Bonding Activities with my 15 year old brother.
March 1, 2009 4:18 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for suggestions to bond with my 15 year old brother. A good example would be teaching him to drive since he's going to be taking driver's Ed soon. If you have fun things you remember doing with an older brother, please pass them along.

He plays a lot of video games. I hardly play video games anymore. He's not really into sports. I taught him how to play poker and he enjoyed that.
Any suggestions are appreciated.
posted by mtphoto to Human Relations (16 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Travel away from Mom and Dad. My brother's almost 15 years younger than me and just spending time out of his hometown and away from parents led to a lot of good times and conversations. Doesn't even have to be a distant trip, just a road trip of a couple hours makes a huge difference. You can even do funny "sight seeing" stuff around where he lives, that neither of you would typically do.

Another thing I wanted to do more often was read the same book, then talk about it. I think we read "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" at the same time, then had a few interesting conversations. Being listened to without being judged is probably something he's craving.

Oh, one other thing: life skills. I think your idea of teaching him driving is a good one. I also did stuff like grocery shop, take public transportation, cook, do laundry, let him navigate on road trips (and let him make some mistakes and recover from them), etc., since he didn't do any of that stuff at home and I think it helped him feel competent and independent. Depends on the current competencies of your particular brother...
posted by cocoagirl at 4:34 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thank you. That's an excellent suggestion. Going on a trip and spending time with him is exactly the type of idea I was looking for.
posted by mtphoto at 4:45 AM on March 1, 2009

My brother taught me how to use photoshop and use C++, but that might be a bit of a niche subject... The best thing he ever did for me was make me feel like his house was always open for me.

The most fun we had was just going out for dinner in his neighbourhood, walking around and shooting the shit. Some of the coolest movies ever, I watched with him at that age. I still fondly reminisce about the first time I ever saw "The Professional" and "Hackers" (haha). When I lived with him one summer, we made some art and played music--his keyboard, my sax. We also played lots of video games, but he's a hardcore gamer and you've already stricken that from the list.

After I turned 16, I was also allowed to drink a bit at his place (drinking age here is 19). I never asked him to buy me (or my friends) booze, and I think he appreciated this, and still offers me free reign over his now-plentiful bar when I go to visit. On that note- do not by him and his friends underaged-booze. I've only seen this go very, very wrong.
posted by sunshinesky at 5:11 AM on March 1, 2009

Also, in my province we also have a "take your kids to work day". He, and his gracious employer allowed me to spend it with him. Yay!
posted by sunshinesky at 5:15 AM on March 1, 2009

I would be cautious about teaching him to drive. My recollection from when my parents taught me to drive was that I was pretty freaked out about driving when I was learning, and it manifested itself in my being pretty bitchy and unpleasant during the process. (And, of course, they were white-knuckled because they were in a car with a very novice driver.)
posted by leahwrenn at 5:50 AM on March 1, 2009

I took my little brother to his first concert (a three-hour road trip). Not having much interest in the band, I hung out in the bar area, while he and the friend he brought along enjoyed the show. Twenty-five years later, he still talks about that as being one of the coolest things his generally-boring big sister ever did.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 6:24 AM on March 1, 2009

My brother is ten years older than me and gave me a lot of time growing up, even when he was in college or when he got married. When he got married, he lived about 45 minutes away from me and would pick me up and have me over for the weekend. We'd watch movies or play video games, I don't think it really mattered - he just gave me time and took me out of my high school life at that point.

Without knowing him - I'd say that at 15, he may not be that interested in learning new things outside of his own world. So it's up to you to take an interest in the things he is into and use that as a bridge. Have him bring his Xbox to your house for a night and play Halo with him until 4AM. It's something that you'd be able to do with him right now and I'd wager that it's be a pretty cool experience. Use the video games as a means to facilitate conversation and I'd bet you'd get a lot ofinformation out of him that he may otherwise be holding in.

