One unpleasant realization that some parents will have is that the lessons they give about personal hygiene do not end once their kids are out of the toddler stage.
With puberty, all of those lessons have a way of reappearing with a vengeance and are more important to learn than ever, agreed the “Am I the A**hole?” (AITA) subReddit.
Becoming increasingly frustrated by their daughter’s poor personal hygiene in her early teen years, Redditor LegitimateRole3674 decided it was time to try a different teaching approach.
But when their daughter started getting bullied because of it, the Original Poster (OP) wondered if they went too far.
They asked the sub:
“AITA for teaching my Autistic daughter a harsh lesson?”
The OP struggled to get through to their daughter about the importance of personal hygiene.
“I have an autistic 14-year-old who has terrible hygiene. I have to fight with her to get her to shower, brush her teeth, and clean up after herself during her period. It is disgusting. Blood everywhere and the constant washing of underwear.”
“She sees no problem with her inability to clean herself up.”
“I told her that people are going to bully her in school if she smells bad and that it is hard to recover from that socially, and she ignored me.”
The OP decided to try a different approach.
“Well, she had her period last week. I picked her clothes and allowed her to wear white pants.”
“I wanted to see if she would clean up after herself so that the pants would be clean when she came back home.”
“Before I even dropped her off, the pants were red.”
“I stayed silent. I dropped her off like normal.”
“She needed to learn how these types of situations will impact her social life if she continues to live like a slob.”
It would be no surprise how the OP’s daughter’s day went.
“She came home in tears.”
“The kids were ruthless. She was mocked for her strong smell and the red on her pants.”
“It hurt me to see her like this, but I was not seeing the changes that had to be made.”
“For the rest of the week, she took good care of herself. There were no stains, she showered herself, and would spray perfume to maintain a flowery scent.”
The OP and their husband could not come to an agreement.
“My husband and I fought about this, though. He called me some very hurtful words because of my choice.”
“He said I handled it poorly and that she will be paying for this for the rest of the school year.”
“I see it as a life lesson. And it actually yielded results, unlike my husband’s soft approach.”
“So am I the a**hole for the way I taught my daughter a lesson?”
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 were disgusted with the OP for setting their child up for failure.
“You said, ‘Before I even dropped her off the pants were red. I stayed silent.’ So, you allowed her to be humiliated by her peers at school.”
“Actually, hang on… You also said, ‘I picked her clothes and allowed her to wear white pants.'”
“So, you actually picked her clothing? You did not simply fail to point out the risk of her clothing color choice, but you actively chose white pants. You caused her to be humiliated.” – Ok-Status-9627
“What a terrible mother, does she actually like her daughter? Does she know how hard her life can be in high school because of this s**t? There are other ways to teach a lesson. She’s the Mother of the Year.” – Training_Addition455
“I just keep thinking that she doesn’t even let her kid choose any options for her own outfits.”
“I know that’s nothing in the grand scheme, but she infantilizes her 14-year-old daughter while expecting her to put up with horrendous bullying for the day and to figure out something for her hygiene by herself, knowing full well that her daughter is Autistic, which makes periods so much more challenging.”
“It just seems bizarre and so short-sighted to me.” – Impossible_Disk_43
“You failed as a parent, OP.”
“We never set our kids up for failure. We never intentionally throw them to the wolves.”
“We are here to help, to teach, to love, to guide, and to set them up for success.”
“It is well-known that Autistic girls face added challenges to menstruation. Clearly, you need to address this core issue.”
“It is likely time to explore different products. Please consider period panties as part of the solution set.”
“And, please educate her and empower her to try a variety of options and settle on what she feels best with.” – Simple-Kaleidoscope3
“I don’t think she realizes how bad bullying can be and how much it can affect kids. How ruthless kids can be and how it usually gets worse and worse? How someone once bullied will usually become the favorite punching bag for everyone?”
“OP, do you know there are kids that hurt themselves because they cannot take it?”
“You’re not just TA, but you are bullying and potentially SERIOUSLY harming your child.”
“YTA. YTA. YTA.” – Pasdusername
Others pointed out the bullying could last much longer than “the rest of the school year.”
“Especially since Autism often comes with problems in social understanding, the daughter most likely didn’t understand how much her hygiene affects others.”
“There were so many other ways to teach her this. But OP chose humiliation, and her daughter will end up getting bullied for this for a long time. As if she doesn’t stand out with her Autism enough.”
“YTA.” – EvilFinch
“Good lord, that’s brutal. What a horrible thing to do to your own child.”
“Your husband is correct, she will be paying for this for a long time. Maybe forever.”
“YTA.” – LiterallyTyping
“YTA. You were worried the kids would bully her for smelling bad, so you instead made sure they bullied her by giving her white pants to wear and letting her go to school with blood on her pants.”
“AND, if you did do this, you’re telling me not a single school staff called you? School just let her walk around like that?”
“You set her up to be remembered for this for years! The other kids will not forget this. 15 years from now at a school reunion, they’ll be talking about how she came to school in bloody white pants.” – bflamingo63
“YTA. Resorting to public humiliation cannot be seen as anything other than an AH move. You could’ve instead spent your time conversing with behavioral therapists or something to find ways to make her understand.”
“This could’ve crushed her spirit. Do you have any idea what bullying is really like? How long it can last? How long the effects of it are felt?”
“There was such a big area between the ‘soft’ approach and yours. So many other options.” – Throwaway-2587
“YTA, you allowed her to be publicly humiliated to prove a point. It is already hard for people with Autism to socialize and make and maintain friends. She was likely already bullied before this, and your actions intensified it.”
“She will likely never live it down, and it will always be a haunting memory for her.”
“It was mean and spiteful, not coming from a place of love. It came from a place of frustration, and you chose trial by fire to teach your lesson.”
“You should really reach out to professionals in the future to help you navigate communicating with and helping your daughter. Not necessarily ABA (Applied Behavioral Analysis), but maybe a family therapist with experience with the population.”
“What you did was cruel, and you should take action to prevent situations like this again and expand your parenting toolbox.” – awESOMEkward
After receiving feedback, the OP posted an update in the “True Off My Chest” subReddit.
The OP told the sub:
“I failed as a parent with my Autistic daughter.”
The OP had follow-up conversations with their husband and daughter.
“She did not want to go to school today. I let her skip, and we went out to get some pancakes for breakfast at a place she likes.”
“I apologized to my husband, and he apologized to me too. We are going to work together to parent her in a way that we both agree with and in a way that will allow her to live a healthy life.”
“I had good intentions, but what I did to my daughter was truly disgusting.”
“She says she’s not angry at me, but I know that is not true. I deserve it. I am lucky that she is not refusing to speak to me.”
The OP shared steps they would be taking to correct the situation.
“I’ll give her a few weeks and then maybe move her to a different school within the district for a fresh start.”
“I will speak to the family doctor and her therapist about how to get her to work with the discomfort regarding tampons and pads.”
“I’m truly sorry for the ableism that I displayed on Reddit. It was truly inappropriate to handle the situation like this and then to share it online where many people could read it.”
“I am disgusted and will do better for my family.”
While the subReddit hoped that the OP’s follow-up post was a genuine effort to correct their harmful approach, rather than a way to do damage control, they were still left with a bitter taste in their mouth.
The subReddit found the fact that the OP ever thought this was a good idea to be disheartening, to say the least.