Children always seem to find new ways to test us.
Whether it’s putting raisins in the car radio or trying to make pancakes with mud, the ever-creative minds of the young always seem to find new messes to make.
This isn’t a bad thing, of course.
Creative exploration is a vital part of development.
But what if that creative exploration entails making a mess in adult spaces?
That was the issue facing Redditor and Original Poster (OP) panda391 when she came to the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit for judgment.
“AITA for saying “good job” to my son after he scribbled on my husband’s home office walls?”
OP set up the situation.
“I’ve been painting a mural for my unborn baby’s nursery and my son (3M) has been watching and helping me do it.”
“He knows it’s a gift for his little brother and he wanted to do the same for his dad so he went into his home office and scribbled all over the walls while my mother-in-law was watching him.”
Then got to the actual problem at hand.
“When we saw what he had done, our son was really excited but I think my husband was in shock because he was just looking at the scribbles without saying anything.”
“I told my son good job and that it looked really pretty but he needed to use paper next time instead after he said he made a present for his dad.”
“My husband never said anything in front of our son but when we were alone, he was upset that I said ‘good job’ to him because he doesn’t think I should be praising him for vandalizing his office.”
“I told him he just wanted to do something nice for him and we could have the office repainted or I could turn it into a mural if he wanted me to but he’s still upset at me for encouraging his behavior and he keeps locking his office so our son can’t go inside again.”
OP was left to wonder,
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: YTA
Commenters suggested focusing on a different part of the problem.
“NAH but if there is anyone to be mad at, it is the MIL for not adequately supervising OP’s son.”
“Realizing what motivated her son, OP’s reaction was calm while setting an expectation to use paper next time.”
“Meanwhile, there are good reasons to limit access to the office anyway.” ~Affectionate-Try9469
“A 3 year old.. what was the caregiver – MIL doing whilst he drew on the walls?”
“The kid understandably was confused because he was allowed to draw on the walls supervised prior to this; it’s the fault of the caregiver for not watching the kid?” ~ Happy_fairy89
“Its a scandal imo that she is not the focus of the thread.”
“Ex. ‘Aita for saying mil should have been more focused on watching 3yo”‘ ~ jdsunny46
“Except maybe Grandma who apparently left this 3 yo out of sight long enough to create graffiti art on dads walls and then not even know it was there so she could warn someone.”
“LOL!” ~ jokenaround
Others thought there could be compromise here.
There is a middle ground between saying ‘good job’ and punishment. You should NOT have praised your son for drawing on the walls. Husband is right here.”
“YTA.” ~ columbospeugeot
“I think this is the bones of the issue.”
“You could gently parent in a way that’s less all or nothing.”
“Something like ‘it was nice of you for trying to show you care about dad, son. but you can’t draw on his walls without asking because ____.”’
“Teaching your children healthy boundaries at an early age will only help them, I promise.”
“I saw this one post about a gentle parent on TikTok that reminds me of this situation when they spilled chocolate milk all over the freezer and the mother had the child help clean it up.”
“It was very well handled.”
“thanks u/purpleunicorn434 for finding the creator I mentioned — lauralove5514 on TikTok for those interested https://www.tiktok.com/t/ZTRb6AxbP/
“Discipline isn’t inherently a bad thing and gentle parenting doesn’t equal permissive parenting, y’all, and that’s what we’re saying here.” ~ angryseedpod
This soon became a more in-depth conversation about gentle parenting.
“You can say it’s nice art, the thought was nice, but you need to bring attention to him drawing on walls and that’s not okay. gentle parenting isn’t just constant praise and avoiding conflict.”
“It’s just not losing your sh*t, screaming at your kids all the time.” ~ mostlyashitshow
“The problem is that she affirmed that he did nothing wrong which is bad. What @angryseedpod said is the right way to address the situation bcs it is calm, nice and the kid knows not to do it again.” ~ National-Platypus144
Many saw why the kid was confused.
“I think since he’s helping her draw a mural in the nursery, there’s a weird boundary that’s already been stepped over.”
“It may need to be established that coloring on walls is only and mommy and me thing, not a kid on his own thing.” ~ marigoldilocks_
“He copied her behaviour.”
“You can’t reverse uno card and say something is wrong when it was never said before.”
“I agree with others, she said ‘use paper next time’. Any more than that and is ‘your art is ugly and mommy’s art is nice, that’s why it’s allowed on the wall’.” ~ motherofdog2018
“This 3 year old saw their mom drawing on the wall as gift to the new baby and wanted to give their dad a gift.”
“OP praised her child for giving it’s father a gift and gave them the very clear structure that going forwards art was to be done on paper only.”
“The kid had no clue they weren’t allowed to draw on the walls at the time of drawing and had every logical right to assume it was allowed (3 year old seeing mommy draw on walls okay me too).”
“OP was very clear that going forward kiddo was to use papper only.”
“OP gave the child structure and limits without having an adult temper tantrum, what are you missing?” ~ LevelTechnician8400
There were also personal stories.
“I did this when I was about 13.”
“Not scribbling on the walls, but my dad had bought some paint to redecorate the lounge. I decided to help out by decorating while he was at work.”
“He walked into a blue lounge. All walls, doors, every paintable surface. Plus bonus splatters on the carpets and furniture.”
“His response was ‘well…I did say I wanted it blue’ and we spent the weekend fixing it up.”
“When my dad was telling his friend about this event a couple of years later, the friend exclaimed ‘If that was me he would have been grounded forever'”.
“Which is when he dropped one of the most valuable parenting tips I ever got: ‘The execution might not have been great, but the intent came from a good place'”
“I agree that that the response could probably have been dialled back a little from outright praise into an age appropriate lesson about the intricacies of home decor, but I’m inclined to err towards NAH.”
“The kid tried to do a good thing based on what he’d seen his parents doing, and it didn’t play out as he expected.”
“This is one of those wonderful surprise situations where parents realize they have different opinions on how to deal with it.”
“Neither are wrong, but they need an adult discussion to figure out how to approach similar situations in future.”~ TheDisapprovingBrit
“This reminds me of when I was around that age and my mom was stressing about making the Christmas breads.”
“So I decided I would just do it.”
“I had been helping her do it for years, so I figured I should be able to handle it.”
“Well, they turned out pretty horrible.”
“But my mother laughed, told me she appreciated my want to help, and then we remade the breads and she showed me where I went wrong.”
“She could have very well yelled and been upset and killed my love of baking. Instead she took a different route and we made memories.”
“OP didn’t want to kill her sons creativity or desire to do something nice for someone.”
“Hence the good job and next time we use paper instead of the wall.” ~ drowninginstress36
“I remember doing this too! It was a half day from school so I decided that repainting the balcony that had started to rust with a random tub of white paint my dad left out was a good idea…”
“He told me I missed a spot 😅” ~ scaredpanda1
Not everyone saw dad as the bad guy either.
“Such stupid logic.”
“The kid sees his mum drive, does that mean its mixed signals if they don’t let him get behind the wheel?”
“Dad was completely calm – he didn’t say anything. He didn’t shout. He is upset with his wife, in private, because she praised the actions.”
“There’s a whole gulf of options between yelling at the kid and praising them. OP tried to take a kind approach but should have done it without praising the actions.” ~ Fickle-Presence6358
In reading these comments, you’ll see that they are all over the place.
Some are NTA, others YTA and even some at NAH.
This just goes to show you that while we all have our own way of dealing with the chaos that children bring, sometimes the best way forward is just t make it through as best you can.