Also, sports - you say he's not really into sports, but does that mean you are? If he isn't interested in sports, is it because he's not knowledegable or is he just not interested? As a teenager, my brother took me to a lot of Yankee games and these are experiences I'd never forget - especially since this was in the incredible post-season era of 95-99. He'd use these games as ways to educate me more about the game and share experiences he had growing up watching the Yankees in the 70's and 80's. We also went to the Baseball Hall of Fame and many, many New York Jets games. These were incredible bonding experiences.

Also, my brother took me to my first R-rated movie at 12 years old. We went to see Diggstown, starring James Woods and Louis Gosset Jr. We still talk about this to this day.

Long story short, I think the actual things that you do are not as relevant as long as you are willing to give him time. Use the things he is into for short term bonding experiences and you'll just know what the next steps are. It's great to see you wanting to reach out and bond with him at this age, since it is most likely an awkward age for him and having a sibling to trust and talk to is a powerful thing.

As a footnote, I'm now turning 30. My brother and I have remained good friends through the years and have always been apart of each other's lives. I'm getting married in June and my brother is my best man.

Good luck!
posted by tommccabe at 6:47 AM on March 1, 2009

My little brother still talks about a camping trip I took him on at about that age. I also used to let him housesit for me when I was out of town, which seemed quite valued. They never trashed the place, so it worked out OK for me.
posted by Lame_username at 7:11 AM on March 1, 2009

Some interesting activities you guys can do: skydiving, bungie, gun range, comedy clubs, hiking, biking/roller blading, monster trucks, paintball.

I think any experience like that gives you both a great memory to look back on.
posted by pyro979 at 7:18 AM on March 1, 2009

I often say that everything important in my life, I learned from my big brother.

He taught me to play chess. Signed us up for a neighborhood tennis league. Took me to movies and concerts. Got me interested in reading sci-fi. Let me drive his car when I had my learner's permit. We also spend a lot of time talking about the "mysteries of the cosmos" and speculating about the future. (No drugs involved). He took me to a local magic shop, which sparked a lifelong interest in learning and performing. He was especially proud when I "turned semi-pro" and started performing for pay. He took me to museums (art, science, history). He took me day-hiking. Often we would drive to nowhere in particular on a weekend or summer day. We would end up in some town or suburb, find a place to eat, and go see a movie. We went to arcades (any left?) and baseball games, flew kites, tossed frisbees, explored parks we had not seen before, played mini golf, bowled, went to malls, went to amusement parks and generally just hung out.

The most important aspect of all of these things is we just had time to talk and get to know each other. He really was interested in my thoughts and opinions, even when I was a 12 year old brat. He treated me as a peer, even though he was 6 years older. I remember one specific time when I was about 14, he said "You know, you are at an age when most people really start to think about their own identity and ask themselves who they are. Do you find yourself doing that? Are you figuring out who you are? Who are you?" And... he listened.

Times are certainly different now. (I'm now 47, and he's 53. We are still very close and can talk for hours, by phone since we live far apart.) But some things still hold true: make time to talk, no matter what else you are doing. Make sure you are a safe place for him. Do some things you know he will like, but also introduce him to new things.
posted by Fuzzy Skinner at 7:19 AM on March 1, 2009

leahwrenn, I'd give more credence to the driving lesson idea. My older brother & I have never been close, but he's still the one who gave me a much-treasured driving lesson. Dad couldn't do it; too much corrective history there. But with the relationship most brothers have, disagreement doesn't mean an ego beatdown; it's just another tussle.

mtphoto, find some way to force the two of you to interact for several hours somewhere alone - camping is perfect. Then, engage him in talk - but not true dialog; prompt topics he wants to talk about, and listen listen listen. Respond with the usual "that's interesting" kind of feedback, and pay rapt attention. Given enough positive feedback, the shyest person on earth will open up & bloom. Who doesn't like to talk about themselves to an interested, unjudgmental audience? And he will remember that you are someone they can trust with his stupid, unimportant, dumb thoughts that no one wants to hear... and will inevitably bond with their trusted friend.

