For the last few days my four year old daughter has been coming home and telling me that she has been hit, and hurt, at school by a couple of boys.

We don't hit in our house and she has no siblings or close family to squabble with so this is all very new to her - she has been telling the teacher but nobody from the school has said anything to me about it.

I'm pulling her teacher to one side in the morning to talk about it with her but I'm so annoyed with it that I'm so tempted to just tell her to fight back, however, she is known at school as being a very sensitive and caring little girl and she always looks to see the best in people so I obviously don't want to change her outlook and encourage her to do something that she knows is wrong.

So I've been wondering, what do you tell your kids to do when they get hit? Have any of them been hit in school and how have they dealt with it? What was the fallout with other parents? How would you handle this?

  • I would also speak directly with the principal. Tell her to report is each time it happens.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 18:28
  • 4
    Please remember a 4 year old hitting and being hit is generally not the same as grownups doing it. Teaching her to 'fight back' is perhaps the worst thing you could do imho. I'm glad you posted here, there will be some good answers. We have 3 kids and 4 cousins ages 2-7 in the same community. I also teach K-2nd grade kids at church. The kids who punch simply don't know how to deal with whatever is bothering them and need to learn the right response. Escalating the conflict will be harmful to everyone including your daughter (especially as she gets older).
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented Oct 18, 2017 at 19:26
  • I would go to the school board if the teacher continues to act like it’s no big deal, important your child feels safe at school or she won’t ever want to be there
    – user30128
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 4:16

3 Answers 3


I want to give you as full an answer as I can. My background is that I used to be a school teacher, I have 3 young children who have 5 cousins, and I teach a 5 to 8 year old room at church. My wife is a pre-k specialist and I learn a lot from her too.

Please remember that when 4 year old's hit it is not the same as older kids. Generally it isn't bullying either (but it can be), it is simply a young kid who is frustrated he isn't getting his way and he can't find a way to express it. This must be a teachable moment, which is why I am against hitting back and against legal action.

You asked four questions, here are my responses to them.

What do I tell my kids when they get hit?

The first thing I do is ask questions. I can't tell them anything until I know more about the situation. I try to ask questions like:

1) Why did s/he hit you?
2) What did you do before the hit?
3) What did you do after the hit?
4) What is so and so like normally?
5) What did the teacher do?

  • sidenote Kids will begin to fabricate certain parts of stories to gain sympathy (4 is a little young for this technique, but it happens), but also they many times don't remember all the details and can fill stuff in with their imagination. It isn't evil or anything, they are kids. I stay on the details like a hawk to keep them honest and get the right information (gently though).

After learning what I can I frame my response to what I learned. I already described the 99% common case above. I explain how it was wrong for the other kid to hit. I tell my kids to be firm in telling other kids not to hit them. Then I tell them to go to the teacher if it doesn't stop. Yes, they are to accept the first hit 1 or 2 times - I believe in patience. However, if the behavior continues and my kid keeps bringing it up at that point I tell her (i have all girls) that she needs to tell the teacher right away.

How have my kids experience this situation?

My kids have been hit at various places. Each kid is DIFFERENT! My oldest is cool as ice and even at 3 and 4 I remember her simply not caring about kids who hit her. She learned very easily to walk away from those kids. The problem ended when she learned to avoid them.

Kid 2 got angry and would hit back. We had to first teach her how to handle her anger at being hit (which I now know was anger at being rejected). We told her she couldn't hit back, this frustrated her. Also, she seeks approval of others, so being hit hurts her feelings, and she won't walk away cause she wants the other kid to be her friend. This caused us to have sincere talks with her about who she hangs out with and who is her friend. It was a good lesson to teach that even people you like can make bad choices. When that happens you walk away and wait for them to stop.

Kid 3 would go hide somewhere or cry. She never fought back or told the teacher. Many times we found out later on accident that she was very sad about being treated mean. For her we focused on self-esteem, facing problems, and told her to go to the teacher.

As a sunday school teacher we have a couple kids who hit others when they are very frustrated. I take them aside, explain how it is not okay to do this. Most of the time there isn't a punishment, but rather a request for forgiveness and we teach the other kid to accept the apology. These kids are friends and they are being trained on how to act as adults. I would not do the same thing for a 15 year old or 20 year old.

There is 1 case where a kid just cannot keep his emotions in check. We know this and we watch for and jump into a situation before hitting happens. It is A LOT of work, but much talking, reassuring, and relationship skill building is taught and practiced. The kid being hit and the hitter both are kids and both need to learn correct behaviors and then practice them.

Fallout with Parents

This is most likely not a big worry. Most parent are aware of their kids behaviors, and even if not they generally know kids to hit sometimes. The biggest threat here is how you approach this problem. First, let the teacher handle it. If you do approach them then do it in a caring way that shows you want their kid to be successful and happy in life and hitting isn't the way to reach that goal. Also, since consequences to 4 year old's hitting are small most parents are not too defensive of their kids at this point.

What would I do

I already spoke of what I would do with the children as a parent and teacher. I will tell you my advice on talking to the teacher.

First, remember if the teacher is young they generally have very limited training and are being paid peanuts. Plus, they have no experience and this may be one of their first times dealing with this. If the teacher is older then you should expect a lot more from her/him.

Second, I would never go to administration or do anything legal unless true physical harm was possible (truly dangerous items in room, or a kid who has major, major, major mental issue or problems that prevent him from understanding or caring about hurting others).

Finally, I would simply bring up the issue with the teacher. Tell her what you learned and what happened. Ask her to keep an eye on the interaction of the hitting kid during the day. After that simply monitor your kids experiences in the room and what the teacher says.

Keep an open dialogue and remember that you and the teacher are a team. It is like marriage in that you and the teacher simply have to get along and find a way to work together. She/he won't be perfect and at times you will find a deadbeat. But, as long as your kids are in that room and school you guys are a team. So I urge you to think in a cooperative manner not a controversial manner.

Good luck with raising kids!


You need to pressure the school to take effective action. Bullying is child abuse. Your daughter has a right to be safe at school.

First, ask for a meeting with the head teacher (I'm assuming that the school is small enough that there is no middle management like a department head here). Ask for the school bullying policy. See what it says about the actions they will take. Ask them to take those actions.

If you don't get any joy that way then start keeping a written log of incidents and contacts with the school. Find out what the law says about this in your country; its possible you may be able to sue the school for negligence. Obviously thats a last resort, but if the school knows that you know your legal rights it tends to give them an incentive.

This article talks about how to deal with bureaucracies (its talking about resolving identity theft,but the principle is the same). Look like a dangerously organized professional with a paper trail, and suddenly everything becomes easy. Hopefully you won't need to employ these tactics, but looking like you might is often half the battle.


Of course escalating to legal action is an absolute last resort. The thing is, step 1 (talk informally to the teacher about the problem) hasn't gotten a result, so now you need to escalate. Each stage of escalation is about 90% likely to resolve the problem, so the final escalation to legal action is very unlikely to be necessary. However its important to know what the roadmap is and how to take each step. Otherwise you can wind up being stonewalled.

  • 1
    I had to downvote, going into legal action is very extreme to me for a 4 year old situation. Please remember that 4 year old's don't bully in same way older kids do. Also, those teachers are making like $8-10 an hour and many times are are very young inexperienced people too. Your legal advice can have a correct time and place, but I believe it should come after a lot of other things have been tried. Legal action is a very LARGE hammer for what in 99% of cases is a very common and small screw. (more delicate and precision type issue than a big slamming hammer...)
    – Adam Heeg
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 10:48

Four year olds have difficulty controlling their emotions, and sometimes this escalates to physical hitting. Nonetheless, you should definitely bring this up with the school to make sure it stops - especially since it's been happening repeatedly.

  1. Schools should have policies in place regarding bullying and physical aggression that are available to parents. Try your school's office or website if you haven't been provided with one at the start of the school year.

  2. Meeting with the teacher is a great first step, but depending on their personality and willingness to listen, you might need to escalate this problem to a higher level (e.g. the principal). Cite the policy in their rulebook if necessary.

  3. What was the fallout with other parents?

Schools should handle this with discretion and anonymity if possible. The teacher and/or principal should act as intermediaries so that you don't have to bring the issue up with the kids' parents yourself. Plus, most parents would be embarrassed and feel really bad about finding out that their kid hit your kid.

  1. Keep insisting to your daughter that she did the right thing by telling you, she shouldn't hit back, and instead she should go find an adult she trusts when if it happens again.

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