Last month, a mother made the decision to send her daughter to bed without dinner because of some comments she made at the dinner table. She posted what happened on the popular Reddit forum Am I the Asshole? to get the internet’s opinion. (1)
Mom Sends Daughter to Bed Without Dinner
The mother in question starts off her post explaining that her nine-year-old daughter Evelyn has been saying “rude, insulting things right out of the blue”. She explains that these comments have been about a number of things, including clothing, body weight, and other physical features. (1)
The mom says that she and her husband do not spank, however, they will take away privileges, but their daughter in time-outs, and always speak with their daughter about what she did wrong. (1)
“Whenever she has made these sorts of comments, we have had serious discussions with her about how inappropriate and hurtful they are, and we urge her to think before she speaks next time.” (1)
On this particular night, she arrived home from work early and so decided to make a nice dinner for her family. Normally her husband cooks dinner before he goes to his night shift, as she is exhausted when returning home from a 12-hour shift herself. (1)
Without even taking off her scrubs, she got to work on her classic home-made beef stew. (1)
“I seasoned it as I always do, with salt, pepper, thyme, and a bay leaf. I felt good about cooking for my family, and didn’t even take the time to change out of my work scrubs before I began. My husband woke up to the smell of stew cooking, and he was so happy about the surprise. Evelyn even said it smelled good.” she explained. (1)
The Comment That Changed The Evening
Her husband complimented her on the stew as the family began eating. That’s when young Evelyn decided to express her opinion. (1)
“No offense Mom, but this stew is really bitter. Maybe next time only use half a bay leaf.” (1)
The mom was completely shocked. Having just finished cooking her daughter a meal from scratch after working a 12-hour shift, she couldn’t believe what she was hearing. (1)
“The thing is, if the stew really was bitter, I would have laughed about it, and told her that bay leaves don’t make things bitter, and maybe gone through possible ingredients that could have made it turn out that way. But the stew wasn’t bitter. My husband agrees, it tasted completely normal.” she explained. (1)
Tired of her daughter’s behavior, she responded in a calm, quiet manner:
“If you don’t like the stew, you don’t have to eat it. Please take your bowl to the kitchen and get in the bath. You may eat breakfast in the morning.” (1)
Evelyn went to her room, sobbing. Her husband thought her punishment was too harsh, so the mom asked the internet what their opinion was. (1)
To Bed Without Dinner: Reddit’s Response
The overwhelming majority of commenters agreed with the father and thought that the punishment went too far. (1)
“YTA she is allowed to have opinions. She’s allowed not to like your cooking. There was nothing insulting said in this instance. She did not call your dinner crap, she did not say you sucked. She simply did not enjoy the meal. I think you are overreacting to a child who is starting to have a mind of her own.” said one user. (1)
“YTA, she hurt your feelings by calling your stew bitter. At this point, you should have communicated with her that your feelings were hurt and you put in the effort to make a homemade dinner after working 12 hours. Instead you sent your kid to bed hungry without explaining yourself to the fullest.” said another. (1)
Food is Not Punishment
Many were quick to point out that food should not be used as punishment. They explained that it teaches disordered eating habits and can lead to full-blown eating disorders.
“I work in eating disorders and it is noooot a good idea to teach children that their behaviour determines whether or not they ‘deserve’ meals.” wrote one user. (1)
They talked about how parents should not weaponize food. Instead, she should explain to her daughter why what she said was hurtful. Many suggested there is likely more to Evelyn’s comments than just simply wanting to be a brat or not liking the stew.
“So… she’s 9…in a pandemic… Did you overreact? A little. Is it understandable? Oh, yes, so much. But think about if you can find reasons for her to be acting out a bit. I think you can find some. Maybe bed without dinner is a bit harsh for incorrect foodie criticisms, yes? NAH, but… Be gentle with each other whenever you can. It’s a rough damn year, you know? Maybe something else is going on with her, too (maybe not, but…nothing happens in a vacuum these days). I’m sorry the world is so messed up, and I so hope your days get easier soon.” (1)
Another user agreed that her reaction went from zero to 60 far quicker than it should have.
“I was all on board with “if you don’t like it you don’t have to eat it” but then it escalated REAL FAST and poor Evelyn didn’t have a chance to apologize, backtrack, or take another bite.” (1)
Kids Have Different Taste Buds
Many commenters pointed out that children do have very different taste buds than adults. They suggested that while it might taste completely fine to her and her husband, it very well could have tasted bitter to Evelyn. (1) In other words, maybe she didn’t have to go to bed without dinner.
“YTA, sort of. This is actually biology at work. From 9 to roughly 13, kids’ tastebuds are changing, and they often become more sensitive to certain things, one of which is bitterness. On top of that, girls are even more likely to prefer sweeter flavors and dislike bitter notes. You have roughly 1/3 of the working tastebuds she has, so it is entirely possible she tasted something bitter – and even if it’s a little bit, it would appear amplified to her.
I don’t think she was trying to insult you. I think it tasted bitter to her and she tried to tell you as nicely as a 9-year-old could. But instead of considering that she may just taste things differently than you, I think you were a tad oversensitive.
I don’t think you were intentionally the asshole here, I don’t think there were any malevolent intentions, but I don’t think she was the asshole either, and as the adult, you punished her when she may not have deserved it.” (1)
The original poster read through the comments and very much took them to heart. She posted an edit at the bottom of her post explaining that her daughter did not starve, as she has a stash of granola bars and applesauce in her bedroom. (1)
That being said, she agreed that she should not have used food as punishment, and was going to have a chat with her daughter the next day. In that discussion, the mom said:
- She will apologize to her daughter for her reaction
- She will have a discussion with Evelyn to understand her comments better. (1)
From Bed Without Dinner to a Mended Relationship
The mother then posted a second update to let readers know how that discussion went.
“I had a long talk with Evelyn when I got home tonight. I told her I shouldn’t have sent her to bed without dinner, and I apologized and asked for her forgiveness. Asked her why she made her comment, if she really did taste something bitter in the stew? She started crying and said the stew wasn’t bitter. She said she wasn’t even sure what bitter tasted like (lol). I asked why she said it was bitter then? She said she saw the bay leaf in the pot when she served herself, and she thought it would be funny to tell me it made the stew taste bad. She apologized for making it up. I asked if she wanted me to feel bad, and she said she didn’t know.” (1)
She and her daughter then had a long but gentle and loving conversation to get to figure out what the actual cause of Evelyn’s behavior was. (1)
It turns out that Evelyn was feeling as though she wasn’t receiving enough attention from her mother. She was struggling to adjust to her mother working double shifts and finishing school at the same time. These long working hours weren’t leaving much room for mother-daughter time. (1)
“I think she was trying to get my attention, one way or another. Moving forward I told her I’m going to try to give her the positive attention she needs before she feels like she has to resort to getting negative attention. And we agreed we will try to give each other grace through the process.” (1)
Parents Are People, Too
This post is really a reminder that no one is perfect – parents and kids included. It is also a good reminder that communication is key, especially with our children. Even with young kids, there is always a motivating factor behind the way people act.
Learning to have discussions with our children, as this mom did, not only helps us better understand their needs, but it also teaches kids communication skills in the process. It shows them that:
- No matter who you are, it is important to apologize when you hurt someone, and
- Having calm, honest discussions with people solves more problems than fighting ever will.
This mother certainly learned from this situation and so did her daughter. At the end of the day, this is a big win for the entire family. Doesn’t look like anyone will be going to bed without dinner any time soon.