I've used this trick multiple times on aloof teens & shy people of any age. Sometimes 5 min of encouragement is all it takes to pry the shell open. But it works.

BTW, I'm not talking about faking it. I'm talking about dedicating a few hours to making someone feel like the most interesting person on the planet. He's worth it; it's not fake.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:06 AM on March 1, 2009 [1 favorite]

I have an older step brother. He gave me the gift of music. When I was in elementary school and he was in high school, he'd make me mix tapes so I always knew good music, or at least would have options besides the crappy radio. He became a concert promoter, so I got to go to a bunch of different shows (for free!).

I guess this is a pretty specific answer, but I think you probably have some interests or expertise from your life that you could share. Or maybe something you could learn together? Rock climbing? Gardening? Snowboarding? Cooking? (Now I want a little brother to hang out with!)
posted by bellbellbell at 10:26 AM on March 1, 2009

Older brother here. I mostly wish I could have been a better one when my brothers were younger (I'm 30, they're 24, 22, and 18). We were kind of separated by the 2 sisters in-between us, and by the time they were old enough to do cool stuff with, I was mostly long gone in college / working life thereafter. I'm trying to make up for lost time though.

For me and my brothers it is mostly the outdoors and sports. Most of us hit up Yosemite for some hiking each summer, and there's regular surfing / snowboarding / skiing / etc. interspersed throughout the seasons, it just kind of depends on when and who's available. We do concerts too - 3 of us saw RATM in their last show together in San Francisco the night before I moved to South Africa.

But I'd have to say, hands down, that the most consistent, crazy, stupid fun we always have with each other is when we end up at a minigolf joint, necessarily with go-kart racing and preferably with bumper boats and batting cages to really round out the experience.
posted by allkindsoftime at 8:20 AM on March 2, 2009

My eldest brother is 12 years older than I am. He left the house when I was 5, but returned when I was 13 to help my mom out. I didn't know him that well when he came back, but we quickly bonded.

Some of my favorite memories were midnight gardening (nothing ever grew, but it was fun talking under the moon and betting on which seeds would actually sprout), playing group games with a mix of his friends and mine late at night (we often played tag and capture the flag in a small city's downtown area), and being shown his favorite hangouts and activities (like going to his favorite waterfall and his favorite bakery or trying out one of his martial arts classes). We also did stupid stuff like toliet papering friends' houses and writing on friends' car windows with paint markers.

My brother cultivated an aura of mystery and exclusiveness in our activities. Not everything we did was amazing or inventive, but I always felt like he truly enjoyed his time with me and that he wanted to help me mature into a well-rounded adult.

Good luck with your little brother. He's lucky to have someone who cares about him.

PS I would definitely recommend taking trips with your little brother, even if they're just day trips.
posted by mandapanda at 9:27 AM on March 2, 2009

Ooh... and my brother gave me a great book, "How you do anything is how you do everything," back when I was a freshman in high school.

I did exercises in it at my leisure and occassionally my brother would ask me about them. We talked about what I wanted out of life and what was important to me. He told me his own philosophy on life. I learned a lot about myself and continue to use my brother as a sounding board.
posted by mandapanda at 9:33 AM on March 2, 2009

I thought that mandapanda's suggestion was good, and I'd add to it my thoughts. An activity with a small amount of shared, harmless mischief like midnight garden sounds like a great idea.

How close are you in his life? If you're comfortable with it and you're close enough in age, you might try including him when you're hanging out with your friends some night. Some teenagers are looking for a sense of being recognized as an adult, and your including him in activities with your group of friends might be a bonding signal to him in that you're starting to see him as an adult.

The other suggestion I would have is some activity where you can listen to him and also share your views on life. Again, I think it will important to frame the activity not necessarily in seeing him as your little brother but in starting to see him as an adult in his own right. I think a lot of teenagers are looking for more recognition and responsibility than they are given.
posted by SocialArgonaut at 7:00 PM on March 2, 2009

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