I've been pondering something for the last several days, and I think I need some objective input. First, a little history for those who weren't around during difficult child 2's dark days. difficult child 2 has a history of severe violent behavior. He hasn't had a violent meltdown in almost two years and has made HUGE strides in self-regulation. Huge strides. But before then, we lived in fear of the next meltdown. He sent difficult child 3 to the hospital twice (once for a suspected broken nose, once for a suspected broken cheekbone.) I couldn't even count how many scars I have from being bitten, cuts from having furniture and other object thrown at me, etc. I couldn't begin to tell you how many times I sat in DFCS office, or the juvenile court judge's office, or in some other office, begging for someone to help us before difficult child 2 killed someone. I begged for Residential Treatment Center (RTC) placement, anything. difficult child 2 was even charged with felony assaulting of an officer at 14 because he beat the snot out of and bit one of FOUR officers trying to restrain him during a meltdown. It was a horrible period in our lives. To add to difficult child 2's issues, the difficult children' father was killed by a drunk driver four years ago. Before then, he had gradually become less of a moron about the difficult children' issues and gotten involved in treatments and general family life again (we were divorced for 7 years before his death.) Shortly after his death, difficult child 2 really went off the deep end, with over a half dozen psychiatric hospital admissions in the 19 months after his father's death. He really took it hard. He still misses his Dad terribly, but he manages much better now. I've found that keeping his father's memory alive and well in a healthy way really helps him. (Telling stories about his Dad's childhood, when we were first married, when they were born, reminding difficult child 2 how proud his Dad would be of him, etc.) But I've noticed a change in dynamics over the last year or so, and I'm not sure if I should be concerned or not. I have nothing to gauge "normal" against (and probably wouldn't recognize "normal" if it walked up and beeped my nose while carrying a neon sign that said "Hi, I'm Normal.") During the dark days, difficult child 3 was difficult child 2's primary target. Being smaller and quiet, not to mention just a sweet, people-pleaser kind of kid, difficult child 3 just made a natural target for difficult child 2. He couldn't fight back and he always shadowed his big brother, even when he became his punching bag. In the last two years, difficult child 3 has shot up in terms of size. He's now bigger than difficult child 2, and older, and long ago stopped being his big brother's shadow. The turning point really came when difficult child 3 and I took up karate classes shortly after our move. difficult child 3 and I talked with our sensei about difficult child 2's past, and he taught us ways to defend ourselves that would counteract difficult child 2's large size and out-of-control anger strength. It did wonders to boost difficult child 3's confidence in himself. He was learning ways to keep himself safe, learned ways to immobilize difficult child 2 if he started to rage and get violent without hurting him, etc. In fact, difficult child 2's last meltdown required everything difficult child 3 and I had learned - and then some. It still took both of us to immobilize difficult child 2, and darn near wore us both out by the time difficult child 2 finally calmed down enough for us to let him go. I'm sure we were quite a sight that night, each of us holding some part of difficult child 2 in some sort of hold, praying his strength would give out before ours did. But given the fact that difficult child 3 "took him down" after only a few weeks in karate class, it definitely changed the way difficult child 2 saw his "little" brother. From that night on, difficult child 2 was less inclined to pick a fight with a little brother who could successfully knock him off his feet and pin him down. It changed things. A LOT. At the time, I was proud of difficult child 3 for the way it boosted his confidence and made him feel like he could FINALLY fend off his brother's attacks. I was also proud to see the natural consequences it taught difficult child 2. And I have to admit, I started to feel much safer in my own house knowing that I didn't have to take on a raging 225lb teenage boy on my own anymore. I had physical help to both defend myself and protect everyone. To illustrate my point about how violent were his rages, before our karate classes, I had honestly and truthfully gone shopping for tazers. I couldn't get help from anyone, not PRN medications, not a crisis team, not Residential Treatment Center (RTC) placement, nothing. I even told the judge at our last meeting that if someone didn't do SOMETHING to help us, I was going to buy a tazer just to make sure none of us got hurt again - it was that bad. The judge's response was that I had