sorry about your friend. That is a horrible thing for someone to do.

Dignan, nudge your mother toward knowledge of the situation, maybe something like “perhaps you should talk to sis about what she’s doing when she goes out”. Then let her do her job as parent. It’s not up to you to decide that she should have an 11:00 pm curfew, and frankly your mother should be talking with her kids and have an idea of what’s going on in your lives. If you are in a single parent household, which it sounds like, it’s difficult but this is still her responsibility.

As an older brother it is important for your sister to trust and confide in you, perhaps, but it’s also important for you to look out for your younger sib(s). If something very bad were to happen to her (date rape, hurt in a car crash where alcohol was a contributing factor, etc) you’d feel terrible because you could have done something and didn’t. And by then it’s too late.

Irishgirl, since Reagan was president the drinking age here was raised in most, if not all, states to 21 years old. Even if parents want to support a responsible consumption model like you outline they could be in legal trouble for aiding their kids with breaking the law, depending on where and how. There is also usually no decent public transportation and alcohol together with very inexperience drivers is a potentially lethal combination. It’s interesting that the incidence of alcohol abuse appears to be rising since the drinking age went up. IMO it might be better to lower the drinking age and raise the driving age, but this is a fairly impractical model in a country with relatively vast distances and no other practical means to get around aside from driving.