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Woman Livid After Mother-In-Law Asks Deaf Daughter Not To Sign At Dinner Table Because It’s ‘Distracting’

Juliette F / Unsplash

Communication is vital.

Not just for understanding, but for expressing.

Especially if you communicate in a way that is different then the people around you, it is important that you be given the space to express yourself in whatever way you can.

So, what happens when someone tells you that it’s not appropriate and that you should just be quiet?

That was the issue facing Redittor and Original Poster (OP) Thin_Crab_664 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for some outside opinions.

She asked:

AITA for not talking to my [mother-in-law] after she insisted my daughter not sign at the dinner table?”

OP began with the background.

“I (29 Female) have a daughter (6 F) from a previous relationship, her father has no contact with her and my husband of 2 years (30 Male) is the closed to a father she has ever known.”

“My daughter was born deaf and communicates via [British Sign Language] BSL.”

“I am fluent having learned alongside her and my husband while not fluent is getting there as he wants to be able to communicate with her fully and also help teach any children we have together to communicate with their older sister.”

She then got to the incident itself.

“We went to his parents for an Easter Dinner, his siblings and nieces/nephews were all there and we of course brought my daughter.”

Everything was fine, until…

“All the kids were very happy to get plenty of chocolate and play together.”

“The issue rose however during dinner as my daughter kept putting her fork and knife down to sign with me and my husband to talk.”

It was causing her to eat slower than everyone else and my MIL asked me to tell her to not sign at the dinner table as the food was going to get cold plus it was setting a bad example and distracting for the other kids.”

“I won’t beat around the bush I got angry, I told my MIL that this is how my daughter communicates and I’m not going to make her not sign.”

“I did encourage my daughter to continue eating before her dinner got cold but not to not sign?”

“No…that pisses me off and makes me think of people who have tried to make my daughter play the ‘Quiet hands’ game….aka not sign.”

“I told my MIL the only way she could ask that of my daughter is if she told everyone else not to talk at all.”

“We ended up leaving a little early and my husband while supportive of me has tried to tell me that his Mother didn’t mean any real harm and she doesn’t get why this would be a sensitive topic.”

“I’ve refused to speak to my MIL since that dinner and won’t until she apologizes.”

“My husband thinks I’m being a bit too harsh and I need to be the one to reach out with an olive branch on this matter but I can’t help but feel if this had been her biological grandchild who was deaf she wouldn’t have said something so insensitive or implied it was a distraction and bad example.”

OP was left to wonder,

“I don’t know, maybe I’m too defensive as it’s my child and I’m protective, what do you all think?”

Having explained the situation, OP turned to Reddit for judgment.

Redditors weighed in by declaring:

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

Redditors decided: NTA

Some pointed out that husband needed to step up.

“And if he feels like MIL needs an olive branch, then HUSBAND can reach out and explain to her why she was wrong and why SHE needs to apologize to your daughter – in sign language” ~ EMWerkin



“So much this.”

“MIL needs it put in perspective. Would she say other children couldn’t talk at the table?”

“If not, then how can she do the same thing to this young girl whose only means of communication is signing?”

“It’s a double standard and unloving to tell one kid to shut up but let the others still communicate.”

“Sure it’s distracting to a hearing person, but it’s HOW SHE TALKS.”

“Dad needs to take the initiative here, back up his wife, defend his daughter and set his mom straight.”

“He should be the one to open the door and fight this battle. It’s HIS mom.”

“I’m so tired of spouses letting their parents get away with being total jackhats and not being willing to defend their spouses and families. Grow some balls dad and stand up for your kid” ~ Lendyman

Others were shocked at MIL’s request.


“It’s not her fault that she is deaf.”

“She shouldn’t not be allowed to sign unless no one else is talking.”

“Also the quiet hands game is really bad and people who try and ‘Play’ the quiet hands game is absolutely **DISGRACEFUL.**”

“Edit: Common question: What is that game.”

“Basically it’s a ‘game’ where people don’t use their hands like signing stuff. So people who use their hands to communicate can’t do anything.”

“It’s a really bad thing to treat kids like this.”

“Edit Number 2: I’m glad that this is getting the awareness it needs.” ~ cookie64248


“I had never heard of the Quiet Hands thing (I can’t bring myself to call it a game) prior to this sub.”

“Some very quick research has taught me about an abusive and damaging form of behavioural control for many people with non verbal communication. So thank you for the awareness.”

“On your question, ofc NTA.”

“Singling out & silencing one person at the dinner table is ignorantly rude at best, ableist bs at worst.”

“Surely after being married to her son for 3 years she understands that BSL is how your daughter communicates and the other kids at the table should also be aware.” ~ aliceisntredanymore

Some had very detailed responses.

” ‘Why would anyone try to stop a kid from signing?’ “

“In a broader sense it’s due to a long-held belief that learning sign language is detrimental to learning English.”

“90% of D/deaf babies are born to hearing parents, who are very often encountering a deaf person for the first time in their lives and they’re terrified.”

“Doctors advise cochlear implants and speech therapy ASAP so the child can access sound, but give little to no information about sign language provision.”

“So parents go all-in and hope that the implant will cure their child, but for those whose implant doesn’t live up to expectations or fails completely, they are left with no language and no way of communicating with anyone.”

“This not only does a number on their educational attainment but also their mental health, and as a trainee BSL interpreter who works with Deaf students in education, I am more often than not having to deal with their chronic lack of confidence, self-esteem and high levels of anxiety.”

“Almost all of the students I work with cannot properly communicate with their parents at home and prefer to be in school, around people they can have a proper conversation with.”

“OP is a very rare breed in that she bothered to learn BSL to fluency, and I’ve sadly yet to encounter parents like her in my 10 years working with Deaf young people.”

“I could go on forever about this topic, but instead I will recommend anyone who reads this comment to Google the 1880 Milan Conference to learn about the history of sign language.”

“Forced oralism and the hell that generations of Deaf sign language users suffered at the hands of so-called language professionals.”

“The effects are very much still felt to this day.” ~ ImStealingTheTowels

Commenters had concerns about MIL.


“There is really no amount of reflection or analysis needed to understand why this request was harmful and discriminatory.”

“A child could probably easily understand that not allowing a deaf person to sign means you are not allowing them to talk.”

“There’s no way that your MIL ‘didn’t mean any harm.’ It’s clear she doesn’t care about the effect on your daughter.”

“And whether she is able to engage like everyone else, only that MIL has control over the dinner table.”

“Good for you, you sound like a great mom.”

“Is this a common theme with your MIL, though? Not necessarily that specific request, but just not bothering to accommodate or engage your daughter?” ~ morningmint

There were also personal stories.

“My extremely premature 2 year old has about 20 signs and 10 spoken words.”

“Husband and I have talked about learning ASL regardless because a second language is always a good thing.”

“If someone, anyone, came into our extended family who was deaf we would light a fire under ourselves to learn faster, my kid would be sitting signing to them at the table eventually.”

“And if someone like this MIL had said something like this I’d have no problem telling her off even if it’s not my kid, and especially if it was my parent” ~ blue_pirate_flamingo

Self-expression is a key component of a healthy life.

Whether your way of communicating is sign language, or a foreign tongue or a pad of paper it is fundamental that space be made for that expression.

Written by Frank Geier

Frank Geier (pronouns he/him) is a nerd and father of three who recently moved to Alabama. He is an avid roleplayer and storyteller occasionally masquerading as a rational human.