every right to defend myself from an attacker, even if the attacker was my own child. I was shocked to realize it had come to that, and that the judge would rather I went out to buy a tazer to defend myself against my own child than help us get residential treatment, but what other choice did I have? Luckily, I never had to go that route. Now here we are, two years later, and difficult child 2 is a completely different child. However, I'm concerned once again about the dynamic between he and his younger brother. In the last two years, difficult child 3 has taken on more of a big brother role to difficult child 2. In fact, to be honest, difficult child 3 has taken on more of a "man of the house" role in general. Don't misunderstand that - he still very much respects my authority as a kid should. However, he does a lot of chores around the house and farm that most people would identify with a grown man. He talks to contractors and makes judgment calls when necessary (although he always says things like "Mom said she wants this or that done." or "I think Mom was thinking more along the lines of...") When I leave the house, difficult child 3 is "in charge." He makes the judgment calls when I'm gone. It's just a fact of life that difficult child 2 is more prone to "freeze" and not be able to figure out what to do in an emergency, so difficult child 3 takes that responsibility. Now, I have always made it clear that being "in charge" does not mean you can tell the other what to do. It simply means that if something happens, the person "in charge" is responsible for deciding an appropriate response to the situation. Period. That's all. It does not mean difficult child 3 has ANY authority over difficult child 2. The person "in charge" will have to answer to Mom if a water pipe breaks and no one thinks to shut off the water. The person "in charge" is going to have to answer to Mom if whirly lighted vehicles wind up in my driveway. And the person "in charge" is REALLY going to have to answer to Mom if they abuse their "power." My concern now though, is that difficult child 2 treats difficult child 3 much like an older brother or *gasp* bordering on father-type figure. When they argue, sometimes I swear it sounds more like an argument between a father and son instead of brothers, albeit an immature father. lol. difficult child 3 will "remind" difficult child 2 about house rules, chores, etc. It irritates the snot out of difficult child 2, just like it would if I reminded him...but he does comply (albeit waiting a good 20 minutes before he does his chores, so it doesn't look like he's doing it because his brother told him to.) I'm surprised to think of how much the dynamic between the two of them has changed since that last meltdown. It's almost like difficult child 2 will challenge difficult child 3's perceived "authority," but back down just shy of getting himself in trouble - much the same as he used to do with their Dad. It surprises me how readily difficult child 2 accepts difficult child 3's being "in charge" when I'm gone, almost like it's expected and logical to him. Should I be concerned that difficult child 3 is somehow, on some subconscious level, serving as a substitute father figure for difficult child 2? I'm not so much worried about difficult child 3 taking on the "big brother" role, given that difficult child 2 has the maturity of a younger child. But I am worried about it going too far and if it's healthy for difficult child 2 to view his little brother as a father figure. Granted, there are far, far worse options. If difficult child 2 is going to find himself a substitute male role model, difficult child 3 is a pretty darn good choice. But still...difficult child 3 is just a kid himself. He shouldn't have that kind of responsibility so young in life. There's a part of me that screams this is such a small issue compared to the life we all lived just a few years ago. But there's another part of me that now worries about once I'm gone and they're all on their own and how all of it - the years of rages - the more recent change in dynamics - will affect them all as adults. It's not fair to difficult child 3 to carry the weight of being his brother's keeper at 16, much less the rest of his life. Or am I just overthinking this whole thing? I've thought about options like Big Brothers for difficult child 2, but he doesn't attach to people very easily. I don't know that he'd ever trust someone else the way he does difficult child 3. He won't confide in other people the way he does with difficult child 3 - not even his grandfathers, who have been very active in his life. Sometimes I wonder if difficult child 3's likeness to his father (both in looks and personality) doesn't factor into difficult child 2's allowing difficult child 3 to assume the older brother/father figure role. But is that healthy? Should I step in at all? Or just leave things to their naturally assumed place? The dynamic I'm seeing is very subtle, but it's there and I wonder if I should be concerned about it.