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Redditor Called Out For Letting Toddler Niece Tie Her Shoes By Herself Instead Of Helping Right Away

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The conversation of whether or not to let kids teach things to themselves, or else to jump in and help them straight away, is an ongoing one.  Some people truly believe that children are helpless, which is not true: they are learning.

Redditor ArtisticCharacter1 was annoyed, therefore, when her brother got under her skin about an interaction with her niece that involved the 3 year old trying to tie her laces by herself.  After thinking it over, she decided to get a second opinion.

She turned to the popular subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” for feedback from objective strangers.

“AITA for not helping my 3 year old niece put her shoes on?”

Our original poster, or OP, talked about the scenario that got her thinking.

“My brother stopped by with his kids and hours later as they were leaving my niece was having trouble putting on her shoes.”

“I was watching her and then my brother all annoyed says ‘uh are you gonna help her?'”

“And I said no because I like to wait a minute to see if they can figure it out, and reminded him that I used to work at a preschool with 3-5 year olds and it’s important that they at least try the task, and if they can’t, help them.”

“As I was explaining this, my niece got her shoes on. He told me it’s different when you’re a parent. I’m not a parent, but I’ve worked with kids her age for a long time.”

His answer was blunt, and frankly, unwelcome.

“He told me that was stupid and I should have just helped her. 😳 I was shooketh because he always tells me NOT to have kids and he loves them but it’s a lot of work.”

“I know it’s different having a classroom of kids for 6-8 hours vs. 24 hours a day but that wasn’t nice. It was like he thought I was stupid or something and I was just trying to help. 🥺”

“I’m thinking he said that bc it was taking too long and he was tired but it’s bothering me. Like let the kid figure it out and intervene if you have to. What do you think?”

Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:

  • NTA – Not The A**hole
  • YTA – You’re The A**hole
  • ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
  • NAH – No A**holes Here

People were a little stunned that OP even let this get to her.

“I mean the kid got her shoes on by herself so I’d say you were correct.”

“Your brother was just being impatient and decided to lash out at you because it stung when you were proven right about something. NTA”-Libba_Loo

“NTA. It’s his child. If he wants his child to have help in a very particular way, he can provide the help himself. He says it is different when you’re the parent? Then as a parent, he can do it differently.”

“A three year old is at the age where figuring out how to put shoes on is interesting.”

“Doing it now for her, when she’s actually trying on her own, is just going to mean missing the learning opportunity. It would be different if the child wasn’t trying.”-Jazzlike_Humor3340

“NTA. Your brother is probably used to helping her to get things moving and get all the kids out the door (totally fair), but if your niece was working through it on her own and was able to do it by herself without asking for help, that’s amazing!”

“I get where he was coming from, but I think you did the right thing and what was better for your niece in the long run.”

“Praising her after she it successfully puts her shoes on on her own can also be a great motivator for to do it by herself again next time, and for her to feel confident and like she is working towards ‘mastering’ the skill.”

“If she had asked for help, that would’ve been different and it would’ve been good to step in.”

“But letting her do it by herself can be great to increase her confidence and in the long run, will actually speed things up because once she gets more comfortable with it she will be able to do it quickly and all by herself and your bro can focus on the other kids shoes.”-jmaeww

“NTA. I do the same thing with my 3 year old. They love to be independent and put things on themselves.”

“When they need help, the majority of the time they’ll ask. He also could have just helped his daughter instead of calling you names if he really did care”-gsb65

And all were telling her that her brother was entitled to his thoughts on which was most efficient, but not which was “right.”

“NTA. You are right and your brother must have been impatient. At least I hope he doesn’t bulldoze his kids like this all the time.”

“They need the space and time to practice and figure things out for themselves. And she did it, right? You may not have children of your own but your instincts are dead on.”

“I didn’t help when my son asked a question immediately either. I would encourage him to try to figure it out himself.”

“And I would praise the heck out of him when he guessed correctly. It builds self-esteem. I stepped in before he got frustrated with something though.”-77Megg77

“NTA He was rude. Telling you something that you learned as a frickin teacher was stupid. And it really is not. I have a just turned two year old. I let her try pretty much everything by herself.”

