If asked, most parents would say they raise their children to never lie. But part of being in society are the polite lies we tell each other to avoid hurting feelings.
Redditor aitathrowawayhouseho’s son is autistic, and can find these social cues difficult to understand. So the original poster (OP)’s son started flat out asking people if they want him to lie when they ask him something.
OP’s family is arguing over the situation, and she isn’t sure if she should have corrected her son’s behavior. To figure out if she’s wrong, OP decided to ask the “Am I the A**hole” (AITA) subReddit.
The board would judge if she is doing the right thing.
“AITA For not punishing my autistic son when he asks people if they want him lie?”
How does her son respond to certain questions?
“My son is fifteen and very blunt. You ask him a question and he tells the truth. Its never something I’ve tried to correct; I dont think it necessarily needs correcting.”
“However, it really upsets some family members. The biggest thing recently was my brother and his wife are having a baby, and she mentioned wanting to name the baby MacKayleighah.”
“Which is a mouthful. She then asked our opinions.”
“My son told her it was spelt weird and that he didnt like it. She got super upset and started crying. I dont personally think he did anything wrong – she asked a question and got an answer.”
“He kinda shrugged it off and said he wanted to go home. We went home.”
“That annoyed them even more. Its been a few tidbits – people asking about clothes and hair. He’s always honest.”
“With the whole baby thing everything is seeming much more tense. Because of that, now whenever someone asks a question, he asks them if they want him to lie or not.”
“They dont like this either. I was contacted by my brother, telling me I need to discipline my son when he’s rude, and teach him that being truthfully kind and just being truthful are different (I’m not really sure how to explain that one?)”
“I disagree. He realised they were getting upset, so now he clarifies before he answers. Its working out well for him.”
“My husband appreciates it a lot more lol.”
“This has obviously devolved in a fight because why wouldnt it in this family. Usually arguments have at least some form of split, but with this one its just me against them.”
“Which makes me second guess myself. So, aita?”
OP recognizes that people get mad when given a truthful opinion they don’t particularly like. But rather than teach her son to recognize this, she believes he shouldn’t have to pretend to be something he’s not.
But is that the right answer?
On Reddit, the users of the board judged OP by including one of the following in their response:
- NTA – Not the A**hole
- YTA – You’re the A**hole
- NAH – No A**holes Here
- ESH – Everybody Sucks Here
There was a lot of debate and differing opinions on this topic. On one hand, people felt OP was right to not encourage lying from her son, and that he shouldn’t have to pretend to be someone he isn’t.
On the other hand, commenters pointed out that OP was setting her son up for a difficult time interacting with society, as they wouldn’t be so forgiving in social situations.
Eventually, the vote of NTA won out.
“NTA but perhaps instead of a hard line between a lie and the truth you can encourage your son to be diplomatic rather than brutally honest. Eg, re the baby name.”
“Instead of saying it’s a silly name (which I think it is) he could say ‘that’s a unique name’” – Purrminator1974
“NTA – increased masking is tied to depression, PTSD, and suicide in autistics and numerous new studies are seriously calling into question the previous assumptions that teaching ‘social skills’ without an understanding of autistic neurology will have good results.”
“I’m an autistic teacher who works with autistic students and runs trainings for therapists and you’re much more in line with current research on best practices. Your family should be a safer place, a better boundary is them not asking questions when they only want validation.”
“Google the Double Empathy problem and it has some great explanations that may help them. I’ve actually been setting boundaries around masking with this – ‘are you looking for validation or advice?’ is my go-to which may be slightly more palatable (even though it means the same thing).”
“Also, dear lord that is an awful name, I am in my 30s and probably wouldn’t be able to keep a straight face if I was asked.” – LizHylton
“NTA. I would maybe advise him to go with something like ‘Are you looking for advice or just encouragement?’ Soften it a bit” – rmric0
“NTA. Your brother and SIL are TA for saddling a poor child with that name. It will be spelled wrong for all eternity” – ComfortableNo8346
“Why should he have to mask and change himself because people want to be lied to? He is under no obligation to make himself fit into a box because other people can’t handle him being honest.”
