Hitting, Crying, Then Sharing

The children nearly always have a firm sense of compassion and justice.

Smiling Boy


During Family Day Care one morning, the children were playing with telephones and purses; they were “going to work.” Tracey came and took a phone from Benny, who is 2 – 1/2 . Benny was really angry and screamed at Tracey. Then he hit her hard before I could get there. I yelled out “No, Benny!” as I came running over but I was too late to intervene to stop the hitting. Tracey, 2, was crying hard.

I sat with her in my lap and listened to her cry. I wasn’t sure how Benny was doing, so I held him with my other hand and asked him to wait while I made sure that Tracey was OK. I listened to Tracey cry for 5 minutes. When she was winding down, I said, ” I'm sorry that you got hit on the head. Are you OK?” which sparked another bout of crying about being hit. All the while she was crying she was clutching the phone in her hand.

When she had finished crying I said to her, “Benny was playing with that phone and it is his turn to play with it. Will you give it to him? She said, “No!” I said, “He was playing with it, sweetie. We can wait for him to be finished or we can find you something else to play with. Can you give the phone back to him, please?” Tracey returned the phone to him and went off to play.

I turned my attention to Benny. He had been watching the whole time. I gave him the phone and then I gave him my attention. He wouldn’t meet my eyes. I felt he was feeling bad about hitting Tracey.

I played a little game of peek-a-boo with him. “Where are you, Benny? Where are you?” and then when he caught my eyes. “Oh, there you are!” and he smiled at me. I said to him “Are you OK?” He said, “Yes.” I felt like he was OK. He didn’t feel wound up; he was meeting my eyes and smiling. So I let him out of my lap.

He stood there and looked at the phone and then he walked over to Tracey and gave it to her. Tracey smiled and showed me the phone and said, “Look, Mummy,” and pointed at the phone. (I'm not really her mummy; she just calls me that at daycare.)

I am always struck by the compassion that children have when they are feeling connected. I try to be present enough, and not intervene with my thoughts of blame in a situation, like shaming Benny for hitting Tracey. The children nearly always have a firm sense of compassion and justice. Often when I sit with a child who really wants to play with something, and listen to them cry about how much they want it, the other child will finish with the item and bring it to the upset child. It is humbling to watch.

And I imagine that their satisfaction and the interpersonal learning they do to come up with the ideas and follow them through without compulsion must be high. I must say that not all these interactions go so beautifully but this was such a memorable one. Lastly, Benny’s mother told me that night after daycare that he told her about what had happened. They were able to discuss it together.

–a mother and home day care provider in Brisbane, Australia

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