Violence or Romance? Young Children Deserve to Know the Difference

Hannah Kass ’18
Contributing Writer

Last year, when my sister was in fifth grade, a male classmate hit her. She immediately informed the student-teacher who was present that day. The student-teacher explained the boy was being mean was because he liked her, and actually, she needed to be nicer to him.

Upon hearing this, my mother emailed the head classroom teacher to inform her of her disgust with the student teacher’s remarks. Thankfully, this teacher agreed with my mother and said that she did not condone the actions of the student-teacher.

I wish I could say that was the last time I heard a story in which violent behavior among children was excused as signs of affection. This past week, however, a similar event took place in which a mother was confronted with the excusing of violence. After Merritt Smith’s 4-year-old daughter was beaten up by a boy in school, the hospital worker at the registration desk said to the girl, “I bet he likes you.”

In her Facebook post calling out the hospital employee, Smith said, “That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior.” Smith posted a photo of her daughter’s injured face, showing an open gash and swollen cheekbone, allegedly caused by an impact from a metal teapot.

Physical violence as a means for young boys to convey romantic feelings for a girl their age can no longer be dismissed as “kids’ stuff” or “boys will be boys.” This behavior is not acceptable. It is the duty of educators, parents and society to challenge the acceptance of violence showing romantic interest as a social norm. Young children must be taught to use their words and not their fists from the moment they begin socializing with other children.

When violence among young children is excused by adults, it merely serves to reinforce the culture of domestic violence that has become so embedded in our society that it is not even regarded as problematic. Like Smith said, it is crucial to stand up against unacceptable social norms that encourage the use of violence against girls and women.

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