When another child pushes/hits/scratches

Dear Patti,

What should we teach our 3-year old son to do when another child pushes/hits/scratches him?


Dear Sherri,

Your question has a complicated answer. If your child is in school, he will learn to use his words: to yell, if necessary, but not to respond with physical force. Often, a loud "Stop that. I don't like that!" will be enough to stop the other child. This can also work in any supervised area (the playground, for example, when you or your husband are there).

If words don't work, the next step is for your child to "tell the grown-up in charge," whether it's you, a caregiver or a teacher. Grown-ups can often resolve a situation clearly enough so that it won't happen again. There are children, however, who will not be deterred by speech of any kind.

If your son runs up against a bully of this sort, even telling you or the teacher will probably not do enough to stop a repetition of hostilities. In that case, you have to tell your child to fight back. I know this is unusual advice from a teacher, but I have seen the situation time and time again. Some children will only stop hurting others when met with a forceful response. If using words or telling a teacher doesn't stop the bad behavior, then tell your son to push the kid away, or knock him down if necessary. Nothing stops a bully's bad behavior quicker.


Patti Greenberg Wollman

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