Kids can play rough, sure, but no little girl or boy should have to go to the hospital for stiches after being hit by a classmate. That's not ok, it's not all in good fun, and it's not teaching kids how they should behave as adults.
But—shockingly— that's just what happened to Merritt Smith's 4-year-old daughter last week. A male classmate slugged the little girl in the face, and her mom had to take her to the hospital. This is pretty awful, but what I really can't believe is that a male employee at the hospital's registration desk literally added insult to injury when he made this comment about the boy who caused the injury: "I bet he likes you," he told the young girl.
I bet he likes you?
What an irresponsible thing to say to a worried mother and a hurting child! What a message to send to a little girl about the way boys should or could treat her!
Smith vented her frustration on her Facebook page saying: "hurting is not flirting" and "it's time to take responsibility for the messages we as a society give our children."
Like the thousands of people who have responded to Smith's post, I couldn't agree more. As a mother to two boys, one of my missions in life is to teach them to respect women and to know that we never express frustration through violence. We talk about this when my 5-year-old stomps his foot and throws a toy across the room. We cover it when my 7-year-old with autism has a meltdown and tries to bite me or pull his brother's hair. This is what parents are supposed to do. This is what adults are supposed to model. These are the messages we're supposed to share when our kids act inappropriately.
We—as parents, as a society— have to send the right messages to kids when they are small—so that these resonate as they grow into tweens, teens, and adults. We have to teach our kids to respect each other; that violence is not ok; that we don't show affection through punches, hair pulling, and hurting; that love should not leave bruises; and that adults are here to help, not add confusion to pain by somehow blaming the victim for his or her own injuries.