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Dad Sparks Drama By Calling Out His Stepson’s Bullying Behavior At A Family Dinner

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Unfortunately, we all know that people can be deeply unkind and hurtful to others. We likely have each come across our unfair share of them, too.

Even worse, sometimes these people are members of our family, and we have to decide if we will challenge their behavior or look beyond it because they’re family, confided the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.

Redditor the1whocanrelate found himself ultimately stepping up because he couldn’t watch his stepson bully others anymore, no matter what the rest of the family said.

But when he was criticized for speaking up, the Original Poster (OP) questioned if it was his right to teach his stepson about this.

He asked the sub: 

“AITA for calling my stepson a bully to his face and in front of the whole

The OP was unsettled by his stepson’s bullying.

“My stepson Austin [19] has a cousin (aged 14) who has a burn scar that covers his arm and neck.”

“Austin picks on him constantly with hurtful comments.”

“Some of the stuff he says is, ‘Are you still able to make friends looking like that?’ and ‘How are you going to get a girl to go out with you when you’re looking like that?’ and more.”

“It’s infuriating because my wife and her family think this form of ‘teasing’ is okay since that’s his cousin.”

“But I couldn’t handle sitting there watching Austin treat his cousin like that.”

“I truly felt disgusted, as I have a burn scar from a truck accident but it’s concealed so it’s not the same, but it struck a nerve in me.”

“Plus, my nephew-in-law clearly felt awful but nobody cared enough to notice.”

The OP voiced his concerns to his wife.

“I brought it with my wife and told her how I felt about Austin’s blatant bullying.”

“She called me silly for using the word ‘bullying.'”

“She said he’s just teasing his cousin as in normal stuff between boys.”

“I said I won’t stay quiet next time he does it, and she shrugged me off.”

The OP spoke up at a family dinner.

“We were at my in-law’s having dinner when Austin asked me to pass him the salad plate.”

“His cousin was right next to him, so he tried passing the plate to Austin, but Austin got grossed out and yelled at him to not touch the plate with his ‘burnt’ hand.”

“I was stunned, and expectedly, no one said anything.”

“I told Austin that what he was doing was wrong, that he would never look good by making someone else look bad, that’s what bullies do, and he was being a bully.”

“He was shocked and the family was quiet as I continued.”

“I said that if he thought doing this stuff will make him look superior, then that’s a sorry state to be in, and it shows how it clearly reflects his own insecurities and he should find a healthy outlet for these insecurities instead of feeding his confidence off of people’s unfortunate circumstances.”

“I said his cousin has no control over his injury, but he on the other hand has control over how he treats others.”

The family did not respond well to the OP’s criticism.

“Austin couldn’t even look at me he got up and rushed upstairs.”

“My MIL (Mother-in-Law) followed after giving me a nasty look.”

“Dinner was awkward and no one ate.”

“My MIL later said a couple of things:”

“1. I, as someone who’s ‘married in,’ shouldn’t get involved in private family matters.”

“2. She suggested that since I was shamelessly willing to call Austin a bully in front of the family then Lord knows how poorly I treat him at home, and she insisted on taking Austin in.”

The OP and his wife later got in an argument.

“My wife was highly upset, saying Austin was just messing with his cousin.”

“I said all I saw was mistreatment and an offender getting away with it.”

“She said I still shouldn’t have called him a bully to his face and in front of everyone only then to double down and say he has insecurities.”

“She stated just like her family, Austin was shocked, taken by surprise, and won’t be blamed for no longer seeing me the same way.”

“Also since he apologized to his cousin, she says it’s my turn to apologize to him.”

“I said I won’t. They’re both sulking.”

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 were appalled an adult was acting this way.

“So, it’s ok to ‘tease’ his cousin for something he can’t help, but you can’t ‘tease’ Austin and call him a bully and insecure? Just tell them you were teasing Austin, so they should be just fine with it.” – CJSinTX

“He’s 19. He KNOWS it’s not ok (Gen Z definitely had antibullying stuff in schools) and that he’ll get away with it.”

“This isn’t a little kid who’s never been taught right from wrong, he’s just upset someone finally called him out.”Revolutionary-Yak-47

“Showing compassion to the victim is how you teach compassion, having compassion for the abuser is how you teach children that their abuse doesn’t matter and the abuser is more important than they are.”

“It trivializes the victim’s abuse when the abuser is treated with kid gloves while the victim is not.”Mmaqueen

“The 19-year-old bully has sensitive feelings that can’t be hurt. The 14-year-old burn victim just needs to man up, tho.”

