Parenting is an incredibly difficult responsibility, and the task varies from kid to kid, and age to age.
Sometimes even when we feel like we’ve done everything we could do, something still goes wrong, admitted the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor conflictedMomThA was taken aback when she realized one of her sons had started bullying a girl he was supposedly friends with, though she’d raised him to be kind.
She punished him for it, but when she was criticized for her technique, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if she went too far.
She asked the sub:
“AITA for giving my son’s new bike away after the ‘prank’ he pulled on a girl he was friends with?”
The OP found out her son had been bullying a girl.
“So recently I found out my son ‘Jacob’ (15) pulled an incredibly cruel ‘prank’ on one of the girls I’ll call ‘Ashley’ that’s in his friend group.”
“I know this girl, she’s been to our house and even attended Jacob’s birthday party a month ago. She seemed incredibly sweet if not a bit shy.”
“So when my oldest son ‘Mark’ (17) came to me and told me Jacob had asked Ashley out on a date as a prank, I was stunned.”
“I asked how he could know this, hoping as any mother would that it wasn’t true.”
“But Mark showed me the family tablet we all use (but mostly my sons), and it seems Jacob forgot to log out of his chatting app, Discord.”
“I read the long series of messages between Jacob and his friends as they mocked Ashley all through this heartless prank. I was speechless.”
“And that’s not even getting into HOW he was talking, like he was some thug and not a 15-year-old living in a gated community.”
The OP knew punishment was in order.
“At first, I couldn’t figure out what to do, or how to proceed. I’ll admit that I never once imagined either of my boys would be the type of person to do something like that. But there was no way in h**l I was letting this go.”
“So after a day of thought, I decided what was going to happen.”
“First things first, he was grounded, for how long I’m not sure.”
“Secondly, I’d gotten Jacob a bike for his birthday but it hadn’t arrived until the day previous. I’d planned to give it to him when my parents came to visit since they’d been unable to make his party.”
The OP decided on a consequence that would make a statement.
“But instead of that, I showed him I knew about the ‘prank’ and told him he was grounded. Then I made him carry the new bike out of my bedroom closet and to the car before driving to Ashley’s house, him crying the whole way.”
“I’d called her parents earlier and explained everything, and so once we got there, I had him cart it to their front porch and ring the bell.”
“Then in front of me, Ashley, her parents, and God, I had him give a sincere apology and gift her the bike.”
“Even I apologized to her, saying I didn’t raise my boy this way, and what he did was unforgivable.”
“I also called the parents of the other boys who were a part of this little stunt, and they all seemed rightfully horrified by their sons’ involvement.”
Some people thought this punishment was overly harsh.
“I felt I’d handled this all as best as I could, and my friends agreed.”
“Though once my parents found out that I’d made Jacob give his birthday gift away, they said what I did went too far.”
“I still feel like what I did was right, but having my parents more or less dogpile on me like this actually made me wonder if how I handled it was too extreme?”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some said it was important for the son to learn a lesson so he could improve.
“NTA, you did the right thing. If there hadn’t been consequences that hit where it hurt, he may not have learned how unacceptable that behavior is.”
“That cruelty is sadly common in kids around that age, but this is the absolute right step towards him becoming a good man.” – og_kitten_mittens
“NTA all the way. I would say parenting at its finest. Teaching a kid that there are consequences to what they do, not going overboard in the punishment, while at the same time making it up to the girl in the sweetest way possible.”
“Ignore what your parents say. Grandparents are more likely going to side with the kid and coddle them. That is why the parenting is left to parents to do most of the time.” – STL-Adventurer
“Given that the stunt so concerned older brother that he went to Mom, it must have been pretty bad. Good that Mom took action.” – iadggm
“I hope he realizes that the pain of losing a bike was nothing compared to what he was going to do to her. The bike seemed to have some impact, so good on OP for this move.” – msharek
“I’d have to find the study, but I recently heard that teenage boys actually exhibit a decline in empathy from roughly ages 16-18.”
