There is little more upsetting to a parent than learning that their child is being bullied.
But it’s equally upsetting news when parents learn that their child is the one doing the bullying.
Discovering that their child is a bully will likely lead parents down a rabbit hole of questions.
Was this my doing? Did I not raise them well? Is there something going on with them which is causing them to act out like this?
Redditor crustydustyjane was devastated to learn that her son was bullying a boy at his school, and equally horrified that he refused to apologize to this boy.
When her son’s behavior caused her to act out in a way she never had before, the original poster (OP) took to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole” (AITA), where she asked fellow Redditors:
“AITA For telling my son I don’t like him?”
The OP first expressed how her youngest son’s behavior came as quite the surprise, as his two older brothers never showed any signs of similar behavior.
“I love my sons more than anything, I have 3, they were all raised to respect everyone regardless of their differences.”
“My 21 year old and my 19 year old have that down great.”
“My 16 year old however is bullying a gay boy in his class and I was less than happy when I found out (his cousin told me).”
The OP soon found herself needing to resort to punishment, which still didn’t seem to get the message across to her son.
“I gave him the chance to invite him over for dinner and apologize but he refused, he wouldn’t say sorry, at all.”
“I get it, it’s embarrassing being told off in front of your friends but I don’t care, I wasn’t happy with his treatment.”
“I ended up grounding him but it didn’t seem to be affecting him at all and he clearly wasn’t learning his lesson.
The OP soon contacted the boy and his family herself, hoping that might finally convince her son to apologize, but she found herself in for a very unpleasant surprise.
“I contacted the family and let them know what was going on and they agreed to meet up for dinner and again I gave my son a chance to apologize.”
“He got extremely upset/angry, maybe both and said that nobody even liked the [F word].”
“Of course I apologized and the family left.”
“My son and I got into a big argument when they left where he said he wasn’t sorry and again that nobody likes this kid.”
“I told him that I don’t like him very much right now either.”
“He got quiet, apologized and went to his room.”
While the OP’s words seemed to finally be what it took to get her son to apologize, it came at something of a personal cost.
“I’ve now been told that he’s apologized to the student he was bullying and his grounding has been lifted.”
“He’s still hiding in his room and we very rarely speak.
“My ex husband says I shouldn’t have told him I don’t like him and that there’s no excuse, and of course that that behavior is the reason we’re not together, because I can’t help but be a miserable a**hole.”
“I understand it may not have been the nicest thing to hear but he was not listening to a word I was saying and was being a downright bully.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation by declaring:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
Fellow Redditors generally agreed that the OP was within her rights for her choice of words, deciding that she was not the a**hole.
Most Redditors felt it was clear that the OP did not state that she didn’t like her son, but rather she didn’t like the way he was behaving at the time, and saying so was what was needed to get her son to stop bullying.
“And you didn’t say you didn’t like him as in just that in general you didn’t like your son.”
“You said ‘I don’t like him very much right now either’.”
“And that’s a different story.”
“That means you didn’t like how he was acting, not that you didn’t like him as a person in general.”
“Considering the seriousness of what your son was doing, I think it was worth saying.”
“In fact, it seemed to be the one thing that got through to him.”
“It’s too bad your ex undermined your efforts.”-twitchydigits.
“You didn’t say you don’t love him anymore, but with his behavior, you didn’t like him right there and then.”
“if you can’t get him to talk, maybe a session with a family therapist?”- del901.
“This sort of behavior has to be stopped, and it seems you’ve managed to effectively stop it.”
“You told him that you didn’t like him ‘right now’, well, at that time he was acting in a very unlikeable manner.”
“He is doing some soul searching right now.”
“Let him be, he’ll talk to you when he is ready.”-Sunny_Hill_1.
“You didn’t say you don’t love you.”
“You said you don’t like him right now.”
“He is being an awful human being and he can know that as a parent you’ll love him but that doesn’t mean you have to like him.”
“I am sure there are plenty of times he doesn’t like you or his brothers.”-gullywax.
“NTA- bullying is never ever okay!”
“No matter his opinion on any situation, he needs to learn that!”-beautifullyhoya.
“NTA, I think the ‘right now’ makes a difference.”
“Clearly he wasn’t receptive to anything else you tried and this was what he needed to hear to get it.”
“Apart from his behavior being homophobic and hurting others, it could have serious impacts on his future too.”
“Let’s say he gets expelled or posts something online and it sticks with him.”
“Someone mentioned counseling, which could be good.”
“I wonder if he could be struggling with his masculinity or sexuality in some way and projecting?”
“This behavior seems out of context from how you described your family, not sure about his friend group.”-ivy1212.
Some even wondered if the OP’s ex-husband’s angry reaction to her behavior was owing to the fact that he was encouraging their son’s behavior.
“NTA, something tells me your ex is the one encouraging his homophobia.”-Withinashes.
There were a few, however, who stressed that it was important for the OP to reinforce that even if she didn’t like her son in the heat of the moment, she otherwise does love him unconditionally, or that she should even consider apologizing herself.
“I’ve had this discussion with my kiddos.”
“I told them that I will always love them.”
“Nothing can ever change that.”
“That love is unconditional.”
“However, there will, more than likely, be times where I might not like them very much due to their behavior and such.”
“Even if I don’t like them at that moment, my love never waivers.”
“You telling your son that you don’t like him very much opened his eyes to his behavior.”
“You’re NTA for that. 100%.”
“Now, you need to have the discussion with him that while you have times where you don’t like him, you will always love him.”
“Reassure him that your love doesn’t waiver, ever, but there are times where you might not like him very much.”
“Also, tell him how proud you are that he finally apologized to the other person.”- TKD_Mom76.
“You didn’t say you didn’t like him.”
“You said you didn’t like him – right now-.”
“And you didn’t say you didn’t love him.”
“I think from what you’re saying that he understood the difference, but I still suggest making sure he knows you love him even when he’s being a shit and that you’re proud of what he did, not because he obeyed you, but because it was the right thing to do.-poddy_fries.
“I understand how it can affect your kid, but you tried different stuff and he kept bullying a gay kid.”
“Also you said ‘right now’, doesn’t mean you hate him.”
“Nevertheless it’s better to talk and apologize to him, that’s a good way to also practice what you preach (since you were trying to get him to apologize to the other kid).”-adricll.
There were also those who felt that bringing the family of the boy over to dinner was a big mistake on the part of the OP, even if they still felt she was in the right for saying what she said.
“I say that to my niece when she does things that I don’t like!”
“She understands that ‘I don’t like you right now’ does not equate to ‘I don’t love you’.”
“Although I have very clearly explained this concept when I say those words.”
“But you should never have bought the kid and the family over for an apology until you got an agreement that your kid was going to apologize.”
“You further traumatized the bullied kid by putting him in that environment.”-OpinionatedAussieGal.
No child ever wants to hear the words “I don’t like you” come from their parents mouth in any capacity.
But it seems that this was the only way that the OP’s son could learn the important lesson he seemed almost unwilling to learn.
Words can hurt.