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Dad Shamed By Husband For Punishing Their Young Son For Lying About Brushing His Teeth

A father and son both brushing their teeth.
Cavan Images/Getty Images

All parents have had to resort to punishing their children at one point or another, telling them they can’t watch TV or play with their friends for a certain period of time.

Most of the time, however, this is done as a last resort or under extreme circumstances, after their child has disobeyed them too frequently or did something that was truly unacceptable where a simple scolding wouldn’t suffice.

Of course, parents often don’t agree on what merits a punishment and what doesn’t.

Some parents think enacting punishments for certain behaviors will end up being counterproductive.

Redditor No_Honeydew_4980 was growing increasingly frustrated by his 9-year-old disobeying his orders and lying to him.

Having finally reached a tipping point, the original poster (OP) felt he had no choice but to punish his son.

To the OP’s surprise, however, his partner did not agree with his course of action.

Having some doubts about his decision, the OP took to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole” (AITA), where he asked fellow Redditors:

“AITA for grounding my son over his nonsense?”

The OP explained why he felt the need to punish his son and why his partner felt he went too far:

“My 9-year-old (yo) son Ashton has a bit of a mouth on him.”

“I get it.”

“He’s a 9yo boy testing limits.”

“But I have my limits too.”

“He’s been pulling the typical boy pretends-to-shower-and-brush-his-teeth act lately.”

“At first I tried humoring it by jokingly telling him that I know he didn’t shower or brush his teeth because I can still smell his hair from the other room.”

“Then he’ll ask if he can take a bath, and I’ll say no.”

“Shower, but I’ll help you.”

“Eventually, he started doing it by himself, then stopped.”

“Now he just flat-out lies.”

“Last night, I asked him if he brushed his teeth.”

“I knew he didn’t because his toothbrush was dry.”

“He said yes.”

“I said then why is your toothbrush dry.”

“He said he meant yesterday.”

“So I said ok, no video games or VR all week for lying to your dad.”

“He cried and was pretty upset.”

“Now his other dad thinks I’m making a mountain out of a molehill and to just let him go to school dirty and get bullied so he’ll want to shower.”


Fellow Redditors weighed in on where they believed the OP fell in this particular situation by declaring:

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

The Reddit community was somewhat divided on whether or not they felt the OP was the a**hole for punishing his son for lying about brushing his teeth.

Some felt that the OP was justified in punishing his son, as his son needed to learn not to lie to him, even if a few felt his choice of punishment went a bit too far given the circumstances, but found the other Dad’s willingness to let their son be bullied utterly shocking.


“The other dad is an AH.”

“Bullying to help him?”


“And is there a problem with a bath and then shower for his hair?”- AlexMango44

“Mostly NTA.”

“First off, don’t listen at all to the dad who wants his child to be bullied.”

“Absolute bullsh*t.”

“A week is a bit long for one lie.”

“I understand you’re sick of dealing with it, but at his age, carrots tend to work better than sticks.”

“What if, every time he’s brushed and showered, he gets to stay up 15 minutes later and play a game with you?”

“OR, each night he’s brushed and showered by a certain time, he earns a ticket or a point toward a toy or video game he really wants.”- ___coolcoolcool

“The fact that he’s suggesting a bath instead may indicate another reason he doesn’t want to use the shower.”

“As a kid I had an avoidance to it.”

“Not because I was just trying to get out of it and be lazy, but because I had sensory issues, and the noise of the shower made my anxiety spike.”

“If you’re worried about the water being dirty, then a bath as normal, standing and then rinsing quickly with water from the taps will eliminate that issue.”

“The bath could be a good alternative, maybe introducing a week where he has to use the shower instead as a way of slowly acclimating?”

“If you haven’t already, just sit down and talk to him, see if there is a reason why he’s avoiding it.”

“Sometimes it is a phase and other times there’s a reason for it, especially if he was accepting it with help and then briefly did it himself as well before stopping.”

“Letting him go dirty and knowing he’d potentially get bullied for it is not the way to go, and there’s no guarantee that will resolve this and suddenly make him want to shower.”

“Maybe it would, but it doesn’t mean the teasing would stop either.”

“Just sounds like more understanding is needed.”

“NTA/Very nearly TA.”- mochidoo

Others, however, felt the OP was the a**hole for jumping to punishment as quickly as he did, feeling he should have taken a more compassionate route to figure out why his son was so resistant to showering and brushing his teeth, with others pointing out that his son won’t learn any kind of lesson from this punishment:

“YTA and a bad parent based on your comments.”

“Do some research on what actually works for kids instead of reacting to your emotions about his (completely age appropriate) behavior.”- ExistentialApath

“You’re kind of TA.”

“He’s doing a typical kid thing.”

“Hell, I don’t always want to shower.”

“It’s an un-fun task.”

“Empathize with him.”

“This can be a learning experience about how we sometimes have to do things we don’t want to do.”

“You’re raising an adult, not a child, with the goal to be obedient for obedience’s sake simply.”

“Of course he lied to you, he doesn’t want to shower.”

“The punishment you gave him seems random and excessive.”

“He literally has no incentive now to shower because you’ve already taken a whole week away.”

“What is he really learning from this?”

“Essentially, he’s learning how to lie better and how to resent you.”

“If you have to, tell him he can’t game until he showers.”

“He’s earning the fun things, not just being punished for not doing things.”- spears515034


“I’m not sure why you don’t think a bath is better than not washing at all, but this is a weird hill to die on.”

“Kids respond better to positive reinforcement.”

“Try encouraging him with a reward chart – he gets a star for every day he bathes and brushes his teeth, redeemable for a new video game.”

“Or something similar.”

“Make him want to do it.”

“Don’t make hygiene a punishment.”- voxetpraetereanihill

“YTA for not being more flexible about it.”

“Let the kid take a bath, or throw some dry-erase markers, or tell him he can sit in the shower with a little tub with some toys to play with after he uses soap and shampoo, or buy him some of the soap that comes with a toy or money inside.”

“It’s important that he is clean, but a bath would be fine to get him clean (unless he’s especially muddy, then should rinse off first).

“I always hated showers as a kid but loved baths – still do as an adult and found out it’s largely due to a medical issue involving low blood pressure, rapid heart rate, and dizziness which is a lot worse when standing or in heat, but as I kid the way I expressed that was just ‘I don’t like showers.'”-TimeRabbit2966

Others had trouble sympathizing with the OP, his partner, or their son, finding all of their behavior unacceptable:


“Your son has an excuse that he’s a kid and still learning how to be human, and he needs good role models.”

“Neither you nor his other father are hitting that mark.”

“Now, the question is, why is he lying?”

“Is it really because he hates to bathe, or is there some other underlying issue that neither of his dads is picking up on because one is too hyper-focused on the hygiene issue and the other is so lax he doesn’t even think there’s an issue to be discussed.”

“As an aside, my brother and I both had a ‘lying about brushing teeth’ period.”

“He did it because he hated standing in one place for more than two minutes because he was hyperactive as a kid and it was just a phase.”

“In my case, it’s a matter of executive dysfunction traceable to either autism or ADHD that I still struggle with decades later.”

“If you’re lucky, it’s just a phase.”

“But if there’s another root cause, it’s best to figure out what that is early rather than leave him unheard and undiagnosed.”- IAndaraB

There is no question about it: the OP’s son needs to shower and brush his teeth.

However, taking things away from him until he does might not be the best way of getting him to do it, and allowing him to be bullied at school would be the absolutely wrong thing to do.

Hopefully, both fathers can work on improving their communication skills, and they’ll eventually find a mutually pleasurable way to instill the importance of personal hygiene in their son.

Namely, losing video games is one of the most inconsequential things that might happen to you if you do not brush your teeth.

Written by John Curtis

A novelist, picture book writer and native New Yorker, John is a graduate of Syracuse University and the children's media graduate program at Centennial College. When not staring at his computer monitor, you'll most likely find John sipping tea watching British comedies, or in the kitchen, taking a stab at the technical challenge on the most recent episode of 'The Great British Baking Show'.