“Honestly, OP, let Grandma take the 19-year-old. He’s old enough that he doesn’t get child support and she can support the adult child if she wants.”

“And if your wife refused to say anything to Austin so that was the first time he heard that his behavior bothered you despite your having talked to your wife about it in the past, then you are being marginalized in your marriage and not just by your in-laws.”rhetorical_twix

Others agreed and couldn’t believe so many family members let it happen.

“That is not a ‘boys will be boys’ thing. ‘Boys will be boys’ is when boys do stupid s**t that only gets them hurt or make them look silly. This is a bully and a family defending a bully.”Equalfire_A

“It’s very sad that the family seems to accept the blatant bullying because it’s likely that they’re disgusted by the poor kid’s scars too. I hope that you’re able to continue sticking up for him if his own blood family refuses to.”tulipbunnys

“Either that or they love their daughter more and think the sun shines from her a**hole, so of course their gRanDbAbY can’t do anything wrong.”

“It’s the same old stuff, they see it, but it’s not their child that is getting bullied. See how they suddenly reacted when you called out THEIR little precious? They fully know what hurts but simply don’t care for the person that is hurting (Austin’s cousin).”Asobimo

“You tried telling your wife first. She just plain didn’t care. NTA.”

“Austin is an a**hole because he has your wife as a mother. This isn’t some coincidence. A good person and good mother would care how he treated others, she doesn’t.”

“How do you feel about being married to someone like your wife?”TheHatOnTheCat

Some were proud of the OP and said it would mean a lot to the nephew.

“What kind of an adult man feels a need to bully a child? This isn’t ‘boys will be boys,’ it’s ‘this man is a complete AH.'”

“OP, it’s great you stood up for the sake of the nephew. He’ll remember that, I’m sure. He’ll know at least one adult recognizes he’s being mistreated.”PurpleMP

“The family culture sounds diseased. Based on their reactions and attitude towards you, it seems unlikely you’ll have any luck bringing them around.”

“But even having 1 adult he knows is in his corner can make a big difference to a bullied kid. Feeling safe, if only when you’re within earshot will make a difference.”sepher32

“People with disfigurements, disabilities, and physical differences are one of the biggest, if not THE biggest, minority group that faces bullying. It’s horrendous. The amount of hate I’ve seen online for people purely because they look a bit different is so huge, I sometimes have to turn my phone off because it breaks my faith in humanity.”

“If you go on TikTok and look at accounts of individuals with a physical difference, it’s mostly hatred and ignorance. YouTube videos are often the same. It’s soul-crushing.”

“What is also important to note is the people who face all this bullying, especially younger people, are likely depressed and quite a few are suicidal. A lot of them take their lives because they can’t imagine having a life that isn’t full of misery and loneliness because people like your stepson bully them and tell them they’ll never have anyone love them.”

“What you did today might have put your stepson’s cousin onto a different path, a path where he doesn’t consider taking his life. It’s beyond disgusting that this has been allowed to continue up until now and that you are the only one who has had any sense to call it out. NTA.”Bunny_Hunny4

“One of the common themes I’ve seen on this sub is the struggle between ‘Should I have been a good person’ vs. ‘Should I have been a good family member/spouse/friend.'”

“There’s a place for both. But to me, a good person makes a better family member/spouse/friend. A good family member may not.”

“You called out an injustice, family ‘loyalty’ be d**ned. Be proud of this. Not only are you NTA, but you’re also a legit good person.”fartron3000

The OP was overwhelmed with the amount of criticism he received for trying to teach his stepson something about bullying, but the subReddit believed he did the right thing. The frequency at which the stepson bullied his cousin was alarming, and if he hopes to be successful in his future work or college career, this is really something he needs to learn now, if not long ago.

Written by McKenzie Lynn Tozan

McKenzie Lynn Tozan lives in North Chicago, where she works as a poet, freelance writer, and editor. She received her MFA in Creative Writing from Western Michigan University, and her BA in English from Indiana University South Bend. Her poems have appeared in Rogue Agent, Whale Road Review, the James Franco Review, Thank You for Swallowing, and elsewhere; and her essays and book reviews have appeared with Memoir Mixtapes, The Rumpus, BookPage, and Motherly, among others. When she's not reading and writing, she's in her garden or spending time with her family. For more, visit www.mckenzielynntozan.com.