Bullying happens for all sorts of reasons, and for kids, the reasons behind the bullying can be pretty telling.
One way parents can decrease the likelihood of bullying is to make sure all of their kids’ needs are met. Fewer insecurities mean fewer opportunities to project their insecurities onto other people.
So why are some parents so over-eager to skip this step?
One dad probably should have been asking this question when he posted to the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit his question about whether or not he and his wife’s punishment for their daughter had gone too far.
Redditor uglyclothpunishment shared on the subReddit how, after discovering their daughter had been bullying another girl alongside her friends, they gave her an ultimatum: friends or clothing.
After some thought, though, the Original Poster (OP) reached out to the sub and asked:
“AITA for making my daughter wear ugly clothing as punishment?”
Though it’s unclear what the nature of it was, the OP discovered his daughter was bullying someone else at school.
“My wife and I have a 15-year-old daughter, Lily. Like my wife, Lily loves fashion, and has a huge collection of designer clothes. We don’t mean to spoil her, but she is generally well behaved and very academically talented (top of all her classes at school).”
“Unfortunately, the teachers discovered that Lily and her friends had been bullying another girl, and that Lily was the ringleader. I won’t go into detail but we were told that if not for Lily’s exceptional academic record, she would have been expelled from school.”
Unsure of what to do next, the OP and his wife offered their daughter an ultimatum.
“We offered Lily two punishments. 1) No phone and no contact with her friends for however long we decide [or] 2) No nice clothes for the same amount of time.”
“She chose the second.”
“My wife padlocked her wardrobe but took out a few plain tracksuits and t-shirts that she rarely wears.”
“Lily was understandably very upset. Like her mother, she likes to dress her best for a ten-minute trip to the shop. She hates this punishment but still prefers it over the first one we offered.”
The OP thinks the punishment may be more serious than they originally intended, though.
“I got a call from my sister today, saying that Lily had phoned her up in ‘floods of tears’ about not being allowed to wear the clothes she loves. Lily told her that she feels like she’s in prison because she isn’t allowed to wear what she wants.”
“My sister said Lily had ‘never sounded so upset’. She tried to say that clothing is an ‘expression of her personality’ and that Lily feels vulnerable and insecure in the clothes we made her wear.”
Though the OP doesn’t intend to budge, he wanted advice from the sub anyway.
“We don’t intend to stop the punishment but my sister’s call gave me a lot to think about.”
“Obviously, Lily needs to be punished for what she did, but I don’t like the idea of making our daughter feel upset and vulnerable.”
“Was this punishment too harsh?”
Fellow Redditors reached out, rating the OP’s punishment on the following scale:
- NTA: Not the A**hole
- YTA: You’re the A**hole
- ESH: Everybody Sucks Here
- NAH: No A**holes Here
Some questioned how taking the daughter’s clothes away related to her bullying.
“NTA, BUUUUT… What kind of weak a** punishment is this? This is how you punish a kid when they act out at dinnertime, not when they lead a lynch mob against someone who can’t defend themselves.”
“Take her clothes. Take her phone. Take her f**king hair, too. Your daughter deserves nothing.” – MavraTheZombie
“The bigger problem is that this punishment does not relate to the main issue which got her into trouble: the bullying. The parents should find out why she decided to bully this individual, then teach her and punish accordingly. A random punishment that’s not even related to what she did is not going to change the core motivations behind her behavior.”
“… Unless the bullying was about clothing and fashion designers, in which case I take back everything I said.” – Amedican
“THIS! I came here to say this. The punishment (if there is one) must fit the crime.”
“Or, in other words, the consequences must approximate the kinds of consequences someone would face in real life.”
“If she was caught bullying someone in her workplace, she’d be fired, or suspended, censured, and sent to sensitivity training. Since the school chose not to expel her, you should keep her home for a week–making her do all her schoolwork by herself–and put her into some sort of sensitivity training, also limit her phone hours and go through her friends and find out which ones were also involved in the bullying and cut those out of her life. She should only have access to friends who won’t follow her off a cliff.” – usernaym44
Others agreed and suggested what her punishment should be instead.
“What the daughter needs to do is APOLOGIZE to this girl and she bullied AND HER PARENTS. THAT would be a fitting punishment for the crime. Make her research what happens to kids who get bullied in HS – suicide and mental health issues. Make her understand that bullying is so so wrong because she shows no remorse in this post from what I can tell.” – not_cinderella
“Guarantee it’s still big-name tracksuits and probably a designer label white t-shirt, too.”
“I’d have marched her a** down to Walmart and make her pick out her wardrobe from there.” – Mourinhottie
“NTA, it’s a very weak punishment though, she was almost EXPELLED for what she said and did to another child! Can you even begin to imagine how upset and vulnerable that girl felt?!? Your daughter LED a pack of wild teenagers to hurt, harass, and harm another human being!”
“She doesn’t deserve a thing. [If] I was that girl’s parent you would be expecting a visit from local law enforcement! And what do you ask ‘am I an a**hole because I took her pretty clothes away?’ NO but you are an a**hole for being weak!”
“That victim – cos that’s what she is- your daughter’s victim – is going to live with what happened to her in a place where she had the right to feel SAFE for the rest of her life.”
“If you think I’m being harsh remember the school wanted and considered expelling a top student. No record of misbehaving, (hopefully) 1st offense, and it went that far! Has she apologized to the girl? Has she apologized to the school? Have you even checked on the girl’s welfare?”
“I’m sorry but as someone who was bullied for years, this has made me so mad and I was bullied 40 years ago! It sticks with you! Tell your sister to read this if she feels sorry for your girl, I only feel sorry for the true victim here. Sort your daughter out, you’re doing her a disservice by being so weak… A very begrudging NTA.” – Mamagrumps
A few also pointed out that addressing any reasons behind the bullying is important, too.
“Yeah sorry but wearing tshisrts and tracksuits (probably recognisable brands) isn’t a punishment and definitely shouldn’t cause a meltdown. Your daughter’s bullying and obsession with her appearance screams neglect. Spend some time with her and help her realise that her looks are not the only thing she had going for in life and that she is worthy of love no matter what she wears or looks like.” – luvtealuvbag
“Definitely this. Bullying generally comes from insecurity and the lack of emotional intelligence to realize that putting someone else down to make yourself feel better isn’t a long term fix for insecurity. It also indicates a lack of empathy, and that’s concerning in a teenager” – MyFaceSaysItsSugar
“I’d take a hard look at the home life they’re giving their daughter, beyond spoiling her. Needing to dress up for 10-minute errands and having a mental breakdown over not wearing fancy clothes is not normal.”
“Considering the mother is this way as well, OP should make sure his daughter hasn’t been nit-picked and bullied herself within the home into feeling the need to display perfection all the time, or that he and his wife aren’t judgmental towards other and setting a bad example. Kids often model the behavior they see or receive.” – terraformthesoul
Though it’s unclear if the daughter’s bullying was somehow fashion- or appearance-related, the Redditors did the right thing in reminding the OP that punishments should be related to their crimes.
The OP should probably make sure all of the daughter’s needs are being met, as well, in case her bullying stemmed from something unmet in her own life.
But no matter the bullying’s origin, the OP for sure needs to sit down with his daughter and unpack why bullying is wrong and how she can express herself in some other way.