Mom’s Playground Post About Not ‘Normalizing Assault’ Hits a Nerve

Beth Greenfield
Senior Writer
Yahoo Beauty
One mom's Facebook post about why
One mom’s Facebook post about why “he shoved you because he liked you” is not an OK explanation for playground pushing has gone viral. (Photo: Getty Images)

A mom’s Facebook post about her 2-year-old daughter defending herself against a boy who shoved her on the playground is going viral this week, touching a nerve with its powerful pledge to never “normalize assault.”

“This is the face of a little girl that is being raised to take no s***,” posted the mother, Lydia Faith of Gainesville, Fla., atop a photo of her daughter in the closed Facebook group Pantsuit Nation. “She was on the playground today and a little boy shoved her. It’s cool. They’re two. It happens. However, the boy’s mother looked at my daughter and said, ‘It’s because he likes you. You weren’t paying attention to him and he pushed you because he likes you.’”

Faith’s post continued: “Before I could even say a word my daughter looked her dead in the eye and said, ‘He needs to keep his hands to himself or he needs to go away. I said no. If he touches me again I’ll have to kick his face.’ Said woman then tried to tell my daughter kicking isn’t nice. I first very loudly told my daughter she was absolutely right and high-fived her for doing exactly the right thing, then promptly told the woman off six ways to Sunday. We will not, even in the toddler years, normalize assault. My daughter may only be 2 1/2, but don’t try her. She knows when to get nasty. #nastywomanintraining.”

The post, from Wednesday afternoon, already has more than 160,000 reactions and 12,000 comments — much of it supportive, with readers calling the girl a “badass” and “my hero,” and complimenting Faith on her parenting skills. Others made more pointed remarks, such as: “This is how rape culture/male privilege is woven into the very fabric of our society… Messages from that boy’s mom: hitting = love, he is excused for his behavior, she is admonished for setting boundaries.” Noted another woman, “I wish I was brought up with that kind of mentality. I also fell into the old-school mentality with kids of ‘he’s hitting you because he likes you…’ Eff that… Good for you for raising a strong little woman!”

Some detractors, though, contended that Faith was encouraging assault on her daughter’s end. In response, she posted an update: “To those of you who don’t understand that kicking someone after they’ve not respected your body or personal space IS NOT ASSAULT: SELF DEFENSE IS NOT ASSAULT. Please look in the mirror every day and tell yourself that until you believe it. You do not have to take it, you do not have to walk away from somewhere you have every right to be, you are allowed to take up space, and you are most certainly allowed to defend yourself for doing so.” She added: “And for those of you who are horrified that I’m raising my daughter to be a violent little monster and that your sons should be able to shove or push or hit without consequence because they’re just kids… Well, stay off our playground.”

Faith’s story is reminiscent of another viral Facebook post — this one from a year ago, by Merritt Smith of Ohio, who shared a photo of her 4-year-old daughter’s face, bruised and swollen after a boy in her preschool class hit her with a metal teapot. Upon explaining the situation to a man at her hospital ER’s registration desk, he told the daughter, “I bet he liked you.” Smith called him out in her post, noting, “As soon as I heard it I knew that is where it begins. That statement is where the idea that hurting is flirting begins to set a tone for what is acceptable behavior… No. I will not allow that message to be OK.”

Experts back up the sentiments of both moms. “Words matter. And what we tell children, especially at 2, 3, 4, is very critical because it begins to help them formulate how they will interact with people,” Cameka Crawford, spokesperson for the National Domestic Violence Hotline, tells Yahoo Beauty. “To say that hitting you is how they show they like you or care about you is not the message we should be sending to our children… And it continues to create a society that says those types of behaviors are OK.”

Responding with violence is also not an optimal message, she adds. “As adults, we should be teaching our kids messaging like ‘Hands are not for hitting’ and explain that even if we’re angry, we can walk away.”

But the very young age factor here cannot be overlooked, according to Brooklyn-based child psychologist and parenting expert Laura Markham, PhD, who notes that toddlers typically do not know how to verbalize their feelings and so act out physically — although that doesn’t mean it should be justified.

“Both toddlers needed help here,” Markham tells Yahoo Beauty. “The child who did the pushing needed to hear, ‘It looks like you wanted her attention so you pushed her? Pushing hurts. No pushing. You can tell her in words, ‘I want to play with you.’” Likewise, she says, “The child who was pushed needs to hear, ‘He pushed you. I’m sorry. That must have hurt. I think he was trying to get your attention and he pushed instead of using his words. That wasn’t a good way to get your attention, was it? You can tell him, ‘Don’t touch my body.’”

Markham adds that she suspects the girl threatened to kick is that she did not feel supported. “She felt the mother of the pusher was normalizing his behavior and that such behavior might continue. In fact, the implication as reported seemed to be that the boy was entitled to her attention, which of course he was not. So she needed to be clear about her willingness to protect herself, by threatening to kick him if he continued to touch her body against her will,” she explains. “Defense is not assault, and she is, after all, 2 years old, so she can be forgiven for not knowing exactly how much force she needed to threaten to protect herself. In fact, this 2-year-old is emotionally mature enough to use her words instead of her fists, which is a huge achievement.”

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