“If she doesn’t have it after an appropriate amount of time I ask her if she wants help. Sometimes she will ask for help, sometimes she says she is doing it by herself.”

“She can put her own shoes on (can do the velcro but not tie, obviously), her own pants, she has gotten the shirt a few times, zips herself (after me starting it), and undresses herself.”

“She would not be able to do any of that if I constantly did it for her.”-Double-dutcher

“NTA – I’ve worked in education for a long time (and special Ed for 8 years) and often have to remind myself (including with small family members) to give them time instead of just jumping in to do it for them.”

“If you do everything for them it just promotes learned helplessness. You weren’t going to let her wait forever, but we’re letting her try on her own.”-Zappagrrl02

“NTA. My parents always rushed to help my sister and it wasn’t until she was nearly in middle school that she finally stopped relying on my parents to put her shoes on her.”

“Then it took her till she was in high school to learn how to tie her shoes. If you baby kids and always rush to do things for them, it becomes harder for them to finally do them on their own.”

“You were watching, you could offer verbal guidance, and if she still couldn’t do it, you’d’ve helped.”

“She wasn’t having a breakdown it was just taking her a minute to figure it out. Your brother overreacted.”-JinxTheEdgyB

And finally, some reminded her that there is a reason that teachers teach and parents…don’t.

“NTA for not helping because you’re exactly right. The only reason to help a 3yo is if you’re in a hurry or they’re asking for help.”

“More importantly why was your brother not helping? He starts this whole stupid argument because… what?”

“He thinks women need to be the ones doing this kind of task? It was his daughter. He wanted an adult to help her get her shoes on, he’s literally right there.”-Engineer-Huge

“From the title, I was thinking Y T A because it sounded like you were just unwilling to help a 3 year old who actually could not get her shoes on herself and needed a hand. But, nope.”

“NTA. You are correct. Stepping in to do age appropriate things for kids before they even have a chance to try for themselves does more harm than good. She needs to try to do things. It’s an important part of child development. They need to try. They need to fail.”

“Then they need to try again. A kid that age shouldn’t be forced to keep trying indefinitely without help if they aren’t getting it figured out, but the figuring it out part is critically important. Then step in and help when it’s actually needed.”

“You have to let kids fail, it’s part of learning to succeed. And, if you don’t let them try, you’ll never know what they can do.”

“This is something parents often struggle with. They’re so used to just doing things like shoes themselves that they don’t realize that their toddlers are ready to do it themselves, so they don’t give them the chance.”

“Preschools, on the other hand have a bunch of kids so the kids have more opportunity to try several times before giving up because the teacher can’t put a dozen pairs of shoes on all at once.”

“Parents who spy on their kids in preschool from a distance are often surprised by how many things they are actually very capable of doing simply because the teachers give them the opportunity to try.”-7thatsanope

“NTA. You were right, at age 2 I started letting my kids attempt things like putting their shoes on and only helping when they ask.”

“It helps them learn to do stuff themselves and gives them a bit of confidence in their own abilities. Also why didn’t dad help her if he wanted her to have help? It’s his job as her parent, not yours.”-Chaos-Goddess

“NTA. Kids don’t need every little thing done for them. They need to try things on their own first. If it’s obvious they’re really trying and can’t do it or they specifically ask for help then step in.”

“But just stepping in because they’re going slower that what is wanted is wholly unnecessary. He could have done it if he was in such a hurry.”-AlwaysLivMoore

Ultimately, Redditors essentially told OP’s brother to either mind his own business or jump in and actually help, as he was the child’s actual parent—and that’s what he was criticizing OP for.

As for OP, hopefully she’s somewhere relaxing, knowing that she took a perfectly valid approach to her niece’s shoe dilemma.

Written by Mike Walsh

Mike is a writer, dancer, actor, and singer who recently graduated with his MFA from Columbia University. Mike's daily ambitions are to meet new dogs and make new puns on a daily basis. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @mikerowavables.