What Happened When I Saw My Kid and His Friend Burning Ants

I yelled at them, but I eventually turned it into an anti-bullying lesson.

Originally Published: 

Welcome to “Why I Yelled,” Fatherly’s ongoing series in which real guys discuss a time they lost their temper in front of their wife, their kids, their coworker — anyone, really — and why. The goal of this isn’t to examine the deeper meaning of screaming or come to any great conclusions. It’s about yelling and what really triggers it. This time Rick, 42, who lives in San Diego, recounts the day he screamed at his son for burning ants and how he turned it into an anti-bullying lesson.

So what set you off?

My kid and his friend were burning ants with a magnifying glass.

Kids still do that?

I guess so. They saw it on TV and decided to give it a try. I didn’t know kids still did that, either. I have no idea where they got a magnifying glass.

How did you find them out?

Well, I saw them outside kneeling down, huddled around something. I’m thinking “dead bird” or “dog poo”. Something like that. I walked out, not wanting them to get all grossed up from whatever was on the ground, and saw what was going on.

Then what happened?

There was an anthill sprouting up from our sidewalk, and they were standing overtop of it with the magnifying glass, shining the sunlight at every ant they could find. The ants would get singed, or start to feel the heat, and start running, and these two knuckleheads thought it was hilarious.

Did you ever burn ants with a magnifying glass when you were a kid?

Honestly, no. I don’t ever remember doing something like that. I knew it was “a thing”, but it seemed so mean and … unnecessary, I guess … that it never appealed to me. I guess that’s why I was so set off.

Are you a big animal lover?

I’m not saying I think ants have feelings and little ant families and stuff like that but, come on, what’s the point of deliberately harming a living thing?

So that’s what made you so angry?

Exactly. The first thing I said was, “What the hell are you doing?!” They stopped and froze, realizing they’d done something wrong. That’s the thing – I genuinely don’t think they saw the harm in their actions. I made them give me the magnifying glass, and sat them down on our front steps.

Here comes the lecture.

Yep. “Why would you guys do that?” I yelled. They sat there, quiet and ashamed. “Ants are living creatures. Why would you try to hurt them for no reason?” They were still quiet, until my son piped up. “We…we saw it on TV…” That was a dumb reason. That is a dumb reason. For anything, really.

Definitely a solid point.

I mean, I love animals. Like I said, I’m not fanatical about it, but something about the situation just didn’t sit right with me. These little maniacs just having a ball, trying to set tiny living things on fire. “That’s wrong!” I told them. “There are hundreds of other things you can do to have fun. Why would you try to hurt something like that?”

How did they react?

They were a little embarrassed, and ashamed. Definitely sorry. I’d calmed down by that point. I just wanted them to see that what they had done was just plain mean. It’s not like they were Jeffery Dahmer, torturing animals. But, I told them they were “bullies”. I think that really sank in, because, for kids today, bullying is basically a mortal sin. You hear it all the time, with these anti-bullying movements and stuff – the last thing a good kid wants to be called is a bully. And the last thing a good parent wants to do is raise one.

This article was originally published on