Sorority girls tend to make a big to-do about the big/little dynamic, a fact that is reflected by millions of pictures posted on social media and talked about ad nauseum on TSM. A relationship that is equally important, but rarely discussed outside of individual chapters, is that of the big brother to his little brother. I learned a lot about how to be a good pledge, and more importantly, the value of brotherhood, from my big brothers, and I did my best to pass that down to my little brothers when the time came. Here are a few things I picked up along the way that define how to conduct yourself as the fraternal role model for an idiot pledge.
1. Define Your Expectations
From the beginning, your little brother has to know what is expected of him. He’ll hear it from officers, other brothers, and his own pledge class, but you should constantly remind him why your particular pledging process works the way it does. He needs to understand that he doesn’t exist because older college guys enjoy having temporary indentured servants. Everything is steeped in tradition and everything has a reason, so make sure he’s getting all of the right information. Above all, it is your job to filter all the information that gets thrown at him, let him know what is important, and let him know what is bullshit.
2. Be A Source Of Trust
This dumb fucking kid you’ve chosen to mentor will be confused as shit for the duration of the pledging process, which is a mindset you need to do your best to foster. Pledges should never feel as if they’re standing on solid ground. When they become used to a certain thing, that’s when you yank out the rug and change the rules of the game on them. Pledging has always been more about mental strain than physical. By the same token, you need to break certain barriers with him that you wouldn’t with your average pledge. Let him know he can call you if he’s in trouble. If the kid needs a ride from somewhere, did something stupid, or, God forbid, gets arrested, you’re the one who needs to help him. If it means keeping the fact that he broke curfew to see a girl and ended up stranded a secret from the chapter, so be it. Just make sure he pays for his sins on his own time. My chapter intentionally allows big brothers to share certain information about upcoming activities–nothing that will spoil the surprise of what actually happens, but revealing just enough to promote trust. There’s nothing wrong with giving the kid a call an hour before he’s about to get kidnapped from his bed to tell him he should sleep in warm clothes.
3. Be A Role Model
How are you supposed to expect the dumbass you’re trying to mentor into a respectable human being to take any advice that you give seriously if you act like a fucking drunken goon all the time? I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink in front of him–I would never say that. All I’m saying is that you should be mindful of the values you portray as a member of the fraternity he is getting his ass kicked to join. You want to know why so many fraternities get a bad reputation for the [fill in the blank] that we’re all stereotyped for? Because there are fuckheads out there not teaching the pledges coming after them the meaning of responsibility, trust, and honor. Shotgun as many beers as you want, just don’t follow that up by behaving in such a way that you taint the the whole philosophy of your brotherhood in front of its future.
4. Protect Him
As the big brother, you’re obligated to make sure he doesn’t get taken advantage of. He’s a pledge for all members to give orders to and to mold as they see fit, but you are his advocate. If another member gets out of line with your little brother, it’s your job to step in. Not in front of the pledges, obviously. But the kid is under your protection, and the only person who has the authority to supercede that role is an officer. Alumni are going to come in town for events, get liquored up, and want to relive the pledging experience, a tradition that is always equally hilarious and precarious, but don’t let a drunk guy cross the line just because he pledged your letters 20 years ago.
5. Don’t Baby Him
That said, it’s not your job to coddle him. This is the biggest mistake our sisters make with this relationship. They’re so excited to have a “wittle” that they immediately take them under their wing like a mother hen. They become best friendsies. That is not your role. First of all, don’t call him your fucking little. If you refer to him in a conversation, you should call him your little brother or just by his last name. If you’re talking to him directly, you should call him by his last name or “fuckface,” depending on what the situation calls for. Your job is to make sure he puts in 100 percent effort, learns your traditions and understands why the pledging process is so grueling, and ultimately finishes as a better man. Sure, you can help him when he needs it and cut him a little more slack than you do the rest of the guys, but the most important thing to remember is that the two of you are not friends until he says the words and gives the grip. After that, you’re brothers for life.