“I think you’re doing a great job.” – obviousallonsy
However, many felt the opposite. Some claimed this would make things more difficult for the son in the long run.
There is an unspoken agreement in our society about certain basic levels of politeness that can be difficult to recognize and teach to someone else who doesn’t innately understand them.
But that doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t at least try.
“Look im on the spectrum. I get it. I do.”
“To a certain extent he is going to have to contextually memorize which situations merit a polite lie, and which do not, to function in the neurotypical world.”
“NTA, but- Shielding him from that reality is doing him no favors.”
“You need to put work in on this, not ignore it.”
“Make some rules. Hone them as needed.”
“Looks like this:”
“Lie politely, i.e. tell the person what they seem to want to hear when its about:”
“-a baby name”
“-a tattoo/ plastic surgery”
“-do you like my outfit”
“-whether a woman appears fat or not”
“-things that cannot be easily changed”
“-a choice they made and are doubting, but are presenting cues they would like reassurance (then you go over what those cues are; again and again and again)”
“-agreement statements where the person expresses strong passion for something not dangerous or harmful like Taylor Swift or Panda Bears. (i.e. ‘isnt ____just GREAT?’ ‘dont you just love ______?’”
“Get it? like that. Brick out some simple conditional situations, and you condition him to exist in society.”
“He can and will wrap his head around that OP, as long as you dont keep muddying the water with impossible paradoxes like ‘its never okay to lie, but its impolite not to in certain situations’.”
“You have to be blunt about that and admit to yourself that it is frequently acceptable and expected to lie and build off of that.”
“Invent a code word he can use to signal to you that he is struggling with whether to be honest or not. I used to ask my dad if he had seen my purple hat. If he said yes, that meant go ahead and be myself, if he said no that meant play it safe and play along.”
“Im sure people mustve wondered why i was always losing my hat but, It helped keep a private question private when there were more people in the room than just us.” – ThrowawayforMILBS
“Hi, I’m autistic, and YTA. You’re setting him up for a lifetime of ostracization because people don’t appreciate the blunt instrument that is his honesty.”
“Your brother has the right of it- you can be honest without being unkind. There are plenty of tools he can learn for this- you’re just opting not to teach them because ‘this is how he is’.”
“It’s how you’re teaching him to be. He can do much more than you’re giving him credit for.” – fishmom5
“YTA, but mildly.”
“It’s on you to teach your son the difference between honesty and rudeness. Being autistic isn’t an excuse to be rude.”
“However, tbh, it’s probably best that your brother’s wife heard the absolute truth about that baby name because–yikes almighty. It looks like Mack Kayley, hah! which is not what they were going for, I assume.”
“However you say it’s something you’ve never tried to correct, which I think is so wrong. Your son is almost an adult and you are not going to live forever, so at some point in his life he will be thrust into an environment where he has to manage social relationships on his own.”
“The more skills he has to do this, the more successful he will be. He is not owed anyone’s understanding or accommodations, and there are plenty who won’t give it to him.”
“You said he has a good support network, but how long is that going to last? Certainly not forever, and his behavior has already caused tension in the family. People’s patience is not infinite.”
“Not teaching him how to interact with others and insisting everyone else should just accept it is handicapping him. The world is not always a kind place.”
“If he’s going to get a job, I doubt he’ll last long because if he causes conflict with his behavior it’s easier to replace your son than upset the entire staff. Relationships may also be more challenging because not everyone has dated or is interested in dating someone with autism.”
“So here’s the thing, you can teach him now while he’s young, a minor, and living at home, or he can learn on his own when he’s an adult and doesn’t have the shield of childhood to protect him from other people’s reactions.”
“I don’t think you are a bad person or really an AH, but I think you are being a bit naive if you think everyone is just going to accept your son’s rudeness because he has autism.” – False-Guess
How you feel about this will be dependent on whether you believe people shouldn’t hide who they are, or if you think OP is doing her son a disservice by not teaching him how to react to social cues.