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'AITA for refusing to ground my son after he pushed his cousin into a pool?' 'Mike came to us crying.'

'AITA for refusing to ground my son after he pushed his cousin into a pool?' 'Mike came to us crying.'

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"AITA for refusing to ground my son after he pushed his cousin into a pool?"

My brother recently turned 45. He threw a birthday barbecue at his beach house, which I attended with my wife and our kids, Sam (8M) and Emily (5F). We live pretty far away, so we stayed at the house for four days.

Less than a week before the party, we found out Emily had an ear infection. Her pediatrician told us she'd have to avoid getting her ears wet. The only reason we still went to the party was because the kids were still excited about it. We told Emily that she could still go in the water, but not dive.

Also in attendance were my cousin Greg, his wife Julie and his kids Mike (7M) and Chloe (17F). They live in a different state, and were also staying at my brother's house. I hadn't seen them since Mike was a toddler, but it quickly became clear that he had no intention of getting along with my kids.

For whatever reason, Mike decided Emily was faking her ear infection, and started misbehaving over it. During the first two days of our visit, he tried throwing sand at her, hiding her toys and, on one occasion, stealing her medicine.

Whenever me or my wife tried to berate him, Julie would claim he was "just having fun" and we had no right to scream at her son. She'd say he wouldn't do it again, and that should be enough.

During the actual party, the kids were playing in the pool (Chloe was watching them) while we were eating. Some time later, Emily and Mike came to us crying. Both were completely wet. Mike told us that Sam had pushed him into the pool.

We got the full story from Chloe. She was playing with Emily on the shallow-ish end (chest-level from Emily's perspective). When she left the pool to get a glass of water, Mike showed up and pushed Emily's head underwater. Chloe ran back, but Sam pushed Mike into the pool before she got there. Mike wasn't hurt.

My wife and I gave Sam the "violence isn't the answer" talk, but we didn't punish him any further. He was protecting his sister. Julie and Greg wanted us to ground him, as he had gotten physical with a younger child. They insisted that Mike's actions were innocent, and he didn't deserve to be "attacked" over them.

They told us to either ground Sam, take away his electronics (he doesn't have any) or forbid him from going to the pool. We refused to do any of these things. We returned home a couple weeks ago, and they're still messaging us calling us bad parents.

They've gotten some of our family members on their side. I don't usually care about these things, but I'm not used to my family calling me entitled, so I'm wondering whether I'm in the wrong here. AITA?

Here's what top commenters had to say about this one:

LeaJadis said:

NTA. you should respond with “yes, we should punish both of our sons for being too physically aggressive with younger kids. How are you planning to punish Mike?”

GodsGirl64 said:

NTA - They are raising a budding psychopath and crabbing at you for interfering with it. Personally I would let everyone know that he repeatedly attacked your sick daughter and stole her medicine and her parents laughed and said it was all in fun.

He got physical with a younger child first and they did nothing. Then they blew up when your son defended his sister. Anyone who still takes their side then needs to be cut off with a stern warning to NOT come whining to you when Mike gets to them or their family with his bad behavior.

Careless_Welder_4048 said:

NTA. Congrats to you and your wife for raising a brother to take care of his sister. Plus he’s only 1 year older than the other kid.

Canadianafella said:

NTA Your son's response was instinctual protection of his sister, not an act of aggression. Your cousin's refusal to acknowledge their child's harmful actions and insistence on punishing yours is unfair and unreasonable.

Otherwise_Degree_729 said:

NTA. Violence is not the answer. That said you should’ve held Mikes parents heads underwater, innocently, to see how it feels. Buy Sam ice cream or a new video game. Maybe sometimes violence is the answer.

Somber_Rainn said:

NTA your kid wasn’t doing it to be malicious and you already spoke to them about how it wasn’t the right thing to do. The rest of this sounds like them projecting their bad parenting on to you, it certainly wasn’t that deep for them to message after it was over.

By them insisting you punish your kid, it focuses the blame onto Sam and i’m sure it makes them feel like they don’t have to properly parent/punish Mike, which they clearly haven’t.

lexisplays said:

ESH. Honestly you should have left early due to Mike and 100% his mother is at fault. And frankly it's startling how dangerous it was. However people have died and been paralyzed from being pushed into pools. It's very very serious and I think while a massive grounding isn't appropriate, you definitely did not do enough.

And unfortunately you are the one asking and you can only control your own actions. You need to ask, was Mike's behavior worth an accidental death? Because that very easily could have been the outcome. Flipside, Mike could have accidentally killed your daughter. You are going to want space for awhile until his mother realizes the gravity of the situation.

MyChoiceNotYours said:

NTA. Mike is being enabled by his parents to be a bully and later on an abuser. He physically attacked a child who is younger than him and also a female and thinks it's ok. Your son however knows it's not ok and that he's the big brother and needs to look out for his little sister.

The only bad parents here is your cousin and his wife. Should your son have reacted with aggression probably not but some bullies don't get them message any other way. Mike now knows your daughter has a brother who will protect her until she can protect herself.

DawnShakhar said:

NTA. Their son compromised your daughter's health, and nobody talked about punishing him. Your son defended his sister, and the family is badgering you to punish him severely. Golden cousin, anybody? Tell them that if your son should be punished, Mike should be grounded for a year.

However, since Mike's parents are enabling him and not setting boundaries, they will not be meeting you or your kids in the future. And stick to it. You will get some garbage about "family is family," but you don't need this enabled spoiled brat near your kids.

LoSboccacc said:

NTA but still. Protect your children. It's up to you to remove the family from such situations once it was clear the kid was getting teased with no end in sight, it was the moment to excuse yourself to your brother, explain the situation, and leave.

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