Commenters were quick to defend a mother after she revealed that she called out her 16-year-old son for bullying and told him that she “doesn’t like him very much right now.”
The anonymous woman, known only as u/crustydustyjane, posted to Reddit’s popular “Am I The A**hole” forum where it received more than 11,000 upvotes and 1,550 in only 15 hours, many from users supporting her decision to call out her son’s behavior.
In the post titled “AITA for telling my son I don’t like him?” the woman explained that she has three sons, a 21-year-old, 19-year-old, and 16-year-old.
“I love my sons more than anything, I have 3, they were all raised to respect everyone regardless of their differences,” the post read.
The woman said her two older sons are great about respecting others, but that she was recently told that her youngest is bullying a gay student in his class.
She said she gave her son the chance to invite the student over for dinner to apologize but that he “refused” and said he would not say sorry.
“I wasn’t happy with his treatment,” the mother wrote. “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 woman said she contacted the student’s family to let them know what was happening and they agreed to meet up for dinner to give her son a chance to apologize.
“He got extremely upset/angry, maybe both and said that nobody even liked the ‘f word,'” the woman wrote. “Of course I apologized and the family left.”
The woman said she got into a “big argument” with her son after the family left. Her son said he was not sorry and that “nobody likes this kid.”
“I told him that I don’t like him very much right now either,” the post read. “He got quiet, apologized and went to his room.”
The mother was told her son eventually did apologize for bullying the student and she ungrounded him but said her son is still “hiding in his room” and that they “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 behaviour [sic] is the reason we’re not together, because I can’t help but be a miserable AH,” the post concluded. “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. AITA?”
Megan Devine—an author and psychotherapist—wrote in an article for Empowering Parents that parents cannot make a child have a better attitude. Instead, it is important for a parent to focus on the teen’s behaviors rather than attitudes.
“There’s a pay-out for focusing on your kid’s behavior and not his attitude: you’ll be teaching them one of the greatest lessons of all—how to be accountable in the real world,” Devine wrote.
As children and teenagers shift the focus on their behaviors, their attitudes tend to naturally shift as well, Devine wrote.
While many parents prefer sitting back and watching their children learn, some parents prefer the “tough love” approach. While each approach has its positives, Devine said it is important not to try to change a child’s attitude.
“Teens will naturally have an apathetic or dismissive attitude about anything other than what immediately interests them,” Devine wrote. “And when you focus on trying to change your child’s attitude, you’re setting yourself up for frustration.”
More than 1,500 users flocked to the comments section, many in support of the mother for calling out her son’s behavior.
“NTA. This sort of behavior has to be stopped, and it seems you’ve managed to effectively stop it,” one user commented. “You told him that you didn’t like him ‘right now,’ well, at that time he was acting in a very unlikeable manner.”
The user also suggested that the woman give her son some space and that if she lets him be, he will talk to her when he is ready.
“Thank you for trying to bring your children up in a respectful way, but they will decide on their own what they believe,” another user commented. “I hope your 16yo realises [sic] that they can believe what they wish, but speaking ill of others is what crosses the line.”
Other users pointed out that the woman never said she didn’t like her son, she said she didn’t like him “right now.”
“That means you didn’t like how he was acting, not that you didn’t like him as a person in general,” one commenter mentioned. “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.”
“You can absolutely love someone and not like them much at the same time,” another user wrote.
Newsweek reached out to u/crustydustyjane for comment.