“OP, don’t lose hope. My brother was similar at that age (more violent than cruel but talked the same big game) and once he graduated, he did a 180.”
“And it sounds like you’re doing a great job of showing him his behavior is unacceptable. You probably feel like you overreacted but frankly, I see it as an appropriate way to nip this in the bud.” – vixvisuals
Others who had been bullied in the past appreciated what the OP did.
“As a female that had this prank pulled on them in high school, I want to say thank you for standing up and doing what’s right.”
“When it was done to me, it severely traumatized me and I didn’t trust guys for a long time when I was asked out for fear it was another prank.”
“I hate to say this, but this most likely wasn’t a one-off situation, and you might want to look into how your son treats other kids in school as well. I don’t want to say he’s bullying any other kids, but if he has no issues pulling something like this with his friends, what else is he doing?” – italy2986
“I too had something like this happen, but it was my ‘friends’ plus my crush… Took a long time to trust anyone after that… Still don’t have many friends, but the ones I do have are keepers!!” – muffy_graves
“I also had the same “prank” pulled on me in high school and it was unbelievably traumatizing. Took me years to actually trust that someone could like me. Sorry ‘Ashley’ went through it as well.” – ViolaOlivia
“On behalf of the ‘weird people’ who have had that stunt (and other harmful bullying happen), thank you. What he did to Ashley was very cruel and things like that stay with a person.”
“And then when we don’t forgive our bullies, all we hear is ‘boys will be boys,’ and ‘bUt ThEy ApoLoGiZeD!!!’ and so on.”
“NTA.” – runningwithkimchi
“After I was bullied in grade 10, I isolated myself completely save for a small handful of people that weren’t part of the same group, and so I had nowhere that I actually belonged.”
“By the end of my high school life, I had three friends total and deep depression. I couldn’t believe that people actually wanted to be friends with me anymore, and it took a long time to get over.” – k3ndrag0n
Some also recommended double-checking the son’s activity in other areas of his life.
“Look into how your son treats women and speaks about them in general too. This isn’t the behavior of a man who respects women.”
“OP, please go through the search history (including Youtube app recommendations) on that iPad with your older son, so he can verify what was him and what would’ve been the 15-year-old.”
“You might find him consuming content from known misogynists (people like Ben Shapiro and Joe Rogan, for example) and you need to nip that in the bud now if so.” – trashcanofficial420
“The kid uses discord, so there’s a high chance he’s part of several gaming communities with a propensity towards light misogyny.” – BadTanJob
“As a ‘weirdo’ who had this pulled on them (and violence, and harassment, and generally making me feel like s**t for not being cookie cutter), seriously consider monitoring his behavior for a while.”
“He’s still a minor, but if he thinks that this was just a prank, he may have darker behaviors later.” – Badger_of_Horrors
“I had an education professor once say that a punishment needs to ‘hurt the child’ and then went on to explain it has to have some teeth so they realize there are consequences. It sounds like that is what you did.”
“Your parents sound like they are separating the actions from their grandchild and looking through rose-colored glasses.”
“It might not hurt to get your son into some therapy too.” – murppie
“Your parents will never be able to give unbiased advice on discipline that actually hurts their grandson. Grandparents (those with a good relationship with their family) are almost always softer on the kids than parents, they don’t HAVE to do the tough part anymore.”
“Yes, you were harsh on him, I’m not quite sure it was the path I would have taken, but this was a despicable act and he NEEDED to make amends in a way that truly cost him. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer here, consequences need to bite with what your child values.”
“Make sure you follow up with conversations that show you still love him but it is your job as a parent to help guide his development as a person, because if he is behaving like this then he is obviously in need of redirection.”
“Tell him the lessons you hope he will learn from this episode in adult language and verbiage, because without explanation it might just manifest as teenage resentment of you disciplining him.” – aussiealterego
Though the OP was second-guessing herself after being criticized by her parents, the subReddit was sure she had done the right thing. The OP had chosen something that would make a statement against her son’s behavior, hopefully encouraging him to never repeat it again.