A lot of parents take the lessons we try to teach our kids very seriously. Most of us want to raise kind, empathetic kids who will grow to become kind, empathetic adults. It’s not always easy to know if our kids are actually absorbing and acting on the lessons we try to impart, and sometimes we end up hoping for the best.
One mom recently wrote a post on Reddit asking for advice. She says that she’s tried to teach her daughters, who are 16 and 14, to respect everyone regardless of their social standing in life. Unfortunately, it seems that her youngest hasn’t exactly absorbed the lesson the way the mom had hoped.
The mom decided to take quick, decisive action. It seems like it worked, but now the rest of her family thinks she overreacted.
She has struggled herself.
She explains that she had both her children when she was pretty young, and she had to hit rock bottom before she could really provide:
“I (34F) am a single mother to two girls, ‘Jasmine’ (16F) and ‘Jessica’ (14F). Their dad died when I was pregnant with Jess, and I had to work hard. We hit rock bottom, and I was barely making paycheque to paycheque but I managed to get a degree, become successful and we live well. Point is, I know how [expletive] hard it is to be at the bottom of society, and my daughters know this, which is why I was livid at my daughter’s actions.”
That makes her daughter’s actions even worse.
“Yesterday, Jasmine showed me a video of Jessica cussing a homeless man out and telling him, ‘stop asking me for money, you’d earn it yourself if you weren’t so [expletive] lazy and spending what you earned on substances.’”
The man was surprised, and he pushed back.
When the man balked, the situation got worse:
“When the homeless man complained about the cold (we live in NE England), Jessica responded ‘Yeah people camp for fun, even in December, you can’t complain, you’re living someone’s holiday.’ Fury was an understatement for what I felt, as I thought I had raised an empathetic daughter.”
So the mom took action.
She didn’t want to let her daughter get away with her awful behavior, so she put a plan into motion:
“Along with finding the homeless man and making her apologise and help pay for a hotel room for a night for him (she paid £20), as well as signing her up to volunteer at a food bank – I decided to take her up on her offer of sleeping outside.”
She set everything up.
“I locked her bedroom door so she couldn’t go in, put a sign on it saying Closed for the holidays, pitched a tent in the garden and filled it with blankets and the sleeping bag I used when I was camping in Norway on a family holiday as a teen (aka really bloody thermal).”
“I slept in the room closest to the garden for that night so I was nearby if anything was to go wrong.”
At first, her daughter didn’t want to.
The mom gave her daughter two choices: camp outside for a night or lose her phone.
“She was reluctant to do it, but chose it over the option of not having access to her phone until the Christmas holidays are over.”
It seems like it worked!
“In the morning, she was crying about how horrible it was to wake up on a cold mat and get disrupted sleep due to birds. After comforting her, I asked her would she like to do that everyday like the homeless man. It struck a cord with her and she was crying over her actions, while even after the £20 she was rolling her eyes and her apology was not sincere. This afternoon, I came home from work to Jessica making a big meal to donate to the homeless people who live on the road near our house.”
Then her daughter told her cousin about everything.
Everything was going great until her daughter and her cousin had a conversation at school:
“I was proud of how she turned over a new leaf, and after taking the food to the people, my sister came over. Apparently, my nephew and Jessica were talking at school, and he asked her about her plans for the afternoon, and she said that she was going to cook for the homeless. My nephew asked what triggered that, and Jess told him everything, which he relayed back to his mum.”
Her family thinks she WAY overreacted.
“My sister said that my punishment was too harsh, and just the £20 and the food bank would have done the trick, and I was acting irrationally due to my past. Now I’m second guessing myself.”
So now she wants to know: Was this too much?
A lot of people think her idea was great.
Since the mom gave her daughter a choice, a lot of people are applauding her move. As one commenter noted:
“I would also like to point out that [OP, the original poster] gave her daughter a choice- either a learning experience or a punishment (losing her phone for break), and I feel like that made it even better. Her daughter could have ended up just resenting it if she’d been forced to sleep in the tent with no option, but because she chose it it had more impact.”
In fact, people really, really like what she did.
Commenters also praised the mom for teaching her daughter an important lesson in a “low stakes” way. A commenter explained:
“Not only did it teach her empathy, but you were able to teach her in a very low stakes way. She isn’t roughing it as an adult with no one to turn to. She is roughing it as a child who has a parent who would step in if it got dangerous.”
In fact, that person likes it so much they’re going to try it out with their own kids if they ever need to:
“This is the best way to teach empathy, frankly. I will be using this if our children ever do something similar.”
Chalk it up to a parenting win.
“The proper cold weather outdoor camp gear and you staying within view from the garden window made this a safe way to teach your daughter some perspective. It worked wonders. Be proud of yourself.”