When a mother discovered her teenage daughter was a bully, she had a heated discussion that led to an emotional breakthrough after sharing her history as a victim of bullying.
But while mother and daughter deepened their bond, Redditor "throwawayAITABully" found that she was at odds with her husband, who disapproved of the way she handled the situation.
After he accused his wife of "traumatizing" their daughter for life, the OP asked AITA (Am I the A**hole) for how she spoke to their teenage girl.
"So I (34F) have been married to John (36M) for about 12 years, and I have never seen him flip out about this like something before."
"We have a daughter - Fiona (14F) and a son, Will (10M)."
"During lockdown, John has been working 12 hour shifts as an essential worker. A few days ago, I got a message from one of the girls at Fiona's schools mother."
"She let me know about her daughter being bullied by Fiona and her group of friends and sent screenshots of what they've been doing to her."
The OP said she was "devastated, to say the least."
"I was bullied relentlessly as a teenager and Fiona and I are very close, so it just came as a huge surprise."
With her husband already gone for work, the OP tackled the issue alone.
"I messaged the mum back apologising, thanking her for telling me and saying I'd speak to Fiona. This was not long after John had left for work so I decided to tackle it immediately rather than wait until when he got home."
"I called Fiona in, showed her the message and screenshots and she went instantly on the defensive, complaining that they didn't want to be friends with her and that she was weird and deserved it."
When the OP unsuccessfully got through to her daughter, she brought up her past as a victim.
"She kept shrugging it off, so I decided a different approach. I told Fiona about how the bullying I experienced when I was younger affected me."
"How it pushed me to some horrible places and to do some terrible things, and the depression I lived with for a very long time."
"After I'd finished talking, Fiona said to me 'whatever' and stomped off, but then a couple of hours later she came back to me sobbing and apologising."
The revelation allowed for a deeper and emotional conversation.
"We talked some more, she let me know how she'd also been struggling with mental health and didn't know how to handle it. After a couple of hours, we had both cried a lot, but I let her know she was still going to be punished - which she understood and accepted."
But the OP did not expect her husband's reaction to the way she handled the delicate situation.
"When my husband got home that night, I filled him in on everything that had happened and he absolutely lost it at me out of nowhere."
"He couldn't believe that he shared that i had shared my struggles to Fiona and that I had tried to manipulate her by using my feelings into controlling her."
"He told me that I should have just punished her and told the school and let them handle it, and that she was just a kid and didn't need to be guilt tripped."
The husband accused her of "traumatizing" their daughter.
"Before I could get a word in otherwise, he stomped out to the living room, where he has been staying in for the past 3 days."
"Fiona and I have been really connecting since our talk, but John still is not speaking to me - except for in front of the kids. I genuinely don't feel like I did anything wrong, it's not like Fiona doesn't understand mental health."
"But Johns reaction makes me feel like maybe I've been a huge a**hole, and I could have somehow damaged my daughter forever."
In an update, the OP said:
"I plan to sit John down tomorrow, show him your comments and discuss what made him react this way. Hopefully I'll have a good update within the next couple of days."
Anonymous strangers on the internet were asked if and where guilt belongs by declaring:
- NTA - Not The A**hole
- YTA - You're The A**hole
- ESH - Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH - No A**holes Here
"NTA. This was handled so well. Idk what your husband is experiencing right now but I definitely think he needs to talk through some things because that reaction doesn't seem healthy." – ABalmyBlackBitch
"Let's be clear. What OP did was NOT emotional manipulation. It's called "teaching your child empathy." Sounds like her husband may need a lesson too." – dkades
People tried to get in the husband's head to make sense of his rationale.
"My guess is that he still sees Fiona as a child whereas OP is connecting with her as a real person."
"I think this is what distinguishes really good parents, the ability to see your child as an individual treat them as such as they get older."
"Dad wants to continue to see her as just his little girl. Actually acknowledging that she has complicated thoughts and feelings and letting yourself connect with her over those like OP has done might seem inappropriate."
"Like having the conversation with a 4 year old. Issue is, Fiona isn't a 4 year old now, which luckily OP gets. I think it's so amazing OP was able to open up and allow herself to be vulnerable to her daughter, not a lot of parents (obviously) can do that." – acyland
This Redditor praised the OP and had questions worth exploring.
"NTA. Holy hell it was handled beautifully!! If talking on past experiences traumatized children, I'd be in a straightjacket or something."
"Whenever my Dad and I have a 'talk' he always brings it back around to himself and his abusive father and how he lived through this and that and I have it easy in comparison."
"Most of the times these stories aren't needed, the odd time they are though and I can take something away from them."
"In OP's case the story was certainly needed and her daughter very clearly had it hit home and resonate with her and it has brought them closer. Kudos to OP, John needs to get over himself."
"Makes me wonder though...maybe he reacted that way because he had a similar phase in life? Or is in denial about his daughter's actions/the severity of them?" – AnimalCartoons
"NTA. You helped your daughter understand the issue from the other side, and she responded to your honesty by opening up in return."
"Did your husband's parents guilt trip him when he was a kid? I wonder why this, in particular, has become the focal point for his pandemic stress." – vortex_time
The use of the word "guilt" was further examined.
"Him using the phrase guilt trip is interesting. So he was happy to punish the daughter as long as she didn't feel guilty?"
"Surely being made to feel guilty about bullying people is a good thing. Its a way of honing your empathy a bit."
"Wheras just taking away the phone for a week etc might just send her down the 'God my parents are so unfair' route."
"Actually thinking and examining her actions is the way to go." – Hrududu147
"Exactly, guilt is not always a negative emotion."
"Guilt is what tells us that we have done something to hurt or upset someone else."
"Guilt is what pushes us to try and make amends and apologise. Like all emotions guilt can become negative but it is not automatically." – Asayyadina
Hopefully, the OP and her husband will resolve their conflicting parental techniques.