Raising children is full of challenges. It’s hard work bringing up decent, balanced people. One of the most vital lessons is how to treat other people. One man wants to know, is he wrong for punishing his son for a prank?
The OP first explains that he has three children. The oldest is away at university, and the other two children are a sixteen-year-old boy and an eleven-year-old girl.
The OP expresses his pride in his children, saying they “have been raised well” and that “they’ve grown to be people I’m proud to call my own.”
When the OP overhears a conversation between his son and some of his friends while they visit, he finds that his son may fall short in his treatment of others. The OP shares, “I went upstairs at one point to bring them the pizza they had ordered when I overheard my son talking about how his friends owed him something for asking a girl in their class out as a prank, from what I gathered the girl was someone his friends didn’t deem attractive enough.”
Hearing this reminds the OP of a similar situation and its impact on a family member. The OP says, “The same thing happened to my cousin when we were younger, and I saw how the whole thing affected her as she took on new relationships.”
Not wanting to embarrass his son by scolding him while his friends are there, the OP waits until they have gone home to address the issue. The OP shares his cousin’s experience with his son to show how such a prank isn’t kind. “I did raise my voice a little, but that was due to how maddening the whole situation was,” the OP adds.
The OP’s son doesn’t quite relent, arguing that a prank is harmless and taking issue with how his dad had listened to a private conversation.
The OP is not satisfied with his son’s response and grounds him, hoping the punishment may get across what the conversation hasn’t. The OP says, “I didn’t listen to any other excuse he gave and decided to ground him for two weeks.”
Unhappy with this turn of events, the OP’s son argues again. The OP shares, “He said I shouldn’t have any say when the whole thing had nothing to do with me.” And his son isn’t alone in disagreeing with the punishment. The OP continues, “My wife claims that “boys will be boys” and that it’s something harmless.”
Additionally, the OP’s mother and father-in-law find the reaction too harsh. The OP says they “are blowing up the family group chat about how I’m hurting their baby for normal teenage boy behavior.”
With all the opposition from the family, the OP is still determining if his punishment was misplaced. The OP says, “If I am being too nosy about an act that has nothing to do with me, I will take back my son’s grounding.”
The Internet Weighs in
The response was mainly in OP’s favor, with the verdict ultimately coming to NTA (not the a**hole.) One person says, “NTA. This is the appropriate response to finding out your son might do something cruel to a classmate.” Similarly, another commenter adds, “NTA. You should never apologize or regret doing what is necessary to teach him to be a man.”
Others responded with their own experiences of being pranked, sharing how not all jokes are harmless. “As someone who was asked out as a prank and still has scars from it over twenty years later, NTA. This is not a harmless joke, and I guarantee the girl that he was talking about won’t find it funny,” says one user.
Another person adds, “The same happened to me in ninth grade. It took me a very long time to trust again, and it damaged my self-confidence for even longer. This isn’t a harmless prank, and it does hurt people.”
One commenter adds, “I think you handled this appropriately, from waiting to speak to him (not embarrassing him in front of friends) to a fair and appropriate punishment. ‘Boys will be boys’ can still hold true, but not at the expense of a poor girl’s feelings.”
Not everyone is entirely on the OP’s side. One person defends the son and his privacy, saying, “You totally overstepped by listening in to your child’s personal chat with his mates, especially as they were in his private space.”
Another user considers the incident an innocent mistake, saying, “There’s definitely a possibility that the son didn’t realize how hurtful it could be.”
What do you think? Was the OP overreacting by punishing his son, or was the prank harmful? Should the OP un-ground him?
This article was inspired by this thread and does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Cents + Purpose.