glowing tent

Mom Makes 14-Year-Old Daughter Sleep Outside In The Cold After She Yells At A Homeless Man

A mom was shocked and disturbed when she saw a video of her youngest daughter cussing at a homeless man. She wanted to teach her a lesson in empathy and give her a taste of living on the streets. That night, the mom made her daughter sleep outside in the winter cold.  

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However, when the mom’s sister said the punishment was too harsh, the mom questioned her actions and took to Reddit for advice. 

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Mom Makes Her Daughter Sleep Outside to Learn Empathy 

Although she had never been homeless, the mom knows how it feels “to be at the bottom of society”. Her partner died when she was pregnant with their second daughter, Jessica. As a single mom, she barely made ends meet while raising two daughters. Eventually, she was able to get her degree and a good job, but her experiences have left an effect on her. 

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That is why she was furious to see a video the eldest daughter took of Jessica cursing out a homeless man, saying, “Stop asking me for money. You’d earn it yourself if you weren’t so f***ing lazy and spending what you earned on substances.” [1] 

The homeless man complained about having to sleep outside in the cold weather, and Jessica replied, “Yeah people camp for fun, even in December, you can’t complain, you’re living someone’s holiday.” 

Her mother was appalled and livid. “I thought I had raised an empathetic daughter,” she wrote on Reddit.  

She found the homeless man and made her daughter apologize and help pay for a hotel room for him to spend the night. She also made her sign up to volunteer at a food bank. 

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However, these actions didn’t quite set the message in. “She was rolling her eyes and her apology was not sincere,” her mother explained. 

The Daughter Sleeps Outside 

So she decided to test Jessica’s words about sleeping outside “for fun”.  

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“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)”. Additionally, the mom slept in the room close to the garden in case her daughter needed her. 

Jessica wasn’t excited about the idea, but her choice was to sleep outside for a night or give up her phone over the Christmas holidays. She chose to sleep outside. 

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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,” the mom wrote. “After comforting her, I asked her would she like to do that every day like the homeless man. It struck a chord with her and she was crying over her actions.” 

However, this wasn’t the end of the story. When the mother came home from work, she found Jessica in the kitchen, cooking a meal for the homeless people who lived near their home. Her mother was incredibly proud of her change of heart.  

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The mom was certain she had done the right thing until she got a call from her sister. Jessica had told her cousin everything that happened and he told his mother.  

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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,” the mother concluded her post. 

“Not the A-Hole” 

Reddit was in agreement: the mother was in the right. People agreed that the daughter needed a lesson when the initial apology didn’t work. Having her sleep outside seemed to change her attitude for the better. 

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“Sounds like the apology and £20 wasn’t enough,” said one commenter. “Walking a mile in their shoes taught her empathy.” 

This. I would also like to point out that OP ado 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,” replied another. “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.” 

The replies applauded the mom for teaching her daughter empathy in a safe, low-stakes, and loving environment. 

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Teaching Empathy 

Empathy is at the core of humanity. It’s what helps people maintain good relationships and act ethically. Empathy is about compassionately understanding another person’s perspective. Despite its importance, it could be a hard thing to teach. Here are five ways to cultivate this trait in children: 

  1. Demonstrating empathy by empathizing with other people’s and the children’s feelings and needs. 
  2. Make caring for others a priority for the children. This will help them learn that the world doesn’t revolve around them. 
  3. Give children opportunities to act with empathy. 
  4. Expand children’s awareness of others. For instance, have them feel concerned for people who are not their friends and family. [2] 
  5. Encourage them to take the perspective of others, and to feel how others feel. 

These methods are exactly what the mom on Reddit did. She spoke to her daughter about the importance of being kind to the homeless and made her apologize and help him spend a night at a hotel. When Jessica still didn’t get the message, her mother created a scenario where Jessica could pretend she was in the man’s shoes. After she had to sleep outside, Jessica’s circle of empathy widened. 

In case anyone is worried about what happened to the homeless man, the mom posted an update. “He seems to be doing well – the hotel stay did benefit him, he got a much-needed shower, sleep and some quality meals. I spent some time talking to him today.” Turns out, he was a nice 25-year-old from an unfortunate background. The mom is helping him find a job and get back on his feet. “Despite my daughter’s change, I feel mortified about what happened to him and responsible for his wellbeing.” [4] 

Read next: Expecting Mom Says She Will Not Accept Hand-Me-Downs At Her Baby Shower

References

  1. “Mom Makes 14-Year-Old Daughter Sleep Outside In The Cold After She Yells At A Homeless Man.” Little Things. Stephanie Kaloi. December 10, 2020.
  2. For Families: 5 Tips for Cultivating Empathy.” Harvard. October 2018.
  3.  “AITA for making my daughter sleep in a tent.” Reddit. December 1, 2020 
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