Kids are kids, and honestly, sometimes their judgment is not the best.
This also includes their sense of humor and what they think qualifies as funny, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Redditor Apart-Rain-5303 had to make their niece come out of their swimming pool after she pranked them by convincing them that she was drowning.
But when she wouldn’t stop crying, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they were being too harsh.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for telling my niece she isn’t allowed to get into the pool anymore?”
The OP allowed their nieces to use their swimming pool while visiting.
“I’m babysitting my nieces for the next two days. They love getting in the pool, but they are not strong swimmers as they just learned how to swim last summer.”
“Before they got in, I went over the rules: no running, no fighting, and only ask for help if you really need it.”
“I should note they are 8 and 11 so they are capable of understanding.”
One of the OP’s nieces took a joke too far.
“About 30 minutes went by, and the 8-year-old started screaming for help. It appeared she was drowning.”
“I freaked out and jumped in to get her. Once I got to her, she started laughing! She was faking!”
“I got upset and told her she had to get out of the pool and she was not allowed back in for the rest of the day since she can’t seem to follow rules.”
The OP felt conflicted as their niece struggled with her punishment.
“Her laughter quickly turned into tears. My niece is extremely sensitive and hates getting in trouble but it doesn’t happen often.”
“She hasn’t stopped crying and it’s been about 30 minutes. She keeps asking to get back in and saying it isn’t fair.”
“I explained, ‘I gave you rules and you didn’t but follow them.'”
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 said drowning was absolutely not something to joke about.
“NTA. This is no joke. Even if she is the best kid ever, she needs to understand that she crossed a boundary.”
“You are doing it for her own safety.” – MaybeAWalrus
“You should sit her down and tell her the story of the ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ and explain to her that if she does this again, you’ll be less likely to believe her, and she could seriously get hurt because of it if she was actually drowning.”
“Then tell her the punishment is to make sure she never does this again and she can get back in the pool tomorrow.”
“Pranks like this are extremely scary and should never be joked about. She’s old enough to learn that lesson, but you have to really explain to her why her behavior isn’t okay.” – Abigail_Normal
“Children may not be ignored, but not everyone is going to be quick to react either…”
“My 7yr old is pretty heavy on the theatrics. He stubs his toe, he screams bloody murder. He bumps his arm, bloody murder, he skins his knee, bloody murder.”
“It’s gotten to the point that when he screams I don’t come running to check on him like I used to, and unfortunately there have been a few times where he was actually genuinely injured.”
“I’ve tried to tell him over and over that he doesn’t need to scream every time he gets the tiniest little injury. Hopefully, soon he’ll learn.”
“Hopefully the same for your niece. NTA, OP.” – Manyelynn13
“I was (still am inside lol) the kid who always cried when I did something wrong, especially if I knew what I did was wrong. Now I know it’s rejection sensitivity, but getting in trouble devastates me still.”
“Remind her you love her and want to keep her safe, she’ll get over it. You made the right choice! That wasn’t a funny trick!” – shh-nono
“NTA. I would also suggest for OP to explain to their niece (after she has stopped crying) why what she did was not funny, why OP had set the rules, and why her pulling ‘the prank’ resulted in her being banned from the pool for the day.”
“I have found that a boundary lesson tends to stick better once a child has learned that the boundaries will stay, no exceptions, and that there’s a valid reason behind the consequences given for boundaries crossed.” – Kiruna235
“Definitely have a calm talk once she has calmed down, but have her explain to you why what she did was wrong. Include gentle prompts and questions to guide her, but have her articulate (in her own words) why the rule exists.”
“If she works through it, she will retain the information better, and she will understand on a deeper level why being not allowed in the pool is an appropriate consequence. Then you give her a hug (if she wants) and tell her that you can now trust her to go in the pool next time.”
“Once you’ve had this chat, I suggest giving the girls a small treat (that isn’t going back in the pool). Go for ice cream, take a walk/drive somewhere interesting, or do something little and fun with them. This signifies that the ‘punishment’ is over and you aren’t still angry.” – OrganicPixie
Others agreed and said the niece needed to learn that her actions have consequences.
“Actions have consequences. NTA.” – HarlequinJane54
“Your niece will learn not to do it again. Stick to your guns, OP.” – Common–Sensei
“Stay strong, OP. She may keep crying today, you may feel like an AH today, she may say she hates you and it’s not fair.”
“Do not falter. This is how you teach children important lessons without physically abusing them. Period.”
“Absolutely NTA.” – likeasafriendhandles
“This is exactly what I did with my kids, OP. We have an inground pool, and when we first moved in, my kids were 8 and 7, and they tried this on me, and I had to shut it down quick.” – melissamarieeee
“Mine were 3, 7, and 9 when we got a pool. We have an above-ground pool, and SO has an inground.”
“The rules are basically you don’t touch other people. They are now 5, 9, and 11.”
“5 just gained access to the full hot tub, as they can touch the bottom now with their head out of the water, and access to our pool without a life vest.”
“11 keeps getting pulled out because they have pulled 9 away from the edge, pushed 9 under, or grabbed feet when 9 is attempting to swim.”
“9 just lost some fear and is learning to swim and float, and 11 is hindering that growth.”
“11 lost the in-ground pool for a weekend because they decided to go jump in without telling anyone and without an adult out there.”
“NTA.” – Inafray19
“Ask me about the time I ran right in front of a moving vehicle when I was like 6 while my mother watched (there was a dog I wanted to pet).”
“It went something like shriek-grab-hoist-swat. Go to bed; go directly to bed. Do not pass ‘Go;’ do not collect $200.”
“I still obsessively look both ways, over and over, until I’m across. I’m almost 40.”
“And my mom still looks sick to her stomach when we talk about it. She just hit 71. Everyone was traumatized that day.” – HangryIntrovert
“It seems counterintuitive but children actually want boundaries. They look to the adults in their lives to provide structure, and sometimes that means enforcing consequences. Good on OP for picking a reasonable punishment directly related to the rule that was broken.”
“It’s really good that we’re having more of a conversation about respecting children’s autonomy these days, but a lot of parents/caregivers are misinterpreting that to mean they should let kids do whatever they want and insulate them from the consequences of their own poor choices. That’s a surefire way to raise an AH.” – Vilnius_Nastavnik
“If the niece is sensitive, OP can remind her that she’s a good kid and OP loves her, but she still needs to enforce the consequence.”
“What the niece did was serious on two counts. Not only was it a safety issue, but it’s also just really unkind to make someone believe your life is in danger when it’s not. It’s the adults’ job to help kids learn these things.”
“OP handled that perfectly. A one-day ban is perfect, as it communicates to the niece that this is serious, and it gives her a clean slate next time. I don’t think this will happen again.” – EllySPNW
Though the OP was struggling with seeing their niece react and cry in the way that she did, the subReddit was sure the OP had done the right thing.
Drowning is no joking matter, and a swimming pool is absolutely one of those areas where rules have to be followed to ensure that everyone is safe.
Pulling their niece from the pool for the rest of the day likely would get her attention in a way that a simple reprimand would not, but it also wouldn’t be a heavy-handed enough punishment to ruin the rest of their time together.