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Should You Punish Your Child for Telling an Adult They Smell Bad?

A father has asked the internet for advice following an incident with his sister and his 8-year-old daughter. He and his wife had left his sister at home babysitting their daughter while they attended work events. However, things did not go according to plan, and he received an angry call from his sister saying she could no longer take care of their child and they’d have to return home. It later transpired that the 8-year old had fetched her auntie some towels, and suggested she freshen up in the shower, as there was an unpleasant smell coming from her!

Embarrassed by the situation, the woman demanded that her brother punish his daughter.

I (35m) have a daughter “Kelly” (8f) with my wife. I also have a sister “Dina” (33f) who has 2 kids (7m and 12f). Our houses are literally across the road from each other. Occasionally we babysit kids for each other, however the kids have to stay at our house since my daughter is allergic to dogs and Dina has 2.

Both me and my wife were attending a work event last week and have asked Dina to babysit our daughter in advance which wasn’t a problem as the kids wanted to watch some cartoons together anyway. However half way through the event I have received a call from Dina saying I need to come home now as she is leaving over what my daughter said. I was very confused so me and my wife left the event early, thinking something horrible had happened.

Upon returning my sister was furious and said she will never look after our daughter as she has an attitude. I have asked Kelly what happened and she said she just brought my sister some towels saying she can take a shower if she needs to as well as there are some “feminine products” in the bathroom because “there was an unpleasant smell coming from the auntie”. I came closer to my sister and could also smell a rather sharp unpleasant odour from her so I could understand where my daughter was coming from.


Dina demanded I punish my daughter, but I refused and said she didn’t do anything wrong and me or my wife would possibly approached her in a similar way in this case. Dina called me an asshole and since then would bring her kids home not allowing them to play or talk to Kelly, which is upsetting. My wife thinks my sister is being petty and unnecessary cruel over an innocent comment and our daughter wanted to be helpful.

Many people were of the opinion that the young girl didn’t offend her auntie on purpose, and that as a mother herself, she should be aware that children often blurt out things they shouldn’t.

So here’s the thing if auntie really smells, even I as her sister would’ve been like “I know this is embarrassing but girl you are a bit smelly, you might want to handle that. I got some towels and toiletries for you if you need” but your sister, instead of owning it, just got mad and offended. NTA for not punishing your daughter if she said it in a respectful way. If she was nasty to auntie, then yeah, I would have a conversation about that with her and find an appropriate punishment. 

As per your sis, what’s going on that she’s not taking care of herself? (Impossible-Tutor-799)

NTA. What your daughter said was an observation, not an intentional insult. Dina was offended because everybody was expected to pretend to not notice the smell. (extinct_diplodocus)


NTA. Kids have no filters and will call it as it is, embarrassing or not. This isn’t worthy of punishment. A small talk maybe but not punishment. (TheVaneja)

Others thought that the young girl actually approached the issue in a rather grown up and sensitive way.

NTA. I’m sure Dina is very embarrassed, but kids call it like they see it. It actually sounds like your daughter might’ve been trying to come up with a sensitive way to let her aunt know she smells…instead of telling Dina she stinks, your daughter offered towels. While Dina is embarrassed, and maybe Kelly wasn’t the most tactful (she is only 8), Kelly shouldn’t be punished for honesty and Dina should take a shower and use this as a lesson that maybe other people find the odour offensive and just don’t say anything and to bathe more frequently. (Mimila1111)

When taking into account the fact that the child involved is only 8 years old this actually went way better than it could have. Kids at that age can be a little savage and love to roast their safe adults, so she really could have been pretty rude about it. But she seems to have quite a lot of empathy and approached it in a kind and solution oriented way which is big for a kid of that age. The little girl doesn’t suck, she’s a kid and actually did fairly well considering the tools a child has in their belt for situations like this. (alwaystired7)

However, others thought that the father had missed an important opportunity to teach his daughter good manners, and that it wasn’t her place to address this issue with an adult.


This is a great opportunity to teach your 8yr old daughter that not every thing you observe about other people needs to be said out loud, and that most people would be offended by others pointing out they stink without first asking for an opinion. (Altruistic_Key_1266)


ESH just because you observe something doesn’t mean you need to say something.

Kids do come out and say inappropriate things sometime and aunt should shake it off better but it really isn’t appropriate for a kid to tell other people they smell and then imply they need help figuring out how to solve the issue.

Maybe aunt smelled, but she is 33 and doesn’t need suggestions for how to get clean from an 8 year old. (pixp85)

YTA. This was an opportunity to teach your child to be mindful of people’s feelings and to know there’s a time and place. Not everyone will find this behaviour cute and endearing. (HOAKaren)

You dropped the ball. You had an opportunity to teach your child how not to be a bully and instead you’re reinforcing bad behavior. There is a saying “people that say they’re ‘brutally honest’ value the brutality, not the honesty. It wasn’t an innocent comment and you know that, children your daughters age know what they’re saying is mean, and she got the effect she wanted. You could have taught your daughter how to approach this situation but you didn’t. She has your okay to be mean to other kids. You need to do better. YTA (Poppycake1903)

What do you think? How would you handle the situation if this was your child and sister?

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Jolene enjoys writing, sharing and connecting with other like-minded women online – it also gives her the perfect excuse to ignore Mount-Washmore until it threatens to bury her family in an avalanche of Skylander T-shirts and Frozen Pyjama pants. (No one ever knows where the matching top is!) Likes: Reading, cooking, sketching, dancing (preferably with a Sav Blanc in one hand), social media, and sitting down on a toilet seat that one of her children hasn’t dripped, splashed or sprayed on. Dislikes: Writing pretentious crap about herself in online bio’s and refereeing arguments amongst her offspring.

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