As a general rule of thumb, jokes are only funny if everyone involved is laughing.
By a similar measure, a prank is only okay if the recipient is able to laugh about what happened after the fact, pointed out the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor PearlDawson was furious when their 10-year-old daughter cut all of her six-year-old sister’s hair off while she was sleeping as a prank.
When they were told her punishment may have been too harsh, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they had done the right thing.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for making my daughter cut her own hair off?”
The OP’s daughter was very interested in pranks.
“I have two daughters, Essie Mae (6) and Dolly (10).”
“Dolly has become really interested in pulling jokes on people. For the most part, this has been a non-issue.”
“We had the whole, ‘it’s only okay if it makes EVERYONE laugh, not just you’ talk, and her jokes were innocent enough (ex: switching out her and her sister’s identical pair of boots to make Essie Mae think her shoes grew overnight).”
But then she took the pranking too far.
“That is, until Dolly hacked off a huge hunk of Essie Mae’s (mid-back length) hair while she was sleeping, right at the scalp.”
“Dolly showed no remorse for this.”
“I’m a hairdresser and tried everything I could to see if I could camouflage the bald spot, but it was such a big patch that we had no choice but to buzz the rest of Essie Mae’s hair off.”
“Essie Mae reasonably was distraught and sobbed for days and refused to leave the house.”
The OP knew the punishment had to make a statement.
“My husband and I agreed that Dolly knew exactly what she was doing and did it specifically to be cruel to Essie Mae.”
“We told Dolly that since she took so much away from Essie Mae, it was only fair she had something of equal value taken away.”
“We told her that she could choose to either have her iPad, computer, T.V., and American Girl Doll privileges taken away until Essie Mae’s hair grew to around pixie cut length or she could get a large portion of her hair (which was past her butt) cut off.”
“Dolly reluctantly chose to cut her hair.”
They followed through with the punishment.
“I sat her down in front of the mirror and told her that since she was so okay with cutting her sister’s hair, she’d be the one cutting her hair, too.”
“She started screaming and crying and saying she couldn’t do that to herself.”
“I brought up that the other option for punishment was still available.”
“She bawled her eyes out the entire time while she cut her hair off, and ended up with a chin-length bob. I evened it out for her, of course.”
“She sobbed for hours afterward.”
“A friend told me I may have been too harsh.”
Fellow Redditors weighed in:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some thought the punishment wasn’t severe enough.
“She got to keep her’s at chin-level. Essie Mae didn’t get that option. NTA.” – ParsimoniousSalad
“As someone whose parents did use the threat of cutting my hair as a punishment, I came in here so ready to call OP the a**hole but no, absolutely not.”
“Dolly saw her sister sobbing and thought it was funny. Dolly got a choice, while Essie Mae didn’t. Dolly still has hair to her chin and Essie Mae doesn’t.”
“I don’t think there was much of a point in making her cut the hair herself, but she thought it was funny to see her sister lose her hair, she can learn why it’s not funny now.” – Proper-Wolverine3599
“My mum regularly shaved our heads because she had butt-length hair and we kept bringing home nits. It sucked in a lot of ways, but we were allowed fun temporary dye colors (wash out).”
“So I came here to say the OP was the a**hole too… But after reading about poor Essie Mae, I can’t help but feel OP was too lenient. Should have shaved it all off.” – thegoldilocks_zone
“She got a bob, Essie Mae got nothing. I’m from the school of ‘hair grows back,’ but Dolly needs to be punished more. She was just being cruel.” – SummerH8r
“The last time I cut anyone’s hair I was 5 and it was my 4-year-old brother. Also, it wasn’t malicious, I was genuinely trying to help give him a haircut (luckily I only trimmed the front horribly crooked), I learned my lesson in not attempting to cut someone’s hair though, even if trying to help.”
“By age 10 you absolutely know that cutting someone’s hair, intentionally and badly is wrong. You know it doesn’t grow back right away, you know it is going to upset them and hurt them.”
“She knew it and did it anyway. She also didn’t even have to cut her own hair, she could have accepted a grounding, she chose to cut it. I feel so terrible for Essie Mae. My sister only ever threatened to do to me what happened to her and that was enough.” – scarletnightingale
“The haircut wasn’t even the only punishment!! OP is totally NTA, they gave Dolly multiple options for punishments, and if she had chosen something else I bet OP would have had Dolly partake in that in some way as well to send the point home.”
“Most kids get over the whole ‘cutting hair with scissors’ thing by the time they’re 6 or 7, so having a 10-year-old do this is malicious and she needed to feel the real repercussions of her actions.” – the_trash_princess
“Dolly was totally fine getting her hair cut, but she became very upset and started screaming and sobbing saying she couldn’t do that to herself, so I think there’s a very big point in making her punish herself.” – sequingoddess
“It’s not a punishment if ‘she’s fine with it.’ Punishment is not supposed to be ‘fine’ or ‘ok’, it’s designed to PUNISH.”
“A bit of sobbing isn’t actually going to hurt and any trauma she experiences from this is not a patch on what she’s caused her sister.” – Junglerumble19
“You’re only thinking about one child though.”
“As a lesson for the bully, that is probably enough… and if Essie maybe wasn’t their kid too, maybe that would be understandable?”
“But she is… so how do you think she feels watching the ‘punishment’ her sister gets to be to get a stylish bob (still cut by mom) when she had to go full jarhead?”
“Do you think she’s gonna remember this?”
“What are the kids saying nowadays? A NEW CORE MEMORY!”
“This will shape her life and her relationship with her sister forever…” – No_Molasses88834
“I don’t see how you had to shave your daughter’s head. You could have done a side ponytail or various big bows to hide the bald spot. It would have filled in a bit over time. Shaving it seems unnecessary or even added for drama.”
“I would then make the prankster cut hers to match. This all seems really cruel unusual punishment.”
“If your child is really sneaking into rooms in the middle of the night to play pranks, I really think you need a mental evaluation. Especially if what you said is true she wanted to really hurt someone emotionally and that’s concerning.” – Justtakeit1776
Others offered suggestions for comforting Essie Mae.
“I was thinking maybe some fun wigs would be cool. Like different bright colors. Then she’d have them even once her hair grows out for dress-up/Halloween.” – vilebunny
“I noticed she mentioned American Girls. If Essie Mae is also into them, there is a wig shop on Etsy that sells doll and girl matching wigs. Essie Mae could pick out a look and they could make a doll to resemble her. Might be cute.” – AlcinaMystic
“Are wigs an option for Essie Mae? You said you were a hairdresser though, so I assume you may have already thought of this.” – tbird20017
“If OP can get Amazon delivery in their area, there are a few decent wigs on there for a reasonable price, just have to comb through and look at reviews like anything else.” – actual-alligator
“Boy, were you soft on Dolly. I was expecting Dolly to have to buzz cut her own hair. And you would still have been NTA.”
“This was far less than ‘equal value,’ OP. I hope Essie Mae is getting some special treatment.” – RevKyriel
While the OP felt conflicted after her friend commented on the harshness of her punishment against her 10-year-old, the subReddit agreed with her punishment and more.
No one contested the OP’s decision to have her daughter cut her hair or lose privileges to items in the home, but some encouraged the OP to consider a harsher punishment to reflect Essie Mae’s lack of punishment or therapy for her lack of empathy toward her sister after the prank.