When walking down the street, my daughter saw an older child riding his scooter and she ran over and tried to touch it, but the older boy pushed her away and said: do not touch my scooter.

I told my daughter if something is not yours, you should not touch it, but did not say or do anything about that pushing part.

Did I do the right thing or should I tell my daughter something like: pushing others is wrong?

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    How old is your child? How old do you think the other child was? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Feb 7 '19 at 13:19
  • @AnneDaunted, mine is 1.5 the other 6~8? – Yu Zhang Feb 7 '19 at 19:21

My reaction tends to depend on my child's reaction.

In the case you explain, it sounds like the pushing was relatively minor, and your daughter doesn't seem to have been too bothered by it. In that case I probably don't make a big deal out of it either - she presumably learned that the other child didn't like her touching their scooter, but beyond that is okay. Lesson learned.

On the other hand, if it bothered her that the other child pushed her, then I'd have a conversation about feelings. Something I consider pretty important to develop in a child at any age is empathy; see for example this page on developing empathy. One significant point they make is:

What You Can Do To Nurture Empathy in Your Toddler

  • Empathize with your child. For example, “Are you feeling scared of that dog? He is a nice dog but he is barking really loud. That can be scary. I will hold you until he walks by.”

  • Talk about others’ feelings. For example, “Kayla is feeling sad because you took her toy car. Please give Kayla back her car and then you choose another one to play with.”

  • Suggest how children can show empathy. For example, “Let’s get Jason some ice for his boo-boo.”

All three of those can be covered in this interaction. If she's bothered by the pushing, then:

  • Empathize with her. "Are you sad that the older child pushed you? That's frustrating, and they shouldn't have done that. Why don't we talk about it?"
  • Talk about the other child's feelings. "I think the older child is sad that you were touching their scooter. What do you think? How would you feel if it was your scooter and they touched it?"
  • Suggest how she can show empathy. "Maybe we should go let the other child know you are sorry that you touched their scooter without permission. You can also let them know you're sad that they pushed you, if you want to."

This helps her understand both sides of the issue, and address her needs (not being pushed) as well as the other child's needs (not having their scooter touched).

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    Don't forget the instinctive reaction to defend ones territory. That is not technically an emotion, as it is processed in a different part of the brain than emotions.. The territorial response is something I can experience and recognize, even though I am physically unable to process other emotions due to brain damage. – pojo-guy Feb 7 '19 at 11:33
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    @user10915156 - As an adult, if an adult stranger ran up to you excitedly and tried to check out your new iPhone by making a grab for it, would you think it impolite or disrespectful to quickly put your phone out of reach? You're the adult. Kids have even less impulse control. The kid was being reactive, not a bully. – anongoodnurse Feb 7 '19 at 15:38
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    @Joe - "Maybe we should go let the other child know you are sorry that you touched their scooter without permission. You can also let them know you're sad that they pushed you, if you want to." What an especially lovely response. – anongoodnurse Feb 7 '19 at 15:39
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    @user10915156 The idea is not to 'blame' my child or set up a victim blaming mentality for sure! The idea is, however, to teach them empathy: to teach them to understand how the other child is feeling. One thing you learn as an adult is that it doesn't matter why they're feeling how they're feeling; the blame game should remain on the playground. What matters is that they feel that way. Teaching your child to recognize others' feelings, no matter why they feel that way, and addressing them, is empowering all by itself. – Joe Feb 7 '19 at 21:00
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    The territorial instinct is handled in the brain stem and cerebellum, along with fight or flight processing - this is the part of the brain that is sometimes called "the reptile brain". Even massive brain damage will not impair this response. Normal emotional processing is more complex, requiring communication between amygdala and hippocampus across both the hemispheres of the brain. Brain damage that is non-symptomatic at the time of its occurrence can impair emotional processing easily. Our first reaction to a surprise "grab" is to defend our territory. – pojo-guy Feb 7 '19 at 21:06

In general

I think the best way to deal with other children doing things you think are wrong is to confront them and ask them to stop or change their behavior in the same way that a nursery school teacher or other caretaker would.

I believe that all adults are responsible for the upbringing of all children. This principle is behind many written and unwritten rules, such as not crossing at a red light even in the absence of traffic when children are present who might immitate a behavior that could endanger them.

Taking on the perspective of a nursery school teacher is especially helpful if your own child is the victim. The best approach is to think of yourself as taking care of both children, as that will help you reduce your agitation and prevent you from doing something unlawful (such as pushing back the other child).

In your case

Often the other child is gone from your "care" (in the sense defined in the previous section) or the other child does not much care about your attempts to take part in his education. In that case, it is certainly helpful for your child to learn that the behavior of the other child was wrong in your eyes and that "we don't do things like this".

This is important because often children find fault in themselves for being bullied, and telling them that the other party was wrong and they behaved well takes that self-blame away.

Also, children learn from other children. It is a common observation that victims of bullying often become bullies themselves*. If your child sees that pushing other kids gets you want you want, they may decide that they'd rather push other children around than always be at the receiving end of that behavior. It is very important to learn how to deal with the emotions of being victimized without turning to retaliation or self-hate.

* Researchers differentiate between bullies, victims, and "bully/victims" or "bully-victims". Bully/victims are children who are both victims and bullies. In studies they typically make up around 6% or 7% of the sample (e.g. Haynie et al., 2001). In longitudinal studies, it becomes apparent that these bully/victims have usually been victims first and turned to bullying later. For example, Haltigan and Vaillancourt (2014) found that "for ... 6% of the participants, there was evidence that children started off as victims and then became bullies". In cyber-bullying among students the frequency of bully/victims is even higher: about 25% of all students are bully/victims, while only 5% are either bullies or victims but not both, Mishna et al. (2012) found.

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  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – anongoodnurse Feb 7 '19 at 6:48
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    Does what the OP describes really constitute bullying? For sure, it was not ok how the other child reacted, but in the end they protected their property from someone else. How to deal with the other child's parents if they show up? Their child might well start crying and tell them that they just defended their property (which would not be a lie)? And unlike their child's nursery school teacher, who acts in loco parentis, you are just some stranger. So what exactly should the OP teach their own and that other child? – Anne Daunted GoFundMonica Feb 7 '19 at 13:15
  • @AnneDaunted It was anongoodnurse who forced me to add the extended explanation of what would otherwise have been one minor sentence in a long answer with a very different focus. I gave the example of bullying to explain that victims of bad behavior often emulate that bad behavior if they see that the perpetrator is successful with it. That's all the point I was trying to make. What exactly went on in the situation the OP describes will forever remain unknown. But in any case, making clear that "we don't push" is what I would recommend. – user35140 Feb 7 '19 at 20:00
  • @AnneDaunted The point I'm trying to make is that it is not important what you teach the children, but that you should teach both children* and take them both into your care in the absence of the other child's parents. The point is to stop seeing the other child as "the other", and instead care for their education in the same way that you care for the education of your own child. I know that this runs counter to American ideas of "freedom", but in other parts of the world an African saying is often held to be true: "It takes a whole village to raise on child." – user35140 Feb 7 '19 at 20:04

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