Little kids love to beat up adults, especially adults they love, for some reason. This is a fact of life and anybody who has a young niece or nephew can likely vouch for this.
Over time, though, they learn that their behavior is not okay and they stop….unless it is reinforced by another trusted adult.
Redditor 87catsinatrenchcoat found herself in a situation where her father was actually enforcing her niece’s physically aggressive behavior.
She was completely at a loss for how to handle her father, who demanded she apologize after her niece understood that she hurt her aunt and started crying.
Pressed for how to handle a reaction to this situation, she went to the subReddit “Am I The A**hole?” or “AITA” for feedback from objective strangers.
“AITA for not apologizing to my niece?”
Our original poster, or OP, set up her and her niece’s loving relationship.
“I (33F[emale]) was visiting my parents a while ago, and my brother, Sister-In-Law [SIL], and niece (6F) were there.”
“My niece is a great kid–she’s dynamic, full of energy, fun, and super creative. She’s also unfortunately on her way to being detrimentally spoiled.”
“She’s the only grandkid on either side of the family, and her other grandfather (my brother’s FIL) is a millionaire, so she gets whatever she wants and basically never hears the word no.”
“On this visit, we were playing in the living room and she got a little too excited. I was sitting on the couch with my legs stretched out, and my niece ran and jumped on top of my legs. It HURT.”
After OP yelled, her niece began to cry out of fear that she hurt her aunt, prompting an unexpected reaction from OP’s dad.
“So I yelled ‘ow’ (no expletives, no angry language toward her). She started crying because she understood she hurt me.”
“My Dad, who was sitting in an armchair in the same room, demanded I apologize for making her cry.”
“I said I wouldn’t because it would be a horrible lesson for her if she were taught that people she hurt should be apologizing to her, but my Dad was still angry at me.”
Now OP isn’t sure if she’d done something wrong.
“Again, I didn’t yell at my niece (I think the most blaming language I used was ‘that hurt’ or ‘you hurt me,’ but as calmly as I could in the moment).”
“Things calmed down later and she and I are fine, but my Dad’s reaction still sticks with me.”
“AITA for making my niece cry when she hurt me?”
Anonymous strangers weighed in by declaring:
- NTA – Not The A**hole
- YTA – You’re The A**hole
- ESH – Everyone Sucks Here
- NAH – No A**holes Here
Redditors definitely did not think OP had done anything wrong.
“My sister was the same with her kids when they were little. One time her kid hit my kid and wouldn’t stop and thought it was funny, and so I told her kid that if she carries on hitting she can’t play with my kid.”
“She cried and cried and my sister told me off for making her cry (by setting boundaries of ‘don’t hit’).”
“My sister was there and saw the whole thing.”
“This was one of many incidents with her kids’ misbehaviour and being horrible to other kids and to adults too, and never being told that their behaviour is not ok; and in the end we stopped seeing them because it was too stressful.”
“Her kids are teenagers now and they are all A-Hs.”-JosBenson
“I work as a behavioral therapist, you did exactly what we do. We give peer reactions when kids do stuff like that (well close, kids might not react as calmly if another does that).”
“If a kid accidentally hurts one of us, we say ‘ow, that hurt me’ and help them learn how to move on from that by saying something like, ‘I’m sorry.’”
“And then we explain that we need to be careful because accidents happen, but we can work together to prevent them.”
“You didn’t do anything wrong, and you’re exactly right about it not being a good lesson to apologize to the person that hurt you.”-mkat23
“Parent of six year old. Definitely NTA. Kids that age can understand if they hurt someone – and it is a good thing if they are upset about that.”
“It shows empathy. By all means give them a hug and say you aren’t angry just hurt. But don’t apologise.”-tishtashtosh43
“NTA Your dad’s a bit of a softy where she is concerned. People scream when you hurt them. Kids are really prone to doing this sort of thing.”
“They get excited, don’t think about the consequences and fly at you. Suddenly you have a sneaker in the stomach and are curled into a ball trying to gasp for air. Can you tell I have 2 nieces?”
“I agree that you didn’t owe her an apology. She cried because she was startled and because you yelled.”
“I would have taken her aside and asked her if she remembers when I yelled ‘OW’ then explained in kid speak that she shouldn’t jump on people because she is getting to be a big girl and can hurt people.”
“That sort of conversational approach helped my nieces become more considerate about this as they got older.”-LadyCass79
In fact, OP’s niece crying shows she has empathy, which is a good thing.
“My ex daughter one time hit me on the hand with a stick (by accident, but I warned her to stop before and she wouldn’t listen).”
“Then proceed to cry and get coddles from my ex. It is a horrible thing to teach a child in my opinion but my ex disagrees.”
“Anyway the child is spoiled and hyper and is quite the handful.”
“I’m kind of glad the relationship didn’t work out as they’re no longer in my life and it’s a lot better without all the chaos + guilt I feel for watching her enable her child like that.”-ItchyCryptographer89
“NTA….kids have to learn to settle down and be careful when playing with others.”
“One of my cousins would get so happy to see me he’d jump all over me and be real hyper, sure enough he ended up booting me in my lady pouch through sheer childlike joy.”
“It’s been over 20 years and I still remember how much it hurt. F**k apologising to the kid, teach them to be gentle.”-MsAnj77
“I have two nephews and one of them has a daughter and two sons.”
“At the 30th birthday party of the younger nephew, I was messing about with my great niece who was about 7 at the time and she took a run up and full on pushed me over a table.”
“It was humiliating in a room full of people and I was lucky enough not to be badly injured.”
“My niece in law and her mum were sitting at a table a few feet away, will have seen everything and were comforting her while I scrabbled to stand up.”
“No apology, just smirking at me. I didn’t expect them to grovel, but an acknowledgement and explaining to her that she should be a bit more careful even when playing with adults would have been appropriate.”
“I left not long after, taking with me my other brother who had completely ripped the grandad brother a new one on my behalf. NTA, OP.”-JoobileeJoolz
“NTA kids cry when they hurt you by mistake, because they feel bad, and they are kids and bad at managing their emotions.”
“My son accidentally headbutted me, burst my nose and blacked my eye, and I remember saying ‘why are you crying when I’m the one bleeding?’ lol.”
“Your dad is an a h though, he’s not a kid, he should know better.”-ntagatf-dilligaf
And if OP’s dad had his way, OP’s niece could grow up to be a very different human.
“NTA I’m a big person. My sister has 5 kids. When each one was old enough to stand and until they simply got too big they’d ‘climb me like a jungle gym.'”
“I didn’t mind. I enjoyed the closeness and bonding it created since I was otherwise too out of shape to do the other things like chasing them or swinging them around.”
“Naturally this led them to think I was indestructible lol. They’d run at me fill tilt and jump on me. Even when I wasn’t paying attention to them to brace myself.”
“There were plenty of times they hurt me and my sister insisted I not let them get away with hurting me because they needed to learn that some physical actions can hurt people, even adults.”
“Like one time I had just gotten a cast off my ankle from having a pretty bad fracture and I had my foot elevated on the couch and one of my nieces (4yo) just came and jumped onto my leg.”
“Hurt like hell. I was about to calmly tell my niece that that was my bad ankle but my sister ‘unleashed’ on her, reminding her that I had recently just recovered.”
“Made my niece cry and I ended up comforting her saying I wasn’t mad but that it did hurt and used that as a teaching moment to consider others before being so aggressive.”
“I guess this is all mostly anecdotal. But I guess my point is that kids need to learn and not every learning experience will be one of sunshine and rainbows.”-Cosmic_Quasar
“NTA. If I can get my cat to ‘apologise”‘when he hurts me, a six year old can easily give an apology. In fact, most kids I’ve known learned how to apologise by 2.”
“Also, why would you want to teach her that she shouldn’t say sorry when she hurts someone? That would create a pretty crappy human.”
“It is always upsetting to learn we’ve hurt someone by accident, but you have to sit with those emotions and make things right again.”
“It’s not nice being told you’ve hurt someone but that’s life, sometimes you don’t realise how you’re actions/words came across or because it wouldn’t bother you, you assume it doesn’t bother them. Kids need boundaries.”
“Spoiling your niece isn’t going to help her in later life, because your family won’t be able to protect her from negativity/pain/guilt etc for her whole life.”
“Plus being super overprotective always leaves you on your ass once you navigate the world as you age because you can’t handle the things that most people would brush off.”
“I’ve seen overprotective people have breakdowns over very ‘little’ things. It isn’t nice and their parents failed them.”
“The aim of the job is to raise a decent human. Boundaries, rules and structure can be very good things when you’re raising a human providing they aren’t horrible of course.”
“*If you’re wondering about the cat, I say “Ow, that hurt” in a certain tone. He will meow at me and gives me a lil head bump to say sorry straight after. Every time I say those words.”
“6 year old has no excuse and your dad was being dramatic.”
“You shouldn’t have apologised to her, because if you do, she’s gonna struggle when she hurts someone accidentally again and doesn’t think she needs to apologise thus causing problems in her “social” circle/other people she interacts with, both as a kid and adult.”
“I do feel sorry for your niece. Though I know you have no power over that, but I do think they’re risking a lot with this method.”-Mudslides
“NTA. Seems like your niece knew she hurt you and felt bad about it? You did nothing wrong and explaining she hurt you and her reacting with sadness is not a bad thing.”
“Your dad would have done best to stay out of it because it does no good to teach her she can never do wrong (even by accident).”-Iwappara
“NTA. You’re being a good aunt in teaching her these things. She’ll be fine and your dad is overreacting.”
“If you’d done the same thing as a kid, I doubt he’d have reacted the way he did this time around.”-lkbird8
Kids need to learn that their actions have consequences. If they don’t, it can really mess with their psychology for years to come.
Hopefully OP’s niece continues on this streak of empathy without too much more interference.