A mother came to Reddit to ask if she handled a family dispute correctly. What ensued was a barrage of warnings from the Redditverse. You decide who the A-hole is:
AITA (Am I the A-hole) for telling my child she doesn’t have to hug anyone, including her dad?
This has been an ongoing battle for the last couple years, so just looking for some input. My (37F) family consists of my husband, we’ll call him H for simplicity, (35M), and our 3 kids J (11F), O (7M), and L (1M). H is the father of all 3. O is autistic and H, while never formally tested, also has autistic tendencies. They both LOVE hugs/cuddles/physical affection and get along great.
J and myself prefer not to be hugged/touched unless we are in the mood for it or request it. Now, as a married adult I try to give H more physical affection than I want because it is his love language and I try to show him love in his terms sometimes (according to him, it is still not often enough).
But J is a tween girl. She dislikes us half the time just for existing. Sometimes she will give me hugs, but I make sure they are on her terms and don’t demand them. H, on the other hand, will ask her for a hug (because I told him he had to ask after previous arguments between them from him forcing them on her), and then get super pissed at her if she says no. When I tell him that it is her right to do so, he then yells at me.
For example, before school this morning, J was moody (this is typical, she is NOT a morning person). He told her Good Morning and she sorta grunted in response. Then he asked her for a hug and she shook her head no and came downstairs for breakfast. After, she needed to run back upstairs to use the restroom before we left.
She voiced concern that her dad was upstairs and seemed mad at her for saying no before. I reminded her that she does not have to hug anyone if she doesn’t want, and that I’d remind him if it came up. Of course, he asked her again for a hug when she came out of the bathroom. She declined, he started fussing at her about disrespect and she came back downstairs to me.
He started yelling down the stairs about how she was disrespecting him and that was no excuse for a child to not hug her own dad. I told him that he asked and she is allowed to say “no”. She doesn’t like unwanted hugs and didn’t want one.
When the kids headed out to school I asked them to yell “bye” up to their dad who was still getting dressed. O immediately did, J quietly said she was feeling too angry at him for yelling at her. He yelled back down “I love you O”, but said nothing to her (so mature, I know).
Then H came down and b*tched at me for always taking J’s side with the affection issue. He says I am going to turn her into a disrespectful brat who doesn’t listen to her parents and says he “isn’t having that in his house”. I responded calmly, but did not change my views. He left for work mad at me too.
H has always gotten along better with O than with J. But to literally tell one child he loves them and ignore the other really upsets me… Anyway, AITA for taking my daughter’s side and telling her she doesn’t HAVE to hug anyone, even her dad?
Reddit ruled a hearty NTA (not the a-hole) and then went even further:
NTA. I am very concerned about the message your husband is teaching your daughter about her body. It is alarming that a young girl is being taught that male aggression and anger is an appropriate response to her ownership of her own body.
You are teaching all the right messages, but you need to back up your words with action. By that I mean doing something beyond calmly not changing your views. His behavior is unacceptable, and something needs to change.
Not to mention that he is modeling this behavior in front of his sons, one of whom already is similar to him in his desire for tactile affection. If OP doesn't put a stop to this and H continues this behavior, O is going to learn that anger and resentment is the appropriate response when people deny him affection. This is harmful to everyone in the family.
The_Ambling_Horror asks :
NTA. But does your husband often try to coerce physical affection from you and J? Because that’s what he’s doing, and it’s not that much better than forcing it. Thank you for defending your child from coercion.
He does yes. Has even threatened to leave me over my lack of physical affection towards him. I have told him to go. Forced affection is not healthy.
My mother always forced hugs, and if I didn’t give a hug that was “meaningful” enough, she would force me to do it again until she felt that it was an acceptable hug. Caused a lot of issues in my later teens when I stood up to her because I really hate being touched without my permission.
Thankfully we were able to solve it through therapy eventually, but it was a really long argument where she felt entitled to my body because she’s my mother, and believed that this somehow gave her rights over me that didn’t apply to anyone else. NTA.
Your 11 yo is already considering which bathroom is safe to use and calculating that the cost using it before school is unwanted touching. In her home. OMFG. OP this is an emergency. I’m not suggesting that your husband is a child molester, I don’t think he wants to hug her for sexual reasons.
I am saying that he is communicating very unhealthy messages to her every day about her body not being hers, her boundaries not being worth anything, and that she’s unlovable if she doesn’t give in.
He is not a sexual abuser but his parenting is possibly setting her up for all kinds of abuse, not to mention anxiety and low self-esteem down the line. Parenting matters. You need to find a way to change this situation for your child right the f*ck now.
He is currently at work and she is at school, but I absolutely ripped him a new one through a series of texts while my thoughts were fresh. He has apologized and says he will talk to her today (I plan to be there for that discussion). But I will believe nothing until I see it in action. This is not the first time this battle has raged.
This is a hill I will die on. If we have to leave him to keep her safe and protect her body and